Everyone is made in God’s image. Our delight is ‘everyone in God’s image’ means difference. In the lead up to the referendum, that joy has been overshadowed by fear, distrust and division. Indigenous Australians have reported being subject to increased racial vilification – online and in-person. For all the valid reasons people might vote for either side, racism is not one of them. Even as we vote, we vote from love and justice that delights in God’s design of ‘unity with diversity’. We remember everyone is in God’s image. This means at least 2 things:
First, reflecting God means delighting in difference. God made humanity in His image (Genesis 1:27). We’re made one and distinct. Just like the one God, who is Father, Son and Spirit. Flowing from this, God calls humanity to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’ (1:28). He made us to cover the earth, not stay in the one spot. After the flood, God tells Noah and his sons twice to ‘be fruitful, increase in number and fill the earth’ (9:1 & 9:7). Genesis 10 is God’s command lived out. It’s a carefully crafted explanation of the different races, tribes, cultures and languages that fill God’s world. Different family lines spread into different nations and distinct languages. ’10 times 7′ is a large amount of the perfect number. The ‘70’ of Genesis 10 says God made a totally complete people to fill His earth. Most importantly – he made them diverse. National and racial difference are part of being God’s image.
Christ’s work re-affirms and redeems this truth. In Acts 2, through the sacrifice of the one (Jesus), forgiveness and transformation is possible for all. ‘All who call on the name of Jesus are saved’ (Acts 2:21). In Christ we are restored to God and connected to others. Not by crushing cultural difference. Everyone heard their gospel in their own tongue that day. They were able to respond in worship through their distinctiveness. What Acts shows in small part, Revelation 7 affirms into eternity. A great multitude are gathered from every nation, tribe, people and language: all united in praising Christ; all enjoying the blessing of His glory and goodness forever. Our culture, our language, our identity, continue in the New Heavens and Earth. Our distinctives are re-worked for God’s glory, our good and the blessing of those with us.
God made every nation. Cultures and languages are God’s design. It is good, right and proper to honour distinctions between people. Delight in cultural difference. We delight in God’s creativity in making the seaside beautiful without having to deny the beauty of the mountains. In the same way we should delight in the distinctives of one culture without denigrating another.
Second, ask God to help us delight in the difference he’s made. Our sinful spirit distorts God’s good creation in all sorts of ways. In race and culture, it leads some to ‘othering’ – so focussed on the differences, that other races are excluded from being equally God’s image. It’s the racism of superiority and pride. Sin leads others to ‘crushing’ – so focussed on similarity that it reduces ‘equality’ to sameness, and leaves no room for treating others appropriately to who they are. We need God’s help. The Archbishop’s prayer for the Referendum is a great starting place for such help:
Gracious Lord,(Prayer by Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, 11 Sept 2023)
The Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, we pray for our nation. We lament the damage done to the original inhabitants of this land, since European settlement, including the loss of life, land and language. We recognise sins committed and harm done.
We praise you that you have built your church among the First Peoples of this land and we rejoice to be brothers and sisters in Christ with them.
Hear our prayer as together we consider the referendum on recognition and the Voice to Parliament.
Preserve us in love, respect and mutual service.
Give us a spirit of wisdom and discernment as we cast our votes.
Father, whatever is decided, we beg you for clear and lasting progress in addressing inequality and
closing the gap for First Nations peoples.
Bless Australia, we pray, as the gospel is proclaimed, that we may be reconciled to you and to each
other through him who died for all, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, in whose name we pray, Amen.
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