Jesus was not a respecter of persons. During His earthly ministry, He reached out to people from every ethnicity and from every social class. He built bridges to them.
He healed the servant of a powerful man who was in charge of 100 soldiers. But He also offered living water to a Samaritan woman who was an outcast in her town. She, as a person who would have been looked down on both for being a woman and a Samaritan, even asked Jesus, as a Jew, why He was even talking to her.
Sometimes Christians, and even churches as a whole, are focused largely on one ethnic group or one social class. But living like Jesus means reaching across ethnic and class lines.
When Christians fail to reach out across these lines, people are over-looked and the gospel is hindered. For example, if a church is largely upper class and designs its events around the expectation that people are able to pay significant amounts of money to participate, people with less means will be left out. As a result, they will not be able to benefit from the teaching and discipling that may occur at the events which they cannot afford to attend.
The reality is that Jesus lived as a person of little means, and He did not require that people have anything to offer in order to follow Him.
In another scenario, what if someone attends a worship service where they are the only person of their ethnicity. Hopefully, church members will reach out in love and acceptance and make the person feel welcome. If they don’t, the person will likely not return to worship with that mono-ethnic congregation.
And when our congregations are mono-ethnic, we are not reflecting what the Church will look like when it is gathered around the throne in heaven. In Revelation, John records, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). This description offers a beautiful picture of people from all nations and tribes worshipping together. Similarly, our local congregations should be a reflection of the diversity within our communities.
But what about as individual Christians? How can we reach across ethnic and class lines?
Maybe that means seeking out people who don’t look like us as we go about our daily routines. When we encounter people, we can simply engage them in conversation and show value for them as people made in God’s image. We can speak words of kindness and build a bridge.
Maybe we can look for opportunities to meet physical needs for those who don’t have as much as we do. This kind of outreach can happen individually as we encounter needs or through organizations and ministries that already have contact with people in need.
When we reach across social or class lines, we need to be careful not to be condescending or make people feel belittled either for their lack of means or for their abundance of means. We need to treat everyone with the same care and dignity regardless of their socio-economic situation.
Wherever we find ourselves, there are most likely people around us who are not like us in some ways. If we want to live like Jesus, we must reach out across ethnic and social lines to connect with people in whatever ways we can. Building bridges to people is the way that Jesus went about His earthly ministry, and it is the model that we should follow.