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Being born and bred in urban New Jersey I lived among a diversity of ethnic groups. I was profoundly aware of my Italian heritage, yet I never remember experiencing the dividing line between Italians and Irish, German and Cuban, English and Polish.  As a child of the 70’s, I walked to school and never seemed to care what national background or ethnicity my friends were…it was just pleasurable to have anyone to walk to school with.  We attended a rather large Catholic church and school with an assortment of attendees. If there were any prejudices, I honestly wasn’t aware of them.

Then, at 26, I became a born-again, follower of Christ. It was here that I experienced individual freedom and purpose for my life. But it was also here that I realized an odd phenomenon existed: We, in the Christian culture actually had what was deemed, Black Churches and White Churches. Trying to wrap my head around that one, I reasoned that culturally we were different. They like “gospel” music; we like more contemporary pop Christian music. They are more expressive in worship; we are more conservative. They comment on the preacher’s sermon while he is speaking; we remain quiet. Sound reasonable, yeah? But has our “reasoning” been a smoke screen preventing us from crossing over our cultural misunderstandings to actually love and embrace those whose ethnicities are dissimilar to ours? Would it be unfathomable for us to embrace one of another culture or color to really dig down with understanding, constancy, and friendship for the long haul? Would fear rise up if we were to go further than a Sunday morning handshake and “how are you”, to really listen to another from a foreign culture?

God, in His infinite wisdom took a culture of “haves” and “have-nots” (spiritually speaking) and erased all barriers. Listen to this shocking treatise on the subject:

 “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Eph. 2:12-16

Where in the world did we get the idea that there would be divides between churches…culturally, nationally, politically, ethnically, or otherwise?!  God, Himself, erased the barrier between “Jew” and “Gentile” to make ONE group of Jesus followers. How did we come to convolute His plan?

Making the “2, ONE” actually promotes peace! Peace between brothers and sisters of all kinds in Christ, and peace between us and God. 

Now, of course there will be preferences in worship styles, preaching styles, and Sunday-go-to-meeting styles. We are all so very unique. But when a nonnative human occupies a seat uncomfortably close to yours on Sunday morning, I challenge you…I challenge me…to embrace that foreigner with all we have. Look deeply into their eyes and see the eyes of Christ. Embrace their unique qualities and what makes them distinct from you, yet so much alike in the human experience.

May the future of the Christian church  become a place where we can  celebrate our distinctions, at the same time experiencing the more “gray” or “brown” congregation, until we all blend into the color of Christ. 

Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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