Failing to Live Out the Truth
Why are we content to gather together to worship this great God, who has reconciled the world to Himself, in our comfortable congregations of segregation? Have we exalted our comfort and race above Christ and His gospel? Are the hurts that we have committed against one another greater than the grace and forgiveness that God has shown and given to us? Is the gospel about us or is it about God?
These are questions that I ask myself each time I go to church and sit in an all white congregation. Today the majority of white and black Christians in America gather on Sundays to worship God in congregations that are mostly homogenous[i].
I am not just talking about whites who live in upper class communities and blacks who live in the inner city. I am referring to diverse cities and mixed communities, like the one I live in in Orlando Florida where people of different races and ethnicities go to the same schools, play on the same teams, work at the same jobs and live in the same neighborhoods. Yet some of these same people gather to publicly worship God with mainly those who look like them. Sadly, this is the norm in cities all across America and most of us Christians do not care and frankly see nothing wrong with this.
There would be nothing wrong with this if Christians gathering together was about our comfort and preference. However our gathering together is not about the type of music we want to sing, the style of preaching we want to hear and the color of those who stand up front or sit around us. We gather together as God’s people to worship Him and to exalt Jesus Christ and that, my brothers and sisters, has nothing to do with our comfort. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24). I know that the context of Jesus words were not dealing with the unity of the church nevertheless I believe they can and do apply.
A New Command to Love One Another
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). As followers of Christ we are commanded to love one another with a radical love as Christ has loved us. When you think of Christ’s love for us it wasn’t just mere words or a kiss blown from afar off. How did Christ show His love for us? Through His death on the cross for us while we were yet sinners.
He loved us while we were His enemies and hostile to God. He loved us though we have rejected Him, despised Him and loved others instead of Him. His love was not shown to us out of comfort but through excruciating pain as He died on a cross for
our sins. His love did not bring a delight to His soul but great anguish as He had the full brunt of God’s wrath poured out on Him. We are commanded to love like this and when we do all men will know that we follow Him. This type of love has no bounds for it has overcome the chasm of human sin and certainly can bridge the racial divide in America.
Stop Looking at the Hurt and Look to Jesus
For this to be a reality, we can’t keep looking at the wrongs and injustices of the past. As a black man, I can’t sit around waiting for my white brothers and sisters to come to me asking for forgiveness for the wrongs that their ancestors did to mine. And I also can’t allow even racist things done to me or other blacks in 2014 stop me from living in unity and loving my white brothers and sisters in Christ. Why is that you may ask? Because the grace and forgiveness that Christ has given to me is infinitely greater than that.
This is why we must look to Jesus and yield to the grace that He has made available to us. No one in all of human history has been as unjustly treated as Jesus Christ of Nazareth. God, the eternal Son, came into the planet He made as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. As a man, He lived a sinless life and went about healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God (the Father) was with Him (Acts 10:38b). He came on a rescue mission to save sinful man from the wrath of God that we rightly deserve. In spite of this He was ridiculed, mocked, rejected, unjustly tried, flogged and violently killed on a tree. As He was being arrested He told His disciples that He could appeal to His Father and He would send twelve legions (72,000) of angels to do away with all those who came against Him (Matthew 26:53). Yet He did not do that. And hours later we hear Jesus crying out from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
The Father forgave us through Jesus death on the cross when He had every right to justly condemn us for our sin. And in this He has given us, those who have received Jesus by faith, an example and a command of how we are to be towards those who have wronged us. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Some of you may be thinking, brother, what you propose is too hard to ever be done. I totally agree if it were dependent on us. But I hear the words of Jesus saying, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). God, who reconciles and forgives, gives us power through His Spirit to live in relationships with each other characterized by forgiveness and love. Next week we’ll look at living out the unity we have in Christ.
[i] Ending Racial Segregation in the American Church by Promoting Diversity