Heralds of the King
- Thursday, July 23, 2009
When God's people have been gripped by this thrust of God's advancing kingdom, they have often been lonely voices among the overt and covert cultural racists of their moment in history. In the 1800s the Scottish Presbyterian missionary, John G. Paton, exemplified this commitment to God's omnicultural kingdom, standing all but alone amidst the culturally self-impressed of his age. As he both went to and returned from the ministry to the New Hebrides and their cannibalistic cultures, he received mixed response and even rejection among his own race and denomination for his care for "brutes." When he traveled to Australia for prayer support and fund-raising, he found church members who doubted that aboriginal tribes' people even had souls. Thankfully, in a visit to England he would find a Baptist brother and sister named Reverend and Mrs. Charles H. Spurgeon, who would support him when some closer to him in theological persuasion would not!8
Reverend Paton wrote:
A book once fell into my hands, entitled, "Sermons on Public Subjects," by Charles Kingsley. I knew him to be a man greatly gifted and greatly beloved; and hence my positive distress on reading from the eighth sermon, page 234, "On the Fall," the following awful words: "The Black People of Australia, exactly the same race as the African Negro, cannot take in the Gospel. . . . All attempts to bring them to a knowledge of the true God have as yet failed utterly. . . . Poor brutes in human shape . . . they must perish off the face of the earth like brute beasts." I will not blame this great preacher for boldly uttering and publishing what multitudes of others show by their conduct that they believe, but dare not say so.9
Paton ministered in utter contrast to these prejudices in such passion and in such deep commitment to the universal nature of God's kingdom advancement that when he left Australia he could write:
At my farewell meeting in Melbourne, Sir Henry Barkley presiding, I pleaded that the Colony should put forth greater efforts to give the Gospel to the Aborigines: I showed the idols which I had discovered amongst them; I read Nora's letters; and I may, without presumptions, say, the "brute-in-human-shape" theory has been pretty effectually buried ever since.10
May Paton's confidence be found true of us. Would that we were changed by the Abrahamic covenant and never saw another human as a "brute-in-human-shape"!
Social statisticians estimate that the North American Anglo citizens will be the racial minority within twenty to fifty years, conservatively speaking. God is bringing the nations to North America. The sovereign placement of God's people in an omnicultural kingdom ought to thrill us with the prospect of our cities, our neighborhoods, and our churches going through cultural shifts. As Christians, we should be the first at the door to welcome our neighbors who look, dress, speak, and act so differently from us. We should be the first to flex, serve, respect, welcome, and "love our neighbors as ourselves," like a family.
However, with all that God has provided, outlined thus far in Genesis 17, we often fail miserably. We live frightened, self-absorbed, culturally sequestered little (very little) lives. We do not live "large," which seems to be the call of the Abrahamic covenant!
"God, I'm a failure! God, we are failures! Help me!"
He does! He does! He does help us!
God Provides a Gospel-Centered Sign to Keep the Cross and the King Vivid in Our Hearts and Minds As a groom places a "sign of covenant" and love on his bride's finger, so God gives a gospel-driven, christocentric sign to remind his bride that he will pay the price necessary for all of her failings, her sins, her false starts and inexcusable stops. Hence he commands circumcision as the sign of the covenant. The text reads in Genesis 17:9, "As for you, you must keep my covenant. . . ." 11 Then verses 10 and 11, "This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."
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