I grew up going to Romanian churches and when I was 9 yrs. old, I invited my Vietnamese friend to come to my church one Sunday. She was Buddhist. As we made our way to our seats, we were greeted with blank stairs from the congregation. The church was a small Romanian Baptist church with about 40-50 members. I remember feeling very awkward and could only imagine what must have been going through my friend’s mind. Another time I invited her to my 10th birthday party where some of the kids from my church pulled her hair, spit on her and threatened her not to come back again. The way some people treat others outside their race and religion seem contradictory to the essence of the Gospel.
Jesus went out of His way to break social barriers. He even went to the Samaritans, who were considered unclean to the Jews due to their racial makeup. Not only did he dare minister to the divorced Samaritan woman at the well, He ate Samaritan food, lived in a Samaritan house and soaked in Samaritan culture. His love is trans-cultural. It is no wonder why the Samaritans begged Him to stay for two more days (John 4:40). In Acts 1:8, when Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, He told the disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (emphasis added). Don’t forget that Jesus’ first disciples were all Jews raised by kosher Jewish mothers. How uncomfortable it must have felt for them first time around! J.Lee Grady, author of The Holy Spirit is Not For Sale, stated, “The Gospel always compels us to cross ethnic and racial boundaries. It requires us to die to any prejudice and racism. We cannot truly walk in the power of the Spirit if we have such attitudes. It is not enough to love people you feel comfortable with. Genuine love goes the extra mile. It is extended to people who are not like us.” I’ve always felt a strong push from the Lord to venture outside my cultural comfort zone. It’s amazing how God’s love will always push you to the edge!
While I was up in Massachusetts Summer 2011, a colleague had invited me to go to church with her in Boston. We were heading to go visit an African Methodist Episcopal church. I could already hear the gospel choir singing from outside the bricked church building. Upon entering into the congregation, I studied the old wooden pews, the glass stained windows, women with gloves and hats on and the lively gospel choir up on the small stage. People were holding fans as there was no air conditioning and I even saw portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. on some of the fans. I felt like I had walked into a 1960’s African American civil rights movie. Besides two other white women who were on staff, I was the only other white person in the church. The organ music started to play and the church began dancing and singing to the song Total Praise: I lift up my eyes to the hills–from where will my help come from? I had an awkward choice to make. I could shrink back, and risk sending the message that I didn’t want to be in a predominantly black church. Or I could do what Jesus did. I quickly decided that He led me to this place. I raised my hands to heaven and worshiped Him. A burning sensation shot through both my arms like electricity and immediately felt the heavy presence of the Holy Spirit. The entire congregation was moved by His presence and one of the women on stage started shaking as the Holy Spirit began to manifest Himself. Towards the end of the service, we were all embracing and blessing one another. It felt good to come out of my comfort zone, worship God and make new friends in the process.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love,
I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2