Glory is displayed through accounts from different lands, cultures, and ethnicities
Written by Zammie King
The craft of stories has been consistently interwoven with my life. As a young kid, countless evenings were spent sitting in my grandmother’s lap as her tongue spilled with anecdotes in my native language, Igbo. I have vivid memories of reading one of my first picture Bibles and being mesmerized by the bright imagery and the many narratives it held, despite some of the accounts being too complex for my young mind to grasp.
When I was growing up, many well-known books and television series told stories through the lens of people who didn’t look like me and whose experiences didn’t reflect my upbringing in my community. This experience shaped my young mind to presume that specific stories, voices, and people are more valuable than others.
This same false ideology reverberates even within our church walls. The Church in Canada has an ugly history of colonialism and exclusion. For some, these experiences have led to distancing themselves from Christian spaces. Others hear these stories and think, well, that happened centuries ago. They believe or hope that healing and restoration have already taken place.
However, the dust of colonialism is still beneath our feet. When a single lens (in our context, a white European lens) is the predominant view through which we filter our theology, the result is the de-humanizing of fellow image-bearers with different ethnicities and backgrounds. When we don’t include all perspectives in the Church, this imbalance is a disservice to the Body of Christ because it means we lose insight from other cultures and perspectives.
In Galatians 6:2, the apostle Paul calls us to carry one another’s burden so that we may fulfill the law of Christ. This is a commandment to sit with those who are marginalized and experiencing disparity in our society. As the Church, we are meant to seek the good of each other. While our life experiences and perspectives aren’t the same, we all have a part in God’s plan for humanity’s restoration.
As a Church, I think we’ve become acquainted with “fixing” things the easy way—through silence. We waste our witness when we choose personal comfort over having communion with those within and without church walls who have different perspectives and experiences than us. For example, churches in Canada have stayed silent on injustices done to Indigenous peoples until recent years and are only now grappling with the effect of systems such as the Indian Act and residential schools.
If we are to bear true witness to the heart of our God, we must learn to treat our fellow brothers and sisters not as projects but as people.
When we listen, we must do so to understand, not to respond with our arguments.
The gospel is not an easy sentiment. The good news is that God has never been distanced from our brokenness. His heart has never ignored our cries because He is a God who sees us in the fullness of our humanity.
There is glory to be displayed in each of our stories. When we hold the Bible, we harbour a tapestry woven by narratives from numerous generations, lineages, cultural backgrounds, and geographical locations. Each of them aids us to see God in a fuller perspective, serving as a testament to the Father’s hands in our lives, even amidst the brokenness.
I hope our church walls can be spaces that welcome numerous diverse stories, not just those of a particular culture or ethnicity. As Psalm 107:2-3 says,
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
Those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.”
I sincerely cannot wait till the day when we, as the bride, will behold the fullness of the Lord’s beauty. Until then, I am grateful to God for the gift that I can be a unique expression of heaven on earth.