In that day the heir to David’s throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. (Isaiah 11:10 NLT)
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Word becoming flesh is the way in which Jesus expanded the Kingdom of God beyond the kingdom of Israel. Before Jesus died and then defeated death, before his years of teaching and healing, even before he lay in a manger, the foremost way to be part of the larger story of God and his Kingdom was to follow in the footsteps of Ruth, who declared to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth was willing to renounce her former people and god for Naomi’s people and God. As Isaiah prophesizes – and as we see come to fruition in Revelation 7:9 with the great crowd in heaven that comes “from every nation and tribe and people and language” – the new Branch that grows out of the stump of David’s family will serve as “a banner of salvation to all the world.”
The angels declared to the shepherds this “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10). There were also the wise men who traveled from the east. These are among the first signs and indications that this multinational, multicultural, and multilingual Kingdom has come near at hand.
However, just because we all belong to the Kingdom of God does not mean we will automatically agree with each other, get along easily, or even find common ground beyond our love for God, eagerness to follow after Jesus, and desire to reside in the Spirit. We may all share the same Kingdom values, but there is no guarantee, or even requirement, that we all share other, secondary values as well.
This past October, at the NorCal Association Annual Celebration, Mike Leuken, pastor of Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, talked about the importance of “unlikes” gathering together, living life together, and worshiping together. Leuken said that it is in these gatherings of people who don’t share ethnic backgrounds, economic status, political leanings, or secondary values that formation actually takes place.
This is the difficulty of multicultural ministry in our modern world, and for some, the work it requires doesn’t always seem worthwhile. It is certainly easier to follow Jesus in a comfortable setting, but that does not lead to our formation, which means we are not following as closely after Jesus as we ought. And yet, because we are called to be one, just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, this is exactly the difficult work given to us as children of God.