The recent and continued racial strife in our country has deepened the division and separation among our citizens that has existed for years. As followers of Jesus, we must speak and act in ways that bring reconciliation and redemption out of the strife, not add to the disruptions. What is our narrative in days like these?
Paul, a Jewish religious leader who Jesus called out from among his people and sent him to all ethnic groups beyond the tribes of Israel, faced similar racial divisions as he carried the good news of Jesus to the global mission field. Many of the issues in the movement of Jesus centered on social and racial issues like who could share a meal with whom and who belonged and who did not by the religious rules they kept. Paul addressed the corrosive issue of race and its attending social practices when he wrote to Christ-followers in Ephesus.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph. 2:14-17; ESV)
Christ alone is the way for warring, prejudicial groups to become a community. Jesus’ death on the cross abolishes racial and social “dividing walls” that create “hostility.” A relationship with Christ creates “one new man…so making peace” from those who were separated by prejudice and pride. Christ kills the hostility between God and people brought on by our sin-filled egos through his sacrificial death on the cross and victorious resurrection from the dead.
Followers of Jesus no longer use labels like “strangers and aliens,” but we are now in reality “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) All people are made “citizens” and family members—no matter their racial, social or ideological origins—through a relationship with Christ. The new community of the church should be an example of reconciliation and hope where we live, learn, work and play. New-creation people who are gathered and scattered as the church should be the pacesetter in demonstrating the suffering, sacrificial love of Christ toward others in our neighborhoods, schools, and in the marketplace.
Confess your “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), which is made possible by Jesus, the Christ. Live like you are truly a member of the household belonging to God. You live to honor your Father in Heaven and to respect those who are members of that household. Doing so will free you to hold loosely those external things that identify you and will help you see past those same things in others. We are to treat all who trust Jesus as one of the family—no matter who they are—and all others with respect and as potential family members who can accept their adoption into God’s household at any moment. I believe, if we do these things, all the other issues that fill the news and social media will find their proper place in our cultural dialogue with others.