Summary: Diversity divides the human family, but understanding unites us. However, finally the fragmented family can be fixed only by faith. Part of a series to support the study of Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life.
A few years ago I began to pay attention to the tradition of family reunions in African-American families. I think it may have been when I learned that the Faulkners were driving to Massachusetts to meet other Faulkners. Or maybe it was when I found out that the Hairstons rent an entire hotel and drive the desk clerks crazy trying to figure out which Hairston goes in which room. Or maybe it was when I saw a Bailey family T-shirt that pictured a large flower with many petals, and each petal was an offshoot of the original couple. No, I’m sorry, I have it wrong. It wasn’t the Faulkners or the Hairstons or the Baileys that first taught me about family reunions; it was the Savage family, Cecelia Dade-Winfield’s family of origin, because we had a long laugh about what it was like to go to a convention attended by “savages”!
I rather envy this tradition, because I don’t know many white families that do it. Mine certainly has not, not since I was a teenager. I am sorry to say that I don’t even know where some of my family members are. You’ve heard of somebody being your cousin, once removed or twice removed? I just have cousins, removed! I am not even sure whether some of them are dead or alive. That’s not good, is it? I applaud the family reunion tradition, even though it sure does take a lot of you away from church in August! It’s good because you know that you were formed in a family, and that you neither can nor want to escape that. You were formed in a family, and that is so much a part of who you are that you make it a priority to be at the reunion.
But I am here this morning to say that there is another family reunion on its way, and I surely don’t want to miss this one. There is another family reunion, one bigger than any you have ever attended, and we don’t want to miss it. Nor do we want anybody else to miss it. That is the reunion of the whole human family. The gathering together, when time shall be no more, of all God’s children. As the spiritual says, “On that great gettin’-up morning”. We don’t want to miss that one, do we? God’s family; you were formed to be part of God’s family.
That is the most empowering, the most inclusive, the most exciting statement we can make. You were formed to be part of God’s family. You were not formed for isolation; you were not made to live alone; you were not set out here with no connections. You were formed for fellowship with God and for relationship with one another. You were formed to be part of God’s family.
The text for today is all-embracing, “From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.” That’s everybody.
But the problem is that diversity divides us. Diversity divides. When you live in a diverse and multicultural city like Washington, at any given time there are a huge number of people from all the nations of the earth, speaking all sorts of languages, and it’s a little hard to think of ourselves as one human family. Diversity divides us.
About a week ago some of us went down to the mall to serve with the D. C. Baptist Convention, handing out cups of cold water in Jesus’ name. We were given a place to set up on a key pathway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. Because this year is the 50th anniversary of the end of hostilities in Korea, that pathway was filled with Asians – Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and so on. I said to Pat Bolinger, “It looks more like Seoul or Shanghai than Washington.” We offered these folks water and literature; Keith Taylor, who is a born salesman if there ever was one, shouted out the word, “free”. “Free water, free literature.” But many of them just smiled and walked on. They did not understand what we were saying. Diversity divided us. Communication was difficult. It was hard to see ourselves as part of one human family.
By the way, it was not only Asians we had trouble talking with. One group came up and several of our folks took a look at them and tried out their high school Spanish. But it didn’t work. Everybody in the group just smiled, drank the water, and went on. We all thought our Spanish must have been pretty bad; but then I saw the tour guide’s umbrella. It said, “Ciao, Italia”. I guess Spanish is not all that close to Italian!
Diversity divides us, human and limited as we are. I am sure that was what was going on that day in Athens when Paul stood on the Areopagus and tried to speak with those who came to that busy place. Jews and Greeks, Athenians and foreigners, all sorts of people. And not only different languages, but spiritually diverse, too. Epicureans and Stoics, philosophers and skeptics, religious and irreligious, all gathered there. Diverse and complex. Don’t you just love Luke’s note about what it was like on the Areopagus? “All the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.” Wow! That’s us! That’s Washington. The latest gossip, the juiciest rumor, the faddish style, and the up-to-the-minute philosophy. It’s all here in this city. The market place of ideas, the clash of cultures, the rough-and-tumble of politics, and, certainly, since 9-1-1, the hostility of competing ideologies. All of that is here, and all of that divides us. It keeps us from feeling that we are all formed to be part of God’s family. Diversity divides.