As I finish off this year, I wanted to write about something that stirred me. The social/racial unrest this year has been simply unreal. Many tragic stories throughout this year continued to show us the deep-rooted issues America still faces.
In a post a few months back, I talked about the false dichotomy Christians set up regarding sin and skin problems, but I want to speak on another mindset that negatively affects how we discuss these matters. You often hear some say, “We’re all one in Christ! Until we recognize that, these issues we see with race will continue.” Unity in Christ is the goal because it truly does transcend skin color and any other category that has been used to cause division.
However, some of us use the transcendence of Christ to diminish the problems that arise due to racially insensitive comments, racially charged issues that we wrestle through, etc. It’s also used to erase the cultural and ethnic distinctions that exist within the body of Christ, because Christ is above all of that. So we ignore the differences, and I call this transcendent exclusion.
God doesn’t ignore the cultural and ethnic distinctions amongst us, and just because we have our struggles understanding each other in the body because of those differences, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t united in Christ. I call this transcendent inclusion. When God commanded us to love both Him, and each other as ourselves, I believe God is calling us to do this through our distinct experiences, not by excluding and diminishing them.
In the book of Acts, the sixth chapter, the early church dealt with specific ethnic issues that arose even though they were united in their faith. The Hellenist Jews weren’t receiving as much supplies as the other Jews, and they were all Jewish! Since they spoke Greek, they were treated as lesser Jews than those who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic language. When the Gentiles received the gospel, there were issues of circumcision and whether or not they had to celebrate the feasts, and abide by the dietary laws within the law of Moses.
Paul addressed this problem, but not in the way some of us take his response. He said there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, etc. He expressed that Christ transcended all of those differences, but notice how he never denied them.When Paul wrote to the churches in his letters he addressed the men, women, Jew, Gentile, barbarian, and others. He never said, “We’re all saints, so don’t mention these things.” Instead, he mentioned how unity in Christ brought diverse groups of people under one Lord and one faith, in spite of the real friction these differences caused amongst Christians. The glory of the Church is revealed from God bringing us all to the same table, and when conflict comes because of our backgrounds, we are able to wrestle through them and grow in the love of Christ towards each other.
The world will know that we are disciples of Christ by our love for one another. Sometimes love is confrontational. It’ll require us to speak on issues like whitewashing, white supremacy, racism in our churches, the bitterness of blacks towards whites, assumptions about white people that are ingrained in us, male and female issues, and so much more. The churches Paul went through never dealt with race issues, because race is a social construct, but we deal with them today because of where we live and how we grew up.
Pushing away the discussion and friction that these issues bring up does not display true, godly unity in our churches. Reconciliation without truth leads to discontentment, bitterness, and compromise. This also takes time, and it doesn’t mean that once we talk about it, then we will never be offended by our family in Christ again. Paul wrote about the issues of circumcision and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in almost every epistle.
We are one in Christ because we have given Him our lives. As we are sanctified and united to each other in Him, there will always be things that need to be addressed. There are mindsets that are being broken, and it will hurt sometimes. Never grow weary or harden your heart, because since we are one in Christ, we ain’t going nowhere.