My birth country Singapore prides itself on being one of the most peaceful and cohesive multiethnic societies. There are four major ethnic groups in Singapore, the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians (people of mixed European and Asian heritage). The Singapore government is meticulous in its planning so as to ensure racial harmony and acceptance. For example, 90% of Singaporeans live in public housing, and the government ensures each flat is made of a carefully calculated ratio of different races. But pay closer attention, and you will see that the acceptance of other ethnic groups is often limited to second-generation or third-generation Singaporeans who share the same cultural upbringing and are committed to the same societal norms. Unfortunately, it is not that different among the Christians in the country.
There are many churches in Singapore, ranging from small house churches with a handful of members to those with memberships of up to 20-30 thousand. If you are looking for a church in Singapore, you will be spoiled for choices. In this multiethnic city, you will find a church for Indians, Eurasians, Europeans, Australians, Serbians, Americans, Africans, South Americans and Chinese. Within the Chinese churches, you have the choice to go to a Chinese church for the Indonesian Chinese, the Taiwanese Chinese, the Mainland Chinese and, of course, the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese. But there lies the problem. Why are the Christians so segregated? Why are we divided among ourselves?
Ephesians 4 describes a church body that believes in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” and a body that consists of different giftings for “building up the body of Christ.” Yes, many churches recognize the need for various gifts and embrace the diversity of gifts, but as the body of Christ, we need to go farther. As challenging as it should be, the church should reflect the heaven we look forward to living in. I do not think heaven will be a place where differences are tolerated and people of different ethnicities only worship with their own people. I do not believe that accepting one another for who they are and respecting each other for their differences is enough. As leaders, we have to lead people toward true unity, and I believe that true unity is not only tolerance, it is not simply acceptance, but it is a proactive move toward embracing those who are different from us and working toward being a united body that reflects the love of Christ to the world.
Christ is the head of the Christian body, and we must submit ourselves to his transforming power. This move toward unity in diversity cannot be driven by human will or strategic change management. It has to be a spiritual commitment of repentance and surrender. Only the Holy Spirit can transform the hearts and minds of humankind to be more like what God has shown us through the unity found within the Trinity. So let us leave our comfort zone and move toward the Biblical mandate of being one united body in Christ.