Thursday, August 13, 2009

Motor City Lessons: Racial Reconciliation

I'm on a role with race issues after posting that poem, so I figured I'd share a little bit more about how God has been teaching me his heart for reconciliation and for ethnic and cultural diversity.

I think I'm going to cheat and just use the format of a worksheet that we filled out yesterday as part of our debrief process.

1. What evidence of racism and racial division do you see today?

In 1963 about 70% of white people thought there was racial equality in the US.
The number is the same today.
Today, about 70% of black people don't think they will ever see racial equality in the US.

There's a disconnect somewhere. Who do you think knows more about the true state of rasicm in our nation?

9 out of 10 people in the US who regularly attend church are part of congregations where 9 out of 10 people look like them.

There is racial division not only in our neighborhoods, not only between city and suburb, but within the Church.

And I'm not sure if this fits here, but I just found this from Andrew Hacker's Two Nations: There are more black men in jail than in college.

2. How would you define racial reconciliation? Why should the average person care about it?

The professional definition, from Dr. Timothy Gombis (prof of New Testament at Cedarville, of all places): Seeking to foster fruitful community life across racial and social boundary lines -- lines of division that seem to be "normal" in some sense, but have been perverted by Satan and human sinfulness, so that communities do not regard each other with respect and dignity, seeking mutually fruitful relationships, but with suspicion and fear, which lead to exploitation and manipulation of all types.

Here's what I wrote: Racial reconciliation is the restoration of right relationship between groups and individuals of different ethnicities who have been painfully divided by the sinful spirit of racism. It is healing of these hurts, forgiveness.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." (MLK) So the average person should care. How much more the Christian. God is just. His heart is for diversity and justice. (See the next question) According to Tim Wise, racism actually costs the US millions of dollars a year.

3. Write out a scriptural basis for racial reconciliation.

(I'll try to keep this short. I've listened to a sermon and kind of want to preach one about this. I should also give credit to John Piper and Timothy Gombis for their strong influence here.)

Revelation 5:9-10. This is a picture of heaven. The elders are praising Christ. Look closely at what they say:

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the

Can I just say it simply? Based on this scripture it seems clear that Christ died to buy a very colorful Bride.

Racial reconciliation is at the very center of the gospel. The broad sweeps of the story of God are strokes of reconciliation. In the midst of a situation radically broken by sin, God came himself to fix the whole thing -- to restore relationship between humanity and God, humanity and itself, and humanity and the earth.

It's all part of the same picture. God is about reconciliation. Revelation shows that racial reconciliation is an issue of the blood of Christ.

Now, you could argue that just because we'll be together in heaven doesn't mean we need to concern ourselves with the difficult and painful attempt to be in mutually fruitful multi-ethnic relationships. But we can't escape so easily. Read Ephesians 2. We're familiar with the first 10 verses, because they are what we usually consider the "gospel" (Jesus seemed to think that the good news was a proclamation of the arrival of the Kingdom of God). But if we continue we read of God's plan to reconcile men to each other. I don't think it's a stretch to compare the reconciliation of Greek and Jew in Paul's day to the reconciliation of black and brown and white. Christ has broken the dividing wall of hostility! He is our peace. The is making in himself one new man out of two. The cross put to death our hostility.

The Church is the image of Christ to the world. We are his Body, his presence on earth. And 11am on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week in America. My brothers and sisters, this should not be! When we are the white church and the black church and the Korean church and Indian church and Hispanic church -- we are only a small, incomplete picture of Christ. How much was are missing! We pray that God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, but we make no effort to make is church here appear as it will in Heaven.

I have had the opportunity to visit several diverse churches (and I mean truly multi-ethnic, not just non-white) over the summer, and I have learned so much about our God -- such a broader and fuller picture of his nature -- from just a few Sundays in the midst of a diverse congregation. I'm convinced that racial reconciliation is worth the hard work and painful effort, and that it is critical to the gospel of Christ.

The questions and answers get more personal in part 2, coming soon...

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