Revelation 7 pictures a scene of ultimate togetherness: “There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white” (verse 9).1The Lamb’s victory is there for the entire universe to behold.
Then the focus shifts to the multitudes. “Who are these?” wonders one of the 24 elders. The answer does not identify them according to nationality, race, color, gender, status, tribe, caste, or any of the frontiers with which we are so accustomed. The answer is simple but profound: “These are they who have . . . washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14).
Washed in the blood of the Lamb is the anchor of Christian unity. Any person who harms that unity by using any other factor to define human personhood, dignity, or fellowship cannot be a Christian. Some might exploit other human beings or crush an entire group by relying on tactics of racism, gender, economics, caste, religion, or color, but Christians cannot and must not.
The Christian approach to human relations is based not on what humans can achieve, but on what God has ordained. And what God ordained for human relations is presented in the first chapter of the Bible: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
God did not leave humanity without an effective remedy for such divisiveness.
How could Christians, claiming a common origin in the creative activity of God, assert the superiority of one over another and destroy the possibility of common fellowship and togetherness? How can we who keep the Sabbath as a memorial of God’s creative act practice activities that deny the commonness of humanity?
In the post-Fall setting sin marred the image of God and imposed alienation not only between God and humans, but also between humans. Sin accentuated negatively such differences as color, gender, caste, nationality, creed, or tribe. But the challenge of accepting God as Creator is to reject these differences and to affirm the commonality of humanity in the image of God.
God did not leave humanity without an effective remedy for such divisiveness. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal. 4:4, 5). The Son came to make us all sons and daughters, giving us the common privilege to approach God as our “Father,” and each other as brother and sister.
Nowhere in the Scriptures is the mandate of God for the unity of His people so forcefully argued as in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here Paul contemplates in wonder upon the nature of the church, “consisting of Jews and Gentiles, Asiatics and Europeans, slaves and freemen—all symbols of a disrupted world that was to be restored to unity in Christ.”2 The apostle notes the destruction of “the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14, RSV)3 by the Man of the cross. That historic, experiential truth overwhelms him with indescribable joy.
Indeed, in the extraordinary conclusion of Ephesians 2, Paul calls to witness the names of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as architects of the marvelous unity that should characterize the Christian church, made up of people of every hue. Paul calls that unity a “mystery,” and uses this word six times (Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19) to underline the divine nature of it.
Conceived in the mind of God, completed by the reconciling ministry of Christ, empowered within each heart by the working of the Holy Spirit, this mystery of a new humanity without any dividing walls is Christianity’s privilege and challenge.