Friday, March 02, 2012

A Reconciling Community

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King Jr.

The above quote is one of the most famous quotes in American history and one of the underlying values of the whole civil rights movement in this country. But where did Martin Luther King Jr. come up with such an amazing idea? I think he got it from the scriptures. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

It is quite a trap to think of Christianity as merely being a religion about morality and private devotion to God. Sadly this philosophy has characterized much of the American church of recent history. But as St. Paul sees it we who have been reconciled to God through Christ are now called to a ministry of reconciliation. We can't just form clubs populated with only those of our race, religion, culture, or politics. Rather, the church is to be the one place where the differences that separate people in the world are done away with. While Martin Luther King Jr. took issue with the racial segregation of his day, there is still plenty of other kinds of segregation that are allowed in the world, and sadly in the church as well. The truth is that wherever humans gather they will look for ways to divide themselves whether in a small group or in a nation.

Here are a few questions to wrestle with:
What does it mean for the church to have a ministry of reconciliation?
How can reconciliation be carried out without coming across as forced?
What does this look like on an individual level?

I'll close with an interview with Ruby Bridges. If you have never heard of her story go look it up. It is very powerful. Her story is a window into a kingdom point of view on reconciliation.

Related Post:
Racism in the Church is Anti-gospel


greenturtle said...

That's one of my favorite passages, the command to "Be reconciled to one another in Christ Jesus."

I've always been all about reconciliation with each other, and unity among God's people. But unfortunately, most Christians are not.

They have no problem following Christ's command to love the Lord with all your heart and mind and soul and strength; they have a serious problem with the second part of that same command, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Regarding the civil rights movement, a song once said "They passed a law in 64 to give those who ain't got a little more, but it only goes so far, 'cause the law doesn't change another's mind when all it sees at the hiring time, is the line on the color bar."

In other words, technically it became illegal to discriminate.

But because the general attitude of the people didn't change, discrimination still took place, only giving "lip service" to the law.

Well, Jesus in a sense "passed a law" 2000 years ago, to give the "nerds" of his flock, equal standing with the "cool people."

But it only goes so far, 'cause the law doesn't change another's mind, when all it sees... is the line on the popularity bar.

There's a definite caste system in the church/christian subculture, in which one's level of godliness and worthiness for ministry, is directly proportional to their position in the caste.

For example, if a "cool person" speaks, it's automatically a word from God, whether it is or not. But an "untouchable" had better be seen and not heard.

It's just like Jr High school, which is why I walked away from it.

As far as how reconciliation can be carried out without coming across as forced... well it's true, you can't force it.

The individual members have to make the choice to value unity and reconciliation, or it won't happen.

And once again... what are we all going to do, when we realize that we will be spending eternity in the same place?

Are the "cool people" going to jump ship, because they can't stand the thought of spending eternity in the same place as the "untouchables"?

I mean, nobody has ever been forced to stay in heaven; It can certainly happen.

greenturtle said...

To carry this topic a step further, I challenge you to ask yourself: Is your church segregated?

Most would react with a resounding NO! Of COURSE not! That would be UNCHRISTIAN!

Well, yes it would be. But, with all due respect, your church almost certainly IS indeed segregated.

I'm not talking about racially segregated; That's a social taboo these days.

I'm talking about "segregated" based on popularity.

Not overtly, of course. Your church has no posted signs, that say "This water fountain / parking space / church pew / etc. is for cool people only."

And neither did any of the churches I attended.

And, no, nobody ever verbally stated "This prayer line is just for COOL people." After all, that would be unchristian.

I was just given ugly stares, as if to say "How dare you use OUR water fountain / parking space / church pew."

Or I'd hear buzz about going to PJ's after cell group, but when I asked about it, they'd say "Well, uh, well, uh, it's not a GROUP thing."

All I can say is, Jesus knows that segregation is alive and well in the church, and He doesn't like it.

ANY discrimination is wrong, not just race. I'm just saying.

Crispin Schroeder said...

I think human nature is to divide. I remember in high school there were the typical cliques of cheerleaders, jocks, cowboys, stoners, and then there was another group that hated cliques so much that they started their own clique defined and unified by their hatred of cliques.

In my life I have experienced times in the in crowd, the out crowd and the crowd defined by their hurts from other groups. Unity is a spiritual discipline as much as love is. In my early days as a Christian my view of things was pretty myopic. I would like to think I've matured and grown in this area but I know that everything in this world pushes us to creating barriers in relationships. I don't think there is any church or community that doesn't struggle with this. Looking at the New Testament divisions have been a struggle since the days of the early church.

greenturtle said...

Yeah, "the more things change, the more they remain the same."

And I've always been one to try and extend the olive branch over and over again. Based on the idea that I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago, so they probably aren't either.

Sometimes it brings good results, and sometimes I find that they're no different.

I've been asked before, is it anything I'm doing that's causing me to not be accepted, that I could do differently?

Oh I'm sure there has been; I've never been known for my fine social skills. They've slowly improved over the years, though; I've developed them by trial and error-- mostly error.

In some cases though, it's because I speak the truth, which threatens the status quo. People generally don't like that. Jesus made a lot of people mad that way. "The more things change, the more they remain the same."

In fact that leads to another bible verse I like, which says that if a group doesn't accept you, shake the sand off your feet and walk away.

I SHOULD have taken in that concept, several years before I actually did. It would have saved me a lot of heartache.