I was in Las Vegas, Nevada when I saw my first color separated tubes of M&Ms. There were maybe ONE HUNDRED different colors of M&Ms, each held in its own huge tube, different colors, side by side around the room. This store would allow you to buy all of one color, or mix just the colors you wanted, or you could get some of each color. Kids would line up, adults too, and customers would go back and forth between the tubes and fill up bags. They even had a bin you could toss your bag into if it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. You could then fill a new bag with a new strategy. There were maybe four shades of green, eleven shades of brown and colors I had never seen before, like three shades of purple.
Who knew they made purple M&Ms, let alone three shades of them?
I wonder what heaven is going to be like. Seriously. I really like my church and how we worship God. Do I have to learn a different way? What about music, do they have different music in heaven? I hope it's not harps because, and I shouldn't say it, I can only take so much harp music. Our pastor says that we are going to have perfect bodies, or spirits. I am looking forward to that. I just have a hard time imagining God breaking us up into different groups for worship. Jesus only refers to the Jews and the Gentiles, which He then resolves while He was on earth, so it will be all of us. The Good News is for everyone. This was then re-affirmed through Peter and the other Disciples (2 Timothy 1:9). God does not have these separation hang-ups, these are man-made. So, no M&M tubes for souls in heaven, I guess that store is closed there.
I belong to a church that works hard at diversity. Our church tries to eliminate separating qualities such as age, race, socio-economic, past-faith and others. That means that serving requires a mix of everyone. Attendance, everyone. Music, everyone. You get the rhythm. That goes against the grain. One of the most segregated times of the week in the United States right now is Sunday services. Black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches- there is a church for every separate race. Beliefs are separated, celebrations are separated, music, childcare, age is all broken down into favorite flavors.
It is a little rough here on earth for me to sort it out because I am a bigot. I guess that is the right word. I think I refer to myself that way because I actively prefer people who look, talk, think, and worship like me. I believe that exceeds the term "bias" and moves to bigotry, but there is little use in splitting hairs. In heaven, I believe that all falls away in the presence of God (Rev. 3:19-20). I do not want to be a bigot; I am just not willing to pretend that I am not one.
God is not a bigot.
You are probably saying, "I knew that!" Well, if that is true, then why do we worship God like bigots? Why do we spend time with other people like bigots? Why do we love like bigots? Remember- I'm a bigot. I think if you try to scratch in places you can't reach, you might find you are a little bit of a bigot too.
Remember when the disciples were celebrating Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came upon them? They started speaking the Good News in every language of the people from around the world who were in Jerusalem. God did not have them just speak Hebrew, (which I’m not sure is a language, think it was Aramaic). They spoke every language. Jesus said to spread the Good News to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world (Acts 2:1-12).That means a lot of people who did not look like, think like, or worship like them or us. The disciples in the upper room had to step into a new life and set aside all of the bigotry and comforts of their old lives to embrace a new world and new people. If we are Christ-followers, then we have to move beyond our bigotry.
Missionaries who go overseas learn new languages and customs. They live amongst the people of a community, invest in those people, and come to love them. Scares the heck out of me. I like my chains of restaurants, universal English language, Starbucks™ coffee every morning, and all of the familiarities of my community. I only speak one language, which, based upon our educational system, it took me 12 years to learn. I have created this bubble that I find myself tightening, as I get older. For example, this bubble even exists withinmy church community. I have my 10:30am church service friends. If you go to another service, you are outside my bubble. I’ve tested this as I see stickers on the cars of people in grocery store parking lots for our church and if I don't recognize them, I know they must be at a different service. They are outside my tight bubble. I do not want to be a bigot, but I don't want to be inconvenienced. Oh, did I just say an ugly truth? Jesus' Great Commission did not mention convenience or Starbucks™. He told us to spread the Good News everywhere, and that means going beyond our bubble.
How do we do that? Let me re-phrase. How amIgoing to do that? I have figured something out. Bigotry works really well when you are defining groups, but it is very hard one-on-one. I love a number of people of different ages, races, creeds, and socio-economic backgrounds…. I could make a longer list, but you get the point. It is all one-on-one. I love them, they love me. We pray together. We laugh, talk, hang out and are close – on a one-on-one basis. I don't think of them as anything other than my friends. I don't know how to stop my fear that shows up as bigotry, but I do know how to be a friend to someone and make a new friend. I am just trying to make more friends of every type and love more people well. Diversity classes don't do anything for me. Tolerance preaching has not been helpful. Love and friendship are all that has worked and that I got from scripture. Jesus picked losers; racial enemies, religious enemies, the diseased "unclean," and other victims of bigotry and loved them well. The world had decided that each of those original followers was “not right,” which supported their bigotry. Jesus’ response was to be their friend. He took the first step when that was necessary, he answered the first ask when it was made. He set the example. I may be a bigot, but I can do that.
We are asked to, "Do as I have done" (John 13:15). Jesus made friends and served everyone. He preached the message and performed miracles. He preached the message and explained with parables the truths of God's desires for mankind as foretold by the prophets. He died for our sins and made our salvation possible. He also opened that door of salvation for all, shattering the "laws" of separation between man and God.
Bigotry of the souls won't work in heaven. There won't be any bigotry. You might want to get to know your eternal neighbors now.
One other thing- the people to whom you are reaching out to meet? They are overcoming their own bigotry to meet you.