first published in 1994 in Love 86 Express -Issue #75 Vol 8, No 1, p 7.PO Box 20494Atlanta, Georgia 30325404-279-0382
“One New Man in the Place of Two: Reconciliation in an Age of Racial Hostility “
Jan 1994 by Jefferis Kent Peterson
As we see the day of Christ approaching, we also see a countervailing force in the world seeking to disrupt the Kingdom of God. One barometer of the devil’s resistance to the plan and purposes of God is racial and ethnic animosity. Jesus said that in the latter days, “nation (ethnic group) will rise up against nation (ethnic group)…” And if we look around the world, even in our own country, we see a rising tide of racial strife. The hope of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which was to produce an end to poverty and create equal opportunity for all, has collapsed under its own weight on the unstable economic base of the United States. Just as Communism failed to produce a utopian society, we too are finding the limits of our government’s ability to solve to human problems such as drugs, poverty, and murder. We are finally facing the truth that these problems are as deeply spiritual as they are material.
Racial hatred and fear are as natural to the human condition as is sin. But in the United States, we are substituting a New Age anthropology, which believes in the basic goodness of human beings, for a biblical one. We believe that if we can just “educate” someone right, that prejudice, racism, drugs, and unwanted pregnancies will disappear. But the Bible says that sin is the natural state of “Man,” and these problems will not disappear without a revival of the Spirit of God. Unrestrained by the countervailing force of the Holy Spirit, racism and hatred are as natural to humanity as are lust and greed. And we are seeing all these forces of hatred and ethnic strife rearing their ugly heads anew in spite of all our “education.” It is not just happening here in the United States, but these same forces are ripping apart the fragile peace of the world, just as Jesus said.
It is the challenge of the Church to provide an alternative to this sea of hatred. If we are going to shine forth in the darkness, we need to show the world how different the Kingdom of God is from this world and its ways. If we can reveal true unity in spite of ethnic and racial differences, we can appeal to liberals and conservatives alike who are hungering to see some ideals manifest in the earth. But the government cannot do this; no law can enforce it among us; only true unity born of the Holy Spirit can overcome the natural prejudice of “Man” and cause love to reign supreme. I submit, this call to racial harmony is the challenge to the Church for the 1990’s. And the Bible has the pattern for the Church to follow:
In ancient Israel, there was a low wall, called the Soreg, around the Temple, beyond which no Gentile could pass upon pain of death. Paul called it a “dividing wall.” It was a wall that kept the nations out of the Holy Place. Although Isaiah declared that the Temple would be a place of prayer for all nations and that all nations would come to the light of God in Zion (Is. 56:7; 60:1), the Gentiles still had to worship God from afar. They could not get too close to the presence of the Lord because, according to the Law, the Gentiles were unclean. God had called Israel to be a light to the Gentiles; to be an example, separate and set apart. But a misinterpretation of this special calling of the Jews encouraged a racial pride and prejudice that created a spiritual division between the races as well as a natural and physical one. Hatred and mistrust, envy and racism were the outcomes of this division. This is the reason that Paul called the Soreg, “a dividing wall of hostility,”
But don’t you know, God had an answer for this problem, and his name is Jesus! Paul said, “but you Gentiles who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us (Jew and Gentile) both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new humanity in the place of two… thereby bringing the hostility to an end,” (Ephesians 2:14-16) God created the Church to be that model of reconciliation for the world. The Church is to be that model of unity in fellowship, worship, and prayer. Now if there is to be any division, it is to be between the people of God and the people of the world. There, a natural animosity exists, because those who hate Christ and his government will hate his people as well. But we cannot help that.
However, what a crime it is for us who claim the Name of Christ to resurrect that dividing wall of hostility between us in the Church on the basis of race, culture, class, skin color, or ethnic heritage! How sinful to deny by our actions that we are one in Jesus! If the world’s divisions become part of the Church, how can we offer any testimony to the world? How can we offer the desperate world any hope? If Jesus said the world will know us by our love for one another, and we fail to love one another in a practical way; then how will the world know there is a Savior! The Church is called to be an example of the Kingdom of God in distinction to the strife of this world. And if we fail to be an example, then we give no witness worth believing and Christ becomes irrelevant to this age; for he has no solutions to the world’s problems. Jesus may be God’s answer to man’s prejudice and fear, one new man in the place of two; but if his truth does not have any affect on the way we treat each other, why should anyone believe us? We have made a lie out of the Good News of God and we make a mockery of the Kingdom.
But we can fulfill God’s plan. We can come together. I have seen it happen. I have seen churches strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Anywhere people will truly submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, God will deal with their fear, their hatred, and their pride. I have seen it in city churches and suburban churches. It is possible. But it is happening on such a small scale while our society is being torn apart. Too much of the Church is denying the call of God or is finding an excuse for its prejudice and fear. Beloved, it must not be so. We can fulfill the call of God to love each other in deed and in truth.
But how do we love one another? Do we pretend that the races don’t exist and that everyone is one color? No! By all means, no! For that denies the beauty of our diversity. We are to appreciate the God given differences in race and culture as expressions of the divine character. We can have unity in the midst of our diversity. And only in that diversity can true love be shown. There is a message spray painted on a school parking lot in my neighborhood that sums up the danger of racial or cultural blindness. It says, “conformity corrodes the soul; equality sets us free.” This is the truth. Somewhere, somehow, we need to be a witness to the beauty of God. That beauty is revealed in a Pentecost that unites all the nations of the earth in One people without destroying what makes them unique.
My friends, what this world desperately needs to see is the love of God truly shown among us in our love for one another. If we can walk in this love for each other, we can reach the world. If we fail in it; God may pass us by for another generation who will truly listen to His call.