Evangelicalism's Obsession with the Toy Aisle

Every time my family and I go shopping my son asks, “Can I go look at the toys?” I usually smile back at him and say, “If you listen and obey, then we can go look at the toys.” It’s predictable, like clockwork we end up in the toy aisle. This time of year my son’s desire to see the toys is even greater. It is understandable, Christmas is around the corner and he is a child who is infatuated with the wonder of toys. Hopefully there will come a day when he has outgrown the toy aisle. When his interests will shift because he will have grown up and will have more mature interests. Some adults though never do mature and end up living in their parents basement till their 35.

This illustrates a massive problem in the American church—we love the toy aisle and we refuse to grow up. While there are many faithful churches out there, they tend to be the exception, not the rule. The evidence is all around us.  A recent study, the State of Theology, demonstrates that American evangelicals do not even know the basics of the Christian faith. When speaking to friends involved in Christian education I repeatedly hear that far too many Christian college students enter higher education without knowing the basics of Christianity. If graduating students and adults who have been in the church for most of their lives don’t know the fundamentals of the faith, what are they learning from all those hours spent at church?  Where are we failing?

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There is plenty of blame to go around. Many local churches are too busy trying to be the next big thing to take the time to actually disciple people. The desires of laypeople are also a problem; many look for churches which are hip and trendy instead of faithful. These two problems feed off of each other, Christians want shallow churches and many churches are too willing to accommodate the desire. As Christians, we should want to mature in our faith (1 Cor. 3.1-3), but that is much more difficult than watching a light show and fog machine every Sunday morning. The problem is one of desire, of what we treasure, of what we expect from a church. We desperately need to grow up and leave the proverbial toy aisle behind.

Below are four changes American churches and Christians need make if we want to mature and leave the shiny toys behind.

  1. We need worship, not concerts. Walk into the average large church, especially mega-churches, and you are not likely to find the congregational voices as the main instrument during the worship songs. I am all for worship being done well, with quality musical instruments. Yet, what our services are lacking is not musical skill, but participation from the congregation. Why? Our worship services have become concerts. They are spectacles, sideshows, and performances. The congregation is encouraged to be passive and to receive entertainment instead of being led to worship God.  This focus on performance and entertainment may draw a crowd, but it does so at the expense of worshiping God—the whole reason we exist. This epidemic is also seen in the content of our songs. Recently my wife and I were at a service at another church, and the pastor made a comment about how great the worship set was. At that point, I leaned over to my wife and said, “Worship? The most common word used was me!” If that was worship, then it appears we were worshiping ourselves instead of God! Our songs, like our worship services, are focused on us instead of God. God is often an afterthought in our worship services. If this accurately categorizes our worship, is it any wonder that so many Christians know so little about God and his word?

  2. We need preachers, not comedians and story-tellers. To be clear, I am not against a well-timed joke to make a rhetorical point or a story which actually helps to illuminate an important point. That is all good as far it goes. But the core job of the pastor is to preach the word of God. Our job is to say, “Thus says the Lord.” Again, in many evangelical churches, the speaker is more of an entertainer than a preacher. They can hold our attention with interesting stories and funny jokes, but there is no real substance to what they say. God and his word have become an add-on to the message. The cookie-cutter messages are often predictable: start with a funny story, introduce a problem, sympathize with our condition, sprinkle in some bible passage (out of context), offer some self-help, have a few more more stories/jokes, and end with an altar call of some variety. It’s predictable, sad, and self-focused.  

    About seven years ago I was sitting in a mega-church and I listened to the Lead Pastor describe how his church was really good at getting people in the door and getting them to confess Christ. The problem? They couldn’t seem to get people to take the next step, to grow. They couldn’t get them to take their faith seriously. He lamented that they couldn’t figure it out. I sat their befuddled because the truth was staring him right in the face—you get what you subsidize. They placed no importance on actually teaching from the pulpit, only on entertaining people and growing numerically. What do you think that teaches people about the content of the Christian faith? What does that teach people about they should live as Christians? Perhaps their entire model was the problem? That thought apparently couldn’t be entertained as they have tens of thousands of people in their services every week. Simply ignore the fact most of them aren’t growing, don’t know the basics of the faith, and just check-in and check-out every week. I wonder what the problem could possibly be?

  3. We need the gospel, not therapeutic self-help. This point ties in with the content of our messages and our songs. What we teach, what we emphasize matters. Did Jesus come so that we will have better communication, love lives, marriages, families, and self-worth? No. Surely some of those things can come by the grace of God and by walking in wisdom, but Jesus came primarily to purchase a people for himself as he was directed to do by the Father. This is the heart of the Christian message, not seeking self-help or feel good emotions. Christ came to do his Father’s will, to obey unto death, to defeat his enemies and to rescue those in slavery to sin. He came to call us to repentance and faith. He came to call us to die to ourselves and follow him, not to discover how great we are. The church is suffering because we are so distracted by the false allure of the toy aisle—self-help, self-esteem, and therapeutic feelings. Much of evangelicalism has a small or distorted understanding of the gospel precisely because it has made the gospel about us instead of Christ. The fault is at the feet of our teachers who are distracted by shiny toys and who are too busy building their own kingdoms.

  4.  We need to seek God’s approval, not the world’s. This really is the heart of the matter. Much of our childish behavior is linked to our desire to be liked by the world and to be like the world. We mask this truth by saying we want to be relevant or we want to reach the community, but in the process we start to look, act, and think just like the world. The church is most relevant when we offer an alternative to the world. We reach more people when we are different.  When we seek the approval of the world, we start to look like the world. Then we become truly irrelevant because the church becomes a redundancy to the world. We cannot seek both the approval of the world and God at the same time. We can only serve one master. It will either be God or the world. Right now, we care way too much what the world thinks of us.

If we hope to change the troubling trends of American evangelicalism we are going to need to leave the toy aisle d behind and grow up. This won’t be easy, but it is possible through humble faith and repentance. If we will humble ourselves as both churches and individuals to seek out real worship instead of concerts, real preachers instead of comedians, the gospel instead of therapeutic nonsense, and to seek God instead of the world there is both hope and the power to grow up in the faith.  In fact, when we do this, God will honor our faithfulness, and by his power people will grow up into maturity.

Commonly Misunderstood Passages: An Eye for an Eye

The other night Emily and I were watching a police television show. In it there was a man who was caught committing murder and who sought to justify his actions. He argued he had the right to kill this individual because her actions led to the death of his daughter.  It was at this point the man further defended his actions by pointing to the Bible, more specifically the teaching of an eye for an eye. I was not surprised by this plot twist because it is an overused tactic in Hollywood to mock Christianity. The pervasiveness of this strawman tells us more about how little people know about the Bible than it tells us about the Bible itself.

We find this phrase, an eye for an eye, in several parts of the Bible. Its first appearance is found in Exodus 21.23-25, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” What does this text mean and why is it so commonly misunderstood?

 The Common Misunderstanding

Like how its use in the above TV show, people often twist this text by suggesting it endorses personal vengeance. The misunderstanding is so widespread even Gandhi is attributed as saying, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” In this way, it is suggested the Bible is backward, out-of-date, and even barbaric. Now it is easy to see why people who know little of the Bible would misunderstand this teaching, but nonetheless the Bible does not promote personal vengeance. In fact, it condemns in multiple places.

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It appears in Jesus’s day people the same misunderstanding existed, ““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5.38-39). The twisting of this text was so prevalent Jesus decided to hit it head-on. Yet it is the very fact Jesus did this which makes it more troubling that so many people mistakenly think the Bible promotes personal vengeance.

 Since this passage isn’t about personal vengeance, what is it about? Is an eye for an eye a good thing or a bad thing?

 What an Eye for an Eye Actually Means

The passages of Scripture which command an eye for an eye must be understood in their context. What most people miss is that these commands are not addressed to individuals, but to the government. It is a guideline for proper punishment in the legal system. This is the farthest thing from personal vengeance. To put it plainly, the command for an eye for an eye is not a license for the individual to seek vengeance but it is a guide for the juridical system when punishing crimes.  This is what the Israelites, and many people today, get wrong about this passage. Individuals are not to seek justice on their own, rather we are to trust God to punish evildoers and one way he does that is through the government (Romans 12:14 -13:12).

Not only is this command not given to individuals it is also not about exacting an exact pound of flesh from criminals. An eye for an eye is about the limiting punishments given by the government to criminals. It means the punishment must fit the crime. The severity of the crime dictates what a just punishment would be. Essentially this command outlaws cruel and unusual punishment from the government toward its citizens. For example, a government should not punish speeding by amputating the driver’s lead foot. Why? It would be an unbalanced punishment for the crime. Such a punishment would not serve justice but it would rather be an act of injustice.

Why is such a command important? Because our hearts, both as individuals and as governments, often seek out retaliation by increasing the pain done to us on those who did it to us. You put one of us in the hospital, we put one of yours in the morgue. The government is just as prone to seek vengeance as individuals are. Exodus 21, and passages like it, command judges, courts, and governments to seek equitable punishments for individual crimes. In this way justice is accomplished. Justice cannot be accomplished if the punishment does not fit the crime. An eye for an eye leads us to justice, not vengeance. In this way, an eye for an eye is a good thing and it is a cornerstone of a just society.

 Conclusion

Justice is important as it flows out of the very character of God. It is why he has established governments who are to punish evil doers and reward the righteous. In that capacity governments are told not to over, or under, punish crimes. When they do either of these the people suffer. God in his grace has given us commands on how to seek justice, but we must seek to understand his word in its context. In today’s world it far too easy, and popular to twist what God has said. An eye for an eye is not something to be embarrassed about or something to dismiss. Rather, it promotes justice and limits the punishment of crimes so that they do not become cruel and unusual. With all due respect to Gandhi, without the command of an eye for an eye governments will inevitably moves toward either anarchy or tyranny. In this way, an eye for an eye is a good thing and it is a cornerstone of a just society. Without it we stand to encounter worse problems than worldwide blindness.

 

Commonly Misunderstood Passages: Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God

This is the second post in a series on commonly misunderstood Bible passages. Previously I discussed Psalm 46.10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” You can read that here. It is important Christians strive to rightly handle God’s word (2 Tim. 2.15). Where God has spoken, it is important we listen carefully. It is also important we do not put words into God’s mouth. We do not have the authority to add to his word or to take away from it. This series is meant to help us to handle God’s word with the respect it deserves. My goal is to deepen our understanding of God and his word by examining it closely on its own terms. Today we will look closer at Micah 6.8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This is a very popular passage, yet its popularity is at least partly due to our misunderstanding of it.

The Common Misunderstanding

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The final phrase of Micah 6.8, do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly, is seen everywhere today. I have seen it on mugs, t-shirts, posters, web graphics, and even bumper stickers. This is not surprising as the topic of justice, especially social justice, is very popular. Micah 6.8 is something of a rallying cry for Christians who identify with the social justice movement. Justice is something Christians should think more about, but they do so biblically. Micah 6.8 is often associated with the modern social justice movement. It tied into ideas like wealth and privilege distribution as well as many socialistic public policies. Is this what Micah 6.8 is really about? No, not even close.

The misunderstanding stems from confusing terms of mercy and justice found in this passage. One prominent pastor described this passage as a command to live justly. That’s fair enough, but he then argued that the following commands to “love mercy” and to “walk humbly with God” is how justice is accomplished. Here is the problem, is loving mercy a part of justice? I do not believe so. It should be obvious that Christians are to love mercy. We are people saved by mercy. Mercy is not the problem. The problem comes from how mercy and justice relate to one another.

Here is the root of the problem with how this passage is understood—it confuses mercy and justice. If mercy is a necessary part of justice, then mercy is something we are owed. If we are owed mercy, then it is not mercy at all. In the most basic sense justice is receiving what we are owed. Conversely, mercy is receiving good when we are not owed it. This distinction is not only important to preserve the meaning of the two terms, but it is also important for our understanding of the gospel.

If mercy is something we are owed, then we lose the gospel. The good news of Christ is that God has shown mercy through Christ. If God owed us salvation then salvation is not by grace. The gospel is so great because God gave us the exact opposite of what we deserved. He forgave those who deserved justice. The wonder is magnified because God also satisfied his justice by sending his Son to die in our place. At the cross mercy and justice meet. If we confuse mercy and justice, then we lose the glory of the gospel.

What Micah 6.8 Actually Means

The problem of getting to the right interpretation of Micah 6.8 is furthered by poor English translations. The phrase, “love mercy” is actually only one word in the Hebrew (hesed). This term is often translated as God’s steadfast love. It is a word used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the unique love God has for his people. God’s love is faithful and it lasts forever. This is the word we find often translated as “love mercy.” But that is not what the word means. The HCSB translation gets this right, “Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The idea is that God’s people act justly when they love and practice faithfulness to their covenant with Him. The context of Micah helps to further demonstrate that this passage has faithfulness in view, not mercy. This book is organized in such a way that God presents his case against Israel. They have broken the covenant and this is what led to their judgment. Immediately before Micah 6.8 God contrasts his own faithfulness with the unfaithfulness of Israel (6.3-4). Then he calls them to return to the covenant, but this return cannot come by mere sacrifice (6.6-7). What is needed is faithfulness to the covenant. This is why the word hesed is used. This word draws their attention to the faithful love God has poured out on them through the covenants. This word stands a call for them to return to the covenant and mirror God’s faithfulness. This is what just living looks like.

There is more to the context which also shows us this is about faithfulness and not mercy. In answering what they must do, God reminds them he has already told them what to do! Look again at the first part of verse eight, “Mankind, he has told what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you”. So he has told them, but where did he tell this? God here is pointing back to the terms of his covenant. So God then quotes from Deuteronomy 10.12, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”. Micah 6.8 quotes Deuteronomy 10.12 which is about faithfulness, not mercy. Micah 6.8 is a call to love God by being faithful to the covenant he established with Israel.

Conclusion

So how do we live out justice? We do so by loving God, keeping his commands, and following his covenant with us. This is what Micah 6.8 is about. It is a call to obey the moral commands of God and honor his covenant.

When we understand Micah 6.8 correctly we do not end up confusing justice and mercy. While mercy is a wonderful reality, it is not a requirement of the gospel it is not an outworking of justice. Rather just living is found in faithful obedience to God.

Commonly Misunderstood Verses: Be Still, and Know that I am God

Misunderstanding the bible is nothing new. This confusion is only magnified in today’s world of memes and one-liners on social media. Single verses are often elevated to popularity because they fit some preconceived agenda we want to advance. So a verse grows in popularity with no thought given to the actual context of the passage. For those who hold a high view of scripture, this trend is alarming. It shows an utter disrespect for God’s Word fueled by laziness. We need to approach the Bible on its terms. If the Bible is God’s Word (it is), then it should be handled better by those who want to live by it. What God actually meant by his words are far more important than how what we want them to mean.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing on several popular passages which mean something far different then how they are commonly understood. Let’s start with the first part of Psalm 46.10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This passage has become a Christian cliché as it appears on everything from bumper stickers to social media feeds.

The Common Misunderstanding

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When you read Psalm 46.10 you probably think of being physically quiet before God, of slowing down your frantic pace, and finding time to read your Bible. This passage commonly brings to mind serene landscapes and the idea of finding rest and peace before God. What do you Christian need to do? Be still and know. They need to rest in who God is. Basically, we need to let go and let God handle our problems. There is a lot of truth to us needing to quiet ourselves before God and to prioritize spending time in prayer and the reading of his Word. Nonetheless, this is not what the passage means. Not even close.

What Psalm 46.10 Actually Means

Psalm 46 is actually about war. It starts with the great promise that God is the refuge of his people, where they can find protection from the raging of the world (46.1-3). It then shows us the nations raging against God and his people (46.6) before moving to God’s response of bringing destruction on the earth and the nations (46.8-9).

The context of verse 10 is war. The setting is a battlefield. In this war, God protects his people and brings the nations into submission. Psalm 46.10 is God entering the battlefield of the raging nations and defeating them by his voice. When God says “Be still, and know that I am God,” this is not directed at God’s people, but at the nations. It is directed at the enemies of God. It is a royal command of the King of Kings and by that command, he brings desolations upon his opponents. Be still and know is the battle-cry of the LORD directed at his enemies, not an encouragement for believers to find rest in God. It is God entering the war and claiming victory by the power of his voice. The HCSB translation helps us to see this, “Stop your fighting—and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” So Psalm 46.10 is about God defeating the nations and about him being exalted by all of creation.

Why It Matters

We have a tendency to sand off the sharp edges of God to make him more palatable. Psalm 46.10 reminds us God rules and he conquers. There is coming a day when he will enter the battlefield and he will conquer simply by speaking. The nations will be stilled, and left speechless. They will know that the LORD is God. In fact, this is fulfilled in Revelation 19.15-21 where Jesus descends and slays the nations of the world by a sword that comes out of his mouth. He defeats the nations by speaking, just as we are told will happen in Psalm 46.10. Christians need to remember the Lord rules and he is a conquering king. His is so great that the strongest nations will be defeated by his mere speech. On that day every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is what Psalm 46.10 is about.

Revelation 7 Isn't About Diversity, It's About God

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The vision of the great multitude in Revelation 7.9-12 is one of the most vivid images in all of Scripture. It is also commonly used as an argument for the inherent praiseworthiness of diversity. Well-meaning preachers use this text as a battering-ram to argue that if your church is not diverse enough, then it is less than it should be.

There are several problems with using Revelation 7.9-12 to make this argument. First, Revelation 7 is not the only place we find such a diverse group in this book. There are several other places in the book where we find such a group and in these instances, it is not a positive. This demonstrates the mere appearance of a diverse group says nothing about diversity’s inherent worth.  Second, Revelation 7 isn’t primarily about diversity. It’s about Jesus. It’s about God. We must remember that. 

If we turn this passage into a statement about diversity we miss the point. We make this passage about us instead of God. It is as if we've entered the throne room of God and built an altar to ourselves. Focusing on the diversity of the human crowd shifts the focus, and praise, from the glory of God to the supposed glory of mankind. It is idolatry. Idolatry in the very presence of God.    

If we desire to understand the point of this vision, then we need to understand it in both its immediate context and the context of the entire book. Revelation 7.9-12 reads (emphasis added): 

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!”  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

It is true that the great multitude found here is very diverse, but this is not the point. This group tells us the point of this vision—Salvation belongs to God and to the Lamb. It is this truth, not a praise of diversity, which leads to the triumphant exalting of God we find in Revelation. It shouldn't surprise us the main idea of this passage is the greatness of God, not the greatness of human diversity. God is inherently good and praiseworthy. The same cannot be said about diversity. 

What makes this great multitude special? The passage tells us that as well. The answer isn't diversity. It is not the demographics of the group that makes them special. It is not as if God is trying to meet some modern quota system. If that is how God saves, then who we are contributes to salvation. At least some would be saved because of their own merits. Such thinking is nonsense. 

What makes this group special is what they have in common—the blood of the Lamb, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7.14b).  The stress is not on mankind at all. It is all about the wondrous work of Christ. The greatness of the multitude is found in the greatness of their savior.

The main point of Revelation 7 is clear—God saves a people through the death of Christ. If we approach this passage in an attempt to show the praiseworthiness of the modern conception of diversity, then we end up doing violence to this text and to the glory of God. Revelation 7 reveals the glory of God. Not the glory of mankind. Not the glory of diversity.

Yet this group from every nation does say something about who God is. It reveals something important about his character. 

Why We Misunderstand Revelation 7

One reason we misread Revelation 7 is we have assumed diversity is inherently a moral good. To be clear, diversity can be a good thing. It can also be a bad thing. Whether it is good or bad has nothing to do with it being diverse. To put it another way, diversity is morally neutral on its own.

 For example, there are churches today who have left the faith, but who are diverse by our standards (the same can also be said of some churches which lack diversity). The fact one is diverse, or not, is not necessarily a moral good or evil. The diversity, or lack thereof, is beside the point. What matters is if we have been saved through the blood of the Lamb. A church being diverse will not save it. A church lacking diversity will not save it. 

“But Levi,” you may ask, “The redeemed people of Revelation are diverse, doesn’t that mean God loves diversity?” This is a necessary question. The answer is, "No." That is not at all what Revelation is getting at. If the mere appearance of a diverse group in Heaven means God loves diversity, then we run into major problems in the rest of the book as we encounter another equally diverse group who is following the Beast. 

Revelation 7 isn't the only place in the book where we find such diversity in a group. There is an equally diverse group in Revelation who are opposed to God, under the influence of Satan, and whom God judges. It is striking because John uses almost identical language to describe the diversity of this group as he does in Revelation 7. This is obviously intentional as it  demonstrates the composition of a group has nothing to do with why they are saved or not.  

Revelation 13.7-8 says of the beast, “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” 

The language here echoes the language used to describe the saints found in Revelation 7. The difference is this diverse group is following the Beast This group experiences the horrific judgments of God found in Revelation. If we interpret the diversity found Revelation 7 to mean God loves diversity then we must conclude Satan loves it as well because of Revelation 13. But this would again miss the point. It’s not the people which are the dividing line, but the Lamb who was slain. 

It doesn’t get any better such interpretation in Revelation 17.15 as we follow this group, “And the angel said to me, ‘The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.’” The prostitute thrives on diversity as well. As go throughout the book it is this diverse group which Jesus destroys at the final battle (Rev. 19.19-21; 20.8-10).

If Revelation 7 means God loves diversity, then it would follow Revelation 19-20 means God hates diversity. If Revelation 7 means diversity is always morally good, then Revelation 13, 17, 19, and 20 would mean that it is morally evil. Revelation isn't being contradictory. Revelation isn't the problem. Our interpretation that is problematic. 

Far too many of us approach these texts with an agenda and in the process, we pervert their clear meaning. While it is true Heaven is a diverse place, so is Hell. Perhaps these passages aren't really about the value of diversity at all.  

Diversity has nothing to with why these two groups exist and are separated. The distinction is theological. God sees all of mankind in one of two fundamental groups.  The first group are those under the old Adam (Rom. 5.12-14). This group is diverse as we would count it, but they are uniform in how God sees them—sinners and rebels. The second group are those under the new Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5.15-21). This group is also diverse. But this group has been saved by grace through faith in Christ.  They are not saved to show the goodness of diversity. Rather their salvation displays the glory of the Lamb who was slain. One of these groups is outside of Christ and one is found in him. The dividing line is Christ crucified, not diversity. The glory belongs to Christ, not diversity.  

So What Does this Diversity Tell us About God?

Primarily, these two groups reveal something about the character of God.  When we see people from every tribe, nation, and tongue both redeemed and damned it displays that salvation belongs to God. He saves whom he wills to save. Salvation is all about grace. It has nothing to do with who we are, but it has everything to do with who God is. These passages reveal the character of God. They reveal the biblical truth that God is impartial in both salvation and in judgment.  

God does not save according to who someone is. He saves by his impartial grace. He judges according to his impartial justice. The impartiality of God is affirmed throughout Scripture (Deut. 10.17, Rom. 2.11, Col. 3.25, Jas. 2.1, Jas. 3.17). God administers grace and judgment impartially, with no respect for who the individual is. Salvation belongs to him alone. 

When we read Revelation 7 what we see is a picture of the impartial God who owns salvation and who has the right to judge. What we see is a group of people who God impartially chooses from every tribe and nation. If we go to this passage and make the heart of it about modern diversity, then we not only miss the point, but we actually end up saying the exact opposite of what the passage, Revelation, and the rest of Scripture says about God and salvation. 

Revelation displays the glory of the all-powerful God who both judges and saves impartially. He does not save us because we are white or black. Rich or poor. Male or female. He saves us because of who he is. God’s justice is not about who we are, rather he administers justice impartiality according to his universal standards.  This why we have diverse groups in Revelation being both saved and damned. It has nothing to do with the value of diversity. Rather, Revelation shows the glory of God in his impartiality. Salvation belongs to him alone, judgment belongs to him alone, and he alone is worthy to accomplish such things. 

This reality should free us from the worship of modern diversity. Diversity is neither good by itself, nor bad by itself. But impartiality in judgment and in grace are wonderful because they reflect the character of Almighty God. We should be thankful for this. For if there were some standard about who we are which causes God to save us, then we would all be damned. Praise be to God because salvation belongs to the Father and to the Lamb. In him, people all around the world are saved because of who he is, not because of who we are. Revelation 7 praises the glory of God in salvation alone, not the supposed glory of modern diversity.