Last Saturday1)5 May 2018 Donna and I were privileged to attend the Diversity Dinner2)“diversity dinner” organised by Wendy Yapp to celebrate the surprising fact that Perth was now the most multicultural city in the country. Roger Sutton from Movement Day was the keynote speaker at the event, which attracted 160 people from 66 nations. in Perth, reputedly Australia’s most multicultural city in Australia, to celebrate our diversity in Christ.
Folk were there from many nations in an open and friendly atmosphere sharing around the tables with people never met before and praising, listening and praying together.
It was all good.
Then I sensed the Spirit speak to me in an unusually intense manner.
Donna had begun to excitedly share with me a conversation she had with an Iranian couple, evangelists and church planters.
They described how the Lord was moving with great power delivering many Iranian refugees from Islam and how their gatherings were just like Acts; signs, wonders, visions, dreams and an intense divine presence.
I began to realise the Lord was calling us to a new application of Paul’s exhortation to his Church, vs.18 “be filled with the Spirit vs.19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, vs.20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, vs.21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph 5:18-21 ESV).
A Spirit-filled Church in a city will be a Church whose nationalities dynamically submit to one another. This is a submission that needs to be directed by God’s love for each another.
It’s time we submitted to the work of the Spirit and Word in those not like us; in the immediate context this meant Caucasians, like Donna and me, to Persians.
Whilst their cultural and historical context isn’t like ours, we share the one Lord, faith, baptism and Father (Eph 4:4-6 ESV) and are members of the one Church of Christ.
Our submission isn’t to some natural element of Iranian ethnicity, like strong community values, nor a call to “learn lessons” from what God is doing amongst them, a very abstract Western way of seeing things.
We need to submit to the river of God’s Spirit pouring forth through their congregations3)Ps 46:4ESV; John 7:37-39ESV.
We need to submit to the momentum of kingdom growth that the sovereign wise Father has given to distinct parts of his family (Eph 3:14-16 ESV).
When the whole Church submits to the whole Church then the “wisdom of God in its rich variety” is manifest in way that the evil powers cannot resist and the “hope of glory” is revealed in a city4)Eph 3:10 ESV; Col 1:27 ESV.
Since the word for “rich variety” is connected to Joseph’s glorious multicoloured robe (Gen 37:3, 23 ESV) it is a “rainbow wisdom”.
We are called to submit to the powerful peace of this rainbow wisdom. But why do we still need to learn this?
Why aren’t we already in a multi-culturally diverse revival witnessing the many streams running together as one might River?
There are some powerful obstacles to such submission.
Hating to Submit
Aussies have a long history of rebellious insubordination dating back to the First Fleet (1788) populated by convicts and Irish political prisoners.
To this day, as cricket fans know; England is “the old enemy”.
This attitude is more than a joke.
A wise ‘American’ friend says, “In the U.S. if you live in the country you’re an American, but you have to be born in Australia to be considered an ‘Australian’”. (Charles Slack).
Sadly, there’s much truth in his observation.
Newcomers are welcome in Australia, but always on our terms, we jealousy guard our identity, prominence and prosperity.
This is hardly a unique Aussie problem.
Nationalities the world over resist submitting to one another.
Ask the Dutch about the Germans, the Greeks about the Turks, or the Vietnamese about the Chinese etc.
Deep issues of pride and national identity run through this, particularly where there’ve been painful historical experiences of empire building at the hands of a dominant culture.
Empires naturally place limits on cultural and social expression in order to constrain by force a “unity” that suits their selfish purposes of power.
The current catastrophe of Rohingya Muslims at the hands of the Burmese Buddhist army springs to mind. It is not “natural” for diverse nationalities to submit to one another.
There is however a deeper blockage to this than history or sociology.
The Bible’s testimony contains the key to unlocking the dynamic of mutual submission across ethnicities.
Joseph is a type of Christ, and his brothers hated him because his rainbow covered life was a sign of the special love of his father (Gen 37:3 ESV).
Likewise, it was “out of envy” that the Jewish leaders had Jesus crucified (Mark 15:10 ESV); they could not bear how his mighty works, wise words and intense divine presence witnessed to the favour of the Father upon him rather than them.
We resist submitting to Christians culturally unlike us, upon whom the favour of God so visibly rests, because deep in our hearts we feel the favour of the Father is somehow limited.
The more they have the less we can have.
Few are conscious of this heart unbelief but our lack of submission across the Body witnesses to its reality. Our existential insecurity is so deep that only the sacrifice of the cross can heal us.
The Submission of the Cross
The sacrifice of the cross caused a remarkable transformation in the history of humanity; a gulf much wider than anything created by our contemporary ethnic divisions had been bridged by the blood of Jesus.
When Jewish Christians saw mighty works and wondrous conversions done by the Spirit amongst unclean Gentiles they knew that the pagans had been brought into the one Family of God5)Acts 10:44-48 ESV; Acts 11:15-18 ESV.
The blood of the cross had nullified all separating judgements (Eph 2:12-13, 19 ESV).
Jews and Gentiles who for centuries had been alienated from one another came together in congregations submitting to one another out of a reverent love for Christ their common Saviour (Eph 5:21 ESV).
In mutual humility they accepted that through Christ’s death the Father has taken into himself with unmerited favour and unconditional love those previously under wrath.
This is exactly the meaning for us of the work of God amongst the Iranians in Australia today.
We have a revival happening amongst us but few understand its spiritual significance for the kingdom of God in our multicultural cities! Thankfully there’s a clear path to break our ignorance.
APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION
The Diversity Dinner was great but necessarily incomplete because it’s really hard to call Church leaders to turn from the “empire spirit” that dominates the Christian landscape today.
Given that there’s so little mutual submission inside the congregational meetings of our churches, submission is pretty much unidirectional and top down i.e. from the pastor/priest to the people, how will we ever be able to submit to one another as a Body across a city with all our ethnic and cultural diversities?
The answer is “humility does it” (Roger Sutton).
Who rightly proceeded to point us to the mind of Christ in Philippians “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3 ESV cf. Phil 2:5 ESV). Until we repent of all of our arrogance’s, we are still too strident before the Lord, we will never be granted to share in the mighty acts of God amongst the Iranians which prophesy that Christ’s blood has taken away judgement between peoples.
The Father wants to pour out his unlimited favour upon us all!
If God grants us humble prayerful submission to each other then the one Bride of Christ truly submitted to her Lord will come forth in our cities and they will experience his gracious power to bring social, cultural and spiritual transformation. All to his glory. Amen.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 9. May, 2018 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
YouTube or PODCAST:
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||5 May 2018|
|2.||↑||“diversity dinner” organised by Wendy Yapp to celebrate the surprising fact that Perth was now the most multicultural city in the country. Roger Sutton from Movement Day was the keynote speaker at the event, which attracted 160 people from 66 nations.|
|3.||↑||Ps 46:4ESV; John 7:37-39ESV|
|4.||↑||Eph 3:10 ESV; Col 1:27 ESV|
|5.||↑||Acts 10:44-48 ESV; Acts 11:15-18 ESV|