The Gospel, the Church, and Racial Reconciliation

As yet another example of racism makes the headlines, we in the Church need to seriously consider our role as those who proclaim the gospel. I’m sure a much longer post would be better, but please bear with me in my attempt at brevity.

Creation: Racial reconciliation starts with an understanding of man’s place in creation. All people are made in the image of God and share a common humanity.

Fall: Our sin, which separates us from God, also separates us from each other. The first sin recorded after Adam and Eve took the fruit was Cain’s murder of Abel. If mankind so easily sins against even his brother, it should not surprise us that he should sin against “the other.” Racism is a result of sin, and it should break our hearts. It’s to our shame (especially as white people) if we cover over the sin of racism as it confronts us.

Redemption: God calls us to be a redeemed humanity, to turn from our sin and hatred, and to love and care for our brothers. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” ought to know no racial boundaries.

The Reconciled Community; the Church: The Church ought to be the model for racial reconciliation. This is true, first, because the Church confesses its obedience to love God and to love neighbor. Second, this is true because of what Jesus has done for us. When we are saved through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are reconciled both to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We share not only a common humanity (creation) but a common new humanity (redemption). We are one in Christ and this unity transcends issues of race, gender, and class (Gal 3:28). Those differences aren’t obliterated, but they form no barrier to separate the church in its new humanity. The “Invisible Universal Church” spans race, culture, class, language, station in life, etc. It’s an evidence of the work of the gospel when the local visible church does, too.

Consummation: John gives us a vision of heaven when he writes in Revelation 7:9 “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.” What a beautiful vision of heaven, first because of our worship of Jesus the Lamb, and second because of our unity in that worship. As we pray, “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we are wise to remember this vision of heaven, and to pray for its actualization on earth.