Monday, August 31, 2015

Stronger Together

Last Tuesday night a special racial reconciliation event took place at my church. I have been wanting to write about it each day since but have not been able to find the words. It has taken some processing to quantify exactly what it is that happened. I have actually heard multiple people who were in the room say something afterwards along the lines of "I have no idea what just happened in there, but it was incredible, and it was of God."

A wise person once explained to me that rather than being "colorblind"--a favorite term used often by well-meaning white Christians--we should instead seek to recognize and celebrate diversity and differences, within a fuller context of gospel unity. People do not want their uniqueness or cultural heritage dismissed. They want it celebrated, and I would argue that to a significant degree, that is a God-given desire. The Lord is the creator of those differences and unique attributes, and they reflect his glory. It is only in the fullness of the body of Christ that the Lord's glory can be fully reflected. But it is believers' love for each other, despite our differences, that makes the gospel ring truest to those observing. (See Jesus' words in John 13:34-35.) That kind of love in action is a display of unity despite differences--often irreconcilable differences, if it weren't for the gospel. But our God is the King of reconciliation!

With all that said--those who use the term "colorblind" usually do so from a very genuine desire to love their brothers and sisters in Christ equally with those of their own race, and are eager to proclaim their desire to leave the race discussion behind. However, despite their good intentions, these efforts, I would argue, are a bit misguided. The discussion should not be left behind. There will always be sin in the world. Our sinful nature will always be apt to cause us problems when it comes to our differences. But the discussion should fall into the shadow of the cross of Christ, the ultimate equalizer.

Supernatural. Worship-full. Spirit-filled. Unscripted. History-making. Reviving. Reconciling. Unification. Hope. These are a few words that come to mind as I reflect on the events of last Tuesday night. The event was called Stronger Together: A Night of Unity. It could not have been more appropriately named.

One of the most powerful moments of the night came as one of the most difficult. The leaders of the service thought it was important to acknowledge where the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, has been--and how far the Lord has brought us. Despite all its love for the Lord, focus on the Great Commission, and godly leaders--the church had unacknowledged corporate sins in its past. Though both the overt racism and equally offending indifference or lack of action was for the most part many years ago, it was important that we corporately and publicly confess and repent of those transgressions. That happened last Tuesday. And let me just say--the effect of that, and the spirit of unity that the Lord poured down upon us in its wake, was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have ever had. Black and white Christians came together, not dismissing our differences, but acknowledging them, celebrating them, repenting of past and present sins, and uniting in the shed blood of Jesus and in his saving power.

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10. This is what happened that night. I pray that it will continue. I pray that the Lord will confirm what all those in the room and those watching live stream felt and saw that night--and that it will spark a change, movement and renewal among God's people in our city for gospel reflection through racial unity.

Even if you saw the entire program, I would highly recommend that you watch this short little recap video. The music it is set to is perfect.

 

 

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:5-6.

How then shall we proceed? And why do these things matter?

Consider this with me. How can YOU be a gospel witness of unity in the midst of irreconcilable differences? How can you put another believer's cultural preferences first, even if their way of doing things drives you crazy? How can you, right now, today, "outdo one another in showing honor"? How can you, right now, today, reach across a political, racial, or other dividing line to show what can only be a Jesus-centered unity? James 1:22 says "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

Think of something right now that you can do. It can be big or small. And right now, with the transforming power of Christ that is in every believer--go and do it!

And do it not just once, but over and over again. So that His Kingdom can come, on earth as it is in heaven. This is the "why". I pray this will be so, and that we may be an ever increasing display of the gospel of Christ.

 

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