“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, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” — Revelation 7:9-10
There are many things that I look forward to, as the old gospel song says, “when we all get to heaven.” In addition to the verses listed above, John, the writer of Revelation, tells us there will be no more crying, mourning, pain or death. All these things — these vexing, unyielding, and grief producing things — will come to a final and fateful end. The consequences of a fallen world and the wages of sin will be redeemed and swallowed up in the glory of God for all eternity! These are the promises of God.
But as wonderful as the end of all these things are, I think what I look forward to the most is spending eternity with “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.” I long for the day when racial differences and bigoted hatred melt into the unity of the redeemed, all sharing a common purpose and singing the same song. Make no mistake: Satan hates God, and, by extension, he hates everything that God has created. In a burst of brilliant creativity, God not only gave us the deep greens, the dazzling blues, and the stunning reds of the created universe, He also gave us the gift of a racial rainbow of ethnicities that bring variety and depth to those He created in His image.
Now, Satan is trying to tear us apart. What a worldwide pandemic failed to accomplish by bringing death, Satan is trying to do by bringing division. The brutal and senseless death of an African-American man on the streets of Minneapolis at the hands of an out-of-control police officer has brought us to the brink of anarchy. We now find ourselves with a sobering choice. We can step back from the brink and begin to heal our national spirit, or we can topple over into the abyss of chaos. We often hear the phrase “lean into life.” But what we need right now is to lean back, away from the temptation to destroy ourselves.
If we are going to turn back from the abyss, followers of Jesus will have to lead the way. We must lead the way in calling for justice for George Floyd. We must lead the way in calling for justice to be meted out against rioters, looters and anarchists who are exploiting our country’s legitimate pain over an unjust death. We must lead the way in listening to the voice of our African-American brothers and sisters and try to understand their pain and confusion. Many people of color believe the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. has been replaced with the nightmare of injustice. Whether we agree with their assessment in total, there can be little doubt there are still threads of racial hatred woven into our national tapestry. Removing those threads without destroying the tapestry will require the wisdom of God and the leadership of those who have been redeemed by His Son.
In Ephesians, Paul exhorts us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). May this be our standard, our manner of leadership, and our example to the watching world. It is who we are in Christ. It will make us ready to join the joyous multitude around the throne.
— Tony Beam is director of Church and Community Engagement at North Greenville University. He will become the new director of the Office of Public Policy for the South Carolina Baptist Convention beginning Jan. 1, 2021.