equality

Can We Ever Be One?

September 16, 2020
I have continued to be in conversation with other leaders regarding the racial divide in our country. I had the privilege of being invited by a friend to preach at his predominately-black church and then asked to call into his radio show to tell my story when the hosts were speaking on the topic of white privilege. I must admit these were uncomfortable experiences for me personally as I sorted through my past and sought words of encouragement and truth to those whose life experiences were vastly different than mine. I have willingly been forced to listen and hear how those different from me told their stories and as they opened my eyes to see what they have seen and what I have missed as I have walked through my life. 

As I have wrestled with recent disruptive events and messages related to the racial divide, I looked back on my blogs and discovered I have written about our racial discontinuity at other times. In 2012, the year of the Newton shootings, I wrote we are to be Peacemakers, not Peacekeepers. In 2017, I reminded Christ-followers our message is “He is our peace” in the face of racial conflict. Earlier this year, I wrote about Crisis and Core Values, in light of the George Floyd killing and referenced one of our governor’s message to our faculty and staff regarding race relations. 

Here we are again writing on the topic of racial discord. I am not discouraged we have not solved the problem because I wonder if it can be “solved.” Each time we are faced with the issue I am reminded that without a heart changed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, I will be writing about this again in the future. 

Here three things I believe we must face as true:

One, we must face the fact that privilege, prejudice, and pride are at the core of our relational and systemic issues. I have privately tried to justify the advantages I have in my life with the “good things” I have done with them, but they are still advantages others were not afforded. I have examined my pre-judging of others that I have caught, been taught, and have been reinforced by those I have associated with through my life. And, I must confess my pride makes me want to say, “Well, that’s not me you’re talking about,” or, “At least, I didn’t do that!” These facts are realities in every ethnic group, and we must all face up to those forces which influence our attitudes and actions toward others. 

Two, we will never find unity from the solutions secularists propose. Why? Because they do not address the primary issue: a self-centered, sin-filled heart, a reality post-modern thinkers do not accept. ‘People are basically good and environment and nurturing make us who we are’ is their mantra. ‘Those influences outside of us are to blame for the way things are.’ I do not doubt the power of environment and nurture on the making of a person, but they are not the root of our issues. So, we will have laws, protests, and speeches declaring paths to unity which will only lead to more division and disunity. 

Three, we can only be one through the person of Jesus Christ. I know this statement sounds exclusive and absolute, but I know it to be true. Other religions call us to love our neighbors and to see people as divine image bearers, but in them we are called to love this way with our own effort and will power. None of us are capable of such charity—to use the Old English word for love—without help from outside ourselves. We are too much ourselves to hack through the weeds of our experience and influence of others to find the sacrificial love for others. We need someone to rescue us from our self-focused-protective selves and the systems we have built to protect them. Only the sacrificial, suffering love of Christ can do this. 

During the overwhelming, public outcry to George Floyd’s death, I wrestled to find any language we could hold on to which would help us see that we can be one. One morning while on in the mountains I woke up to words that grew into a fuller statement which describes how I believe we are one in Christ Jesus. I don’t talk a lot about “God gave me this to say…,” but this came to me out of my sleep, not by my trying to come up with something clever or wise to write to you. So, I leave you with this message. May the Lord make us one in Christ Jesus. 

We Are One

We are one

in our sin and 

our suffering

We are one

in our wounds and 

our scars

scars from our sinful choices

wounds cut by the sinful choices of others

We are one

at a table set by suffering sacrificial love

invited by One

who sacrificed his life to heal the scars of our sins

who suffered at the hands like those that wound us

We are one

by his healing love

salve for our wounds

the story behind our scars

We are one

not by 

color

race

or creed

earth-bound labels that drive us apart

We are one

freed slaves all

rescued by the Conquering King

joy-filled servants

to those who wound us and 

to those freed with us

We are one

we feast at the table of his presence 

as aliens and sojourners in a hostile land

no green-card status

we are citizens of heaven

We are one

healed and 

made whole 

by the Healer 

and the healed

We are one, Gene

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