By John Cline
Take a look at the photo above. I snapped this picture a couple of weeks ago when, after our morning worship service, I spotted these five ladies randomly visiting and enjoying each other’s company in our church foyer. I was struck by the fact that Alleson from Jamaica, Rain from Canada, Rebecca of Indian heritage, Cherry (Feixia) from China, and Chinyere from Nigeria were together, loving each other and having fun. How could this have happened? Because of their common faith in Jesus Christ.
While here for our son Matthew’s wedding two years ago, my American brother-in-law Richard was astounded by our small congregation. The church in the United States that he and my sister belong to have 3,500 people attending each weekend and yet it was about our church that he said, “this is heaven on earth”. You see, his church is very large and does so many things so well, but it is a very homogeneous group. Their uniformity in colour, language, and age produces a lot of great ministry but, according to Richard, it is our small church of people from 22 different nations that is the one that seems to him to be heavenly and a touch of heaven in our world, as well.
The apostle John was one time given a glimpse by the Lord into heaven. Here is what he reported: I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9,10).
Did you see what John saw? People from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne of God in heaven, there because of their common faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. They are holding palm branches, symbols of peace, because Jesus is the”Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:7), the one who joins people together no matter what their backgrounds or interests. Political alliances and treaties will never be able to bring about the peace that Jesus does.
My wife Karen and I have travelled throughout the world, a blessing from God for which we will be eternally grateful, and everywhere we go we have found other Christians, eager to welcome us, happy to share our united humanity from God and our common faith in Jesus Christ. We have come to see that there is no one right culture, no one superior ethnic group, no best language, nor way of thinking. It is through Jesus Christ that we all find our commonalities and come to appreciate each other fully. In fact, we have come to firmly believe in the apostle Paul’s claim that the day is coming where, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10).
Jesus Christ said that we should pray to God in this way: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9,10). Perhaps a congregation of people from so many nations and people groups is one way that our little church is bringing heaven, God’s kingdom, and God’s will to this world.
In closing, look at the photo below and view the first “selfie” I have ever taken. Encouraged by Chinyere to do so, I happily took the photo. Can you see the fun and joy on everyone’s faces? I love it! This is what heaven is like and what our world should be like, as well.