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6 Ways to Show Your Child God’s Design for Ethnic Diversity

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Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted excerpt from Shai Linne’s new children’s book, God Made Me AND You: Celebrating God’s Design for Ethnic Diversity (New Growth Press, 2018). Read an interview with Shai about this project and his new children’s album. Shai Linne will be leading a workshop on “The Gospel and Racial Justice” at TGC19. Register at TGC.org/2019.

Ethnic diversity isn’t something that should be begrudgingly tolerated, but enthusiastically celebrated.

Passages like Revelation 5:9–10 speak loudly to God’s ultimate purpose in the gospel—a redeemed, ethnically diverse people worshiping him together for all eternity. Like the facets of a jewel, the glory of God shines all the more brightly as the light of his gospel is reflected through different vessels. Without ethnic diversity, we lose the ability to see God shine in particular ways (Eph. 2:14–19).

Sadly, the sins of racism, bigotry, and ethnic pride have manifested themselves in many ways in our racially charged culture, both historically and also in the present day. But the gospel offers us a new way. Not just for us, but also for our children. When the Lord Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross, he did so not only with particular people in mind, but particular people groups (Rev. 7:9). The Son of God is so glorious that nothing less than the nations would suffice as his chosen community of worshipers.

As Christians, we have the privilege of participating in what God is doing in redemptive history. We also have the responsibility to teach our children this kingdom perspective. Countercultural, biblical views don’t just happen. They must be taught.

Countercultural, biblical views don’t just happen. They must be taught.

Here are six ways to help your children appreciate God’s design for ethnic diversity.

1. Teach them what the Bible says about ethnic diversity.

Scripture isn’t silent when it comes to God’s design for ethnic diversity. Embedded in the gospel is God’s plan to reconcile to himself a people from every ethnic group in the world. Christ’s bride is a beautiful, multicolored bride. It’s vital to teach our kids these truths.

One familiar passage that speaks to the glorious multiethnic future of the church is Revelation 5:9:

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Every tribe.

Every language.

Every people.

Every nation (ethnos in Greek).

God’s purpose is crystal clear: a diverse people, ransomed for the sake of his praise and glory. We must teach this vision to our children.

The goal of multiethnic worship isn’t only for heaven; we must pursue it now.

 

And we must stress that the goal of multiethnic worship isn’t only for heaven; we must pursue it now. Here are some passages that will help reinforce this truth. Use them as you talk to your children about how the Spirit draws people from every tribe and nation to worship God: Genesis 17:4; Numbers 12:1–8; Psalms 22:27–28; 72:11; Daniel 7:14; John 4:9; Acts 10:34–35; 13:47; Romans 15:8–12; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:13–16; James 2:8–9; and Revelation 7:9.

2. Correct common errors regarding the Bible and ethnicity.

In Western cultures, it’s common for literature and films to present biblical characters (including Jesus) as Caucasian. This portrayal reinforces the notion that white is normal and non-white is “other.” This is particularly dangerous in spiritual matters, where ethnic identity can be mistakenly connected with favor before God.

Parents can help their children by pointing out that these illustrations aren’t accurate depictions of people in the Middle East, where darker features are the norm. Correcting these errors will provide opportunities for further dialogue.

3. Educate yourself and your children about cultures other than your own.

I’m speaking particularly to white readers. For many white people, especially in the United States, it’s possible to go one’s entire life without ever having meaningful interactions with people of color. Additionally, it’s all too common for curricula in our schools to focus only on Western civilization and accomplishments, again reinforcing the notion that “whiteness” is normative. When people of color are mentioned, it’s often limited to depictions of slavery and subservience.

For many white people, especially in the United States, it’s possible to go one’s entire life without ever having meaningful interactions with people of color.

Gaining a better understanding of other cultures will take intentionality. The good news is that we’re in the information age, with volumes of resources available within seconds of internet searching.

4. Seek out interactions and relationships with people of different ethnicities.

One of the greatest barriers to pursuing God’s design for diversity is the lack of proximity many have with people from different ethnic backgrounds. Depending on where you live, it may take more intentionality to develop these relationships. The local church is an ideal context for this pursuit. Unfortunately, there’s too much truth in the old saying that “11 a.m. on Sundays is the most segregated hour of the week.” If there’s ethnic diversity in your church, be intentional about having dinner/family outings/activities with people of different ethnicities so that these interactions would be the norm, rather than the exception, for your child.

Outside of church, this may mean signing your child up for extracurricular activities where they can develop diverse friendships with other children. Sports clubs, choirs, and summer camps can provide such opportunities. Some will have to be more creative than others in this regard.

5. Model loving confrontation of prejudiced words and behavior.

Ethnic bigotry certainly spreads from parents who transfer these mindsets to their children. But often it comes not from the parents directly, but from other family members who say racially insensitive or even directly racist things in front of the children—while the parents do nothing. It may not even be a family member. Perhaps it’s something said on television.

Whatever the case, these are opportunities for parents to jump in and say things like, “That joke was not funny. We’re all made in God’s image, and we shouldn’t say things like that about other people.” Or, “We love Uncle Bob, but what he said tonight at dinner about other races was unacceptable and sinful. We’re to love and accept everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, because that’s how God loves us.”

It will require courage to do this, as you may risk alienating a family member. But whatever it may cost relationally, it’s worth it for your child to see you honoring God in this way. And it’s the kind of act children don’t forget.

6. Be hopeful for a future where the Spirit will break down barriers between people of different ethnic backgrounds.

Let your children know through your words, attitudes, and actions that you believe God is at work in our world, drawing his people to himself and making us one in answer to his prayer (John 17:20–26).

One of the greatest barriers to pursuing God’s design for diversity is the lack of proximity many have with people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Yes, there’s work to do, but the Spirit of the living God is our partner, our helper, and our power. What we can’t do in our own strength, God can and will do in his.

Pray with your children through John 17, and then talk with them about how your family can live out Jesus’s prayer in your church, school, and neighborhood.


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