We had a similar experience last summer when we served a church in Nuremberg, Germany. Each week we gathered in our little apartment in the altstadt, the old city within the ancient walls that once protected the Nuremberg castle. They came from the Ukraine, Ireland, U.K, China, India, Cameroon, Sweden, Austria, Germany and, oh yes, the United States. Most of them were recent graduates from universities starting their careers in this ancient city where their lives were intersecting.
In neither case did there appear to be any awareness of color or race. In both instances, the evening was filled with laughter, kindness and joy. When they opened their Bibles, they shared honest questions and probing insights about God’s love and His presence. Sometimes, at the most tender moments, they confessed, prayed and wept with one another.
I wonder why the world at large can’t be more like that. Why is it that on a global scale we stare at each other across distant borders fearful and skeptical of one another?
In 1987 I stood at the harbor in Sydney, Australia watching as a cruise liner from the Soviet Union prepared to launch for its return trip home. I listened to the passengers singing lusty Russian choruses that echoed in the air. A Soviet cruise liner was something I had never seen in an American port, and the sounds of the singing made me wish we could know one another. I felt, if we did, we would probably like one another.
Years later, after the Soviet Union dissolved, I visited Moscow and sat at a table with Russian believers. We visited through an interpreter and we prayed together, especially for the people of Siberia where we hoped to serve. I discovered my premonition was right. I did like these people. In fact, I loved them.
I have discovered the same experience in Indonesia, Korea, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Egypt. Wherever and whenever I have met believers in Christ from foreign countries with foreign cultures and languages, I have found an instant bond. The faith that is in Christ immediately bridges differences in ethnicity, culture and language.
Our international Student Bible Study seems to me a preview of what the Bible describes in Heaven. John wrote, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. … And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Surely God takes special pleasure when his children from different nations worship Him in unity and love. It is the way it will be one day when all sin is removed and we gather in His presence.