Not Quite What We Used to Be
by Rev. Will. Harrison Jr.
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Sorry for the rough draft but this is the first edition of what will one day become a book and I need feedback on this so far.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read a familiar passage that says “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Exactly how far can we go with that truth.
In our world today, especially here in America, we have a lot of people groups of all different kinds of ethnicities and cultures living in the same land. And a large portion of them were not born here but relocated here either temporarily or permanently and either legally or illegally.
But in this article I am primarily going to refer to those who have become Christians. Believers in and Followers of the Lord Jesus the Christ, born again of the Spirit, the Blood, and the Word. And just like our country America has experienced an inflow of aliens from other cultures and nations so has the Church of God the body and bride of the Lord Jesus.
That almost goes without saying. Even if only one particular “race” as people label it or one ethnicity and culture were to be dwelling in our country and they all came to the saving knowledge and grace of God through Jesus the “Body of Christ, the Church” would then be filled with that group.
In America in recent years there has been a lot of debate, argument, dialogue about what to do with all of the different nationalities that want to make America their home. Even regardless of how they got here, legally or illegally, the question is still out there of what to do about their “New Status” as Americans. Do we require that they lose all their previous identity entirely and become “melted in” to the rest of America and become “only American”? Or do we allow them to be a Nation or ethnicity within a Nation. Or, more likely, where is the reasonable compromise. And exactly how do we do this and when and how to implement it and if need be, enforce it. Do we use the pattern of other countries or even the way things have been done in this matter throughout the past 200 yrs. in America.
There is just no way to simplify this very complex issue and come up with a “plan” that will please everyone. Well then who do we please? The ones that have already been born here? That won’t work well because many of them have been born here and are automatic citizens simply because their Mom happened to be here when the child was delivered. [ That rule has helped to make things even more complicated] Or do we use the approach of the right side of Conservatives that we used to see in years past where an individual and/or family was allowed to maintain their own cultural ethnic traits and practices but keep them primarily to themselves and within the confines of their own households and family get-togethers.
Or the view farther to the liberal socialist left that would say let the immigrants decide for themselves and let all of us tolerate whatever they want to do and they can have as many rights to be just like they were in their native land and culture and do not discriminate. Neither sounds very likely to happen. Then do we need a compromise between these two main views. Not necessarily and certainly not just simply for the sake of a middle ground compromise.
Whatever happened to the idea of America being a “melting Pot”. That’s where we got the requirement of the immigrant to learn the English language and academics and history as fully as they know their own and whatever religious or political or cultural particulars of their own ethnicity must be kept to themselves. For the Muslim woman for example that would mean they could wear their headdress but not cover their faces. [ they do that even now in many of their own native lands] and no special “rights” concerning the use of public places just because of their previous cultural practices. They could keep their own language but not use it in public because that would be seen as rude and divisive and separatist.
Well our country in the past 40 yrs has transformed quite a bit in all of these ways and it certainly does seem to need now an up-dating of the mechanics of this policy towards immigrants and their American born relatives. The part that gets a lot of long time many generations of Americans is when the new immigrant and their American born family members or even their long time resident grandparents begin to insist and demand certain aspects of their own native culture be allowed and respected on the same level as being an American. It makes it very clear that they want to see them selves as what they would be in their native land first and fore-most and then be an American secondly or thirdly as Americans, and that only “on paper”. Our Country was never meant to be a full continent sized international airport or grand central station like greater Asia where all of these numerous individual “races” and cultures and ethnicities, etc. are all simply “existing” together on the same large continent. But that is precisely what a great many of the aliens now in our land and wanting to come here are insisting on. As a Christian I am to “flow” with whatever ends up happening, within reason, because our citizenship is technically in “Heaven” even though we won’t go there until we pass from this mortal life. We’re hoping to find others who will want to do the same some day. But for those not in our category it doesn’t seem fair or proper or appropriate for the America of old to now become like the United Nations instead of the United States. Our invitation to immigrants from other lands was always to give them a place they could call home, maintaining some semblance of original culture [ see the way the Irish or Ukrainian, or Italians, etc. have done here for the past 150 yrs. ] yet being first and foremost NOW mainly American and “melting” into this new land, this new culture, etc. Be bi-cultural besides being bi-lingual. If the liberal left has their way we would soon become a new United Nations, literally. And if the Conservative right has theirs we will see some sent back, and some lose almost all of their original “flavor”, so to speak. [ although I feel that the conservative right is a lot closer to the way it was before and now still should be than the liberal left. The Liberal left wasn’t even around to a large degree until the 1960’s. we were doing reasonably well until they were allowed to come up into power ] When you become an American, the right way or the wrong way you are now an American and no longer first what you were before. Your old ways
But back to the issues of the Church and how the similarity is seen. If I were to be naturally born here in America or anywhere else in the world and my skin color and traditions and religion and practices were such that they identified me with a particular culture and ethnicity [ African, Hispanic, Asian, Anglo, etc. as general categories only. Or even such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Japanese, African, Arab, etc. ] and then I were to become born again as the Bible talks about and literally become a “New Creature In Christ” where the “old is passed away and all has become new” as God judges in the Bible. Well then what happens to my original ethnicity and culture and nationality that I received not only from Adam and Eve but also from my parents generations and ancestry? Are they all now gone, disappeared, no more? I don’t believe that the Bible teaches that exactly that way but I do believe there is some relative truth to that.
Back to the secular Americanized discussion we were having just for a moment. Just like someone from let’s say Mexico were to come here to take up residence in America and become formalized citizens, and swore allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, paying taxes, learning the language and customs, buying property, and so on etc. That would then become their official status until either they move to another country or back to their own and go through the same process. Of course once we pass from this world to the next, whatever we were here is of no value or significance anymore, period.
Just like for the person who becomes a Christian anywhere here in this world. Once they pass from this world to the next, where their citizenship actually and truly is, whatever culture or race or nationality or ethnicity or religious views and language or skin color were at one time will be completely irrelevant and a part of forgotten history. The Bible says this to be true. But for the time being we as Christians are here and we carry with us a working of our old life and nature and ways and now a new one as well from the new life in Jesus, the new identity, the new customs, traditions, beliefs, views, values, etc. What do we do with the old. How much of it is allowed to be “seen” and “shown” or demonstrated. I believe that the Bible teaches that it would be impossible for certain things to be removed now as I said “For the Time Being”. Such as our skin color, our facial features, our given names, our language, or likes and dis-likes concerning food or music or clothing. There are a number of things that are just there and waiting to be passed on when we leave this life.
Well my friend, all of this entire issue has the most to do with priority and values. For the time being we cannot change our skin color, for example, nor our facial features, nor the language we were raised with, but just as Christians with their new life we are to learn a “new language, [ I’m not simply referring to “tongues” but the language of the Bible, Praise, worship, etc.] new values, new priorities, etc. Who we were as naturally born men and women of Adam and Eve is no longer to have the highest or top place in our new Christian lives, because now we are “In Christ”. Just like when someone becomes an American the right way, for the first time, whoever they were before is now Not the primary value and right. They are Now American First and foremost and secondly or thirdly what they were before. And now as Christians, and maybe Christians who move to America or somewhere else, who we were before is “passing away” as the Bible declares and is being literally “replaced” with entirely different and new views and values, etc. Even the new Christian value of putting others first before ourselves must be done within the context of being a new creature in Christ, before we are of the new Country we live in, before we maintain anything of what we were ethnically before.
Let’s look at someone like me for example. A much different set of circumstances yet still following the same pattern from Scripture. Unlike someone born in another country like Africa where they are not mixed ethnically with anyone else, as a Christian they only have their original and natural born ethnicity and nationality. Whereas someone like me who is mixed with the Slovak/Slavik culture and traditions, plus Ukrainian and Russian, and then Dutch/German, and also Native American/Canadian Algonquin Indian. All of this in my genetic and ancestral heritage. But then I was born in America as was both of my parents. So I am American as well. Maybe someday I discover that I also have Jewish in me somewhere. The point being that I could either be all of the above, or pick just one, or maybe just two or three, plus being an American. And then I become Born Again. Now I AM Now In Christ, as A Christian and a child of God and a Brother to Jesus and the Saints. I now carry with me to the end of my life all of these resident in my being and psyche. Yet I do not live with any internal or external cultural conflicts of interest or any other kinds of conflict. I am completely comfortable with being first and fore most primarily a Child of the Most High God and a Brother of Jesus, [ spiritual genetics here] secondly an American, which is far more than just an identifier of the particular geographical location on earth where I was planted. And I WAS Slovak/Slavik, Indian, Dutch/German, Ukrainian/Russian, and who knows, maybe even a smidgen of Jewish as a remote possibility. In fact the way I read the Holy Scriptures the connection to my natural ancestry before Christ is way down even lower than third on the list because it is the least relevant now to me as a Disciple of Christ, a Man of God, an Ambassador in Bonds, a Heavenly Emissary, a Citizen of Zion the Holy City of God. I’m looking only forward not backwards.
Yet I am not ashamed or embarrassed of my previous national heritage, plural as they may be. I love the cultural trappings I’ve learned about, the different foods, clothing, language, names, music, etc. of literally all of them. But their importance to me now as a New Creature in Christ is a distant memory. To place these values any higher than they are now would be to go backwards, to complicate many things that God meant to be left alone for the Christian. They would actually become an opportunity of the devil to tempt, to offend, to be inappropriately proud and arrogant, and seriously ruin my witness and testimony. I heard of a Christian recently saying to another Christian that their relative was not acting __________enough. You fill in the ethnicity label. Who it was specifically is also irrelevant. This should not be. And that relative was an unbeliever or at best a new Christian who was now witnessing a damaged testimony from that person who won’t “let go” of a part of their heritage that was nailed to the cross.
Remember Jesus said that in heaven there will be no more nationalities or ethnicities or cultures that were here on the earth and that even or gender of male and female or in between will be no more. If you say well I’ll wait until then to let go, that’s not only not Biblical and Christ-like but it is sin and potentially damaging to the truths we declare from the Holy Scriptures.
This brings up another side door issue. That being of people such as Gay’s or Homosexuals. If we are going to [ and we certainly should ] tell them that the new life “In Christ” is a completely and totally different way of living and existing and does not and never will include their particular sexual expression, then we must tell that as well to all other people, regardless. Whether it’s about someone’s ethnicity, lifestyle, gender, philosophy, ideologies, etc. The message should be the same to all. This is precisely why the homosexual for example cannot stay “that way” In Christ because of the truths about this New Life. It’s not just simply a matter of the differences we will experience In Heaven. We are to have the process “started” now down here.
Yes “for the time being” we are still in this world, in our old bodies, and the old sin nature is still in us, [although no longer the rule] [and that war rages on] and we also are now “In Christ” and no longer “In Adam,
As I said, Once born all over again we are no longer who, or what, or how, or why, we were before in our old natural birth but are now in a spiritual birth and new life. And this applies to “race”, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, religion, culture, etc. and so on. Let’s move-on with our New Identity while placing our original heritage from this earth in a much much lower place of priority on the List. Revelations tells us we’ll even get a New Name.
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