2 Corinthians 5:17-19
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
A lot has been happening in the world lately. Maybe like me, you are asking the question, “What’s my response supposed to be to what’s happening? Is a verbal condemnation enough or am I supposed to do more? If I am supposed to do more, what can I really do to change things?” That has led me to search for healthy responses to hate.
To help guide me I have been diving into the scriptures and into the words of Black Theologians and ministers. The Black author and social activist, John Perkins has offered some guidance in his work, Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win. Much of what I want to say comes from John Perkins.
The world has always known hate. At least since sin came into this world, we have been plagued by it. But we want a community without hate, but what does that look like? If we wanted a community founded in the life of Jesus, what does that look like?
My suggestion is that this is what healthy church is; it is an assembly of believers who have been transformed and no longer live according to the hate, sinful desires, and racism in the world. Faithfulness to Jesus requires good neighborliness. This is the second greatest command.
Racism, Hatred, Maliciousness, is antithetical to neighborliness. They are mutually incompatible. In a post recently on FB someone said, that all of this fighting against racism was distracting people from the mission of the Gospel. I could not be more disappointed that one of my brothers in Christ has missed how fighting hate is part of the gospel message. The Jews hated Samarians so much that many Jews would not even walk through their country. Instead, they would walk around it. From Judea to Galilee was a straight walk through Samaria but these people refused to have contact with those people. It’s no wonder that Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well, healed a Samaritan leper, made a Parable about a Good Samaritan. Jesus is bringing the world together.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So what is it we can do to put action to our words? John Perkins suggests three biblical ideas.
In a way, our congregation is founded on this first principle because people relocated in order to bring the gospel to Burlington and Billerica. They followed Jesus not by visiting our area but becoming neighbors and living in Burlington. Just like how Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
Relocation means embracing God’s calling to live in a community. To embody Jesus’ act of dwelling among us we have to dwell or involve ourselves in our community. That means, knowing our neighbors, learning about the issues they confront daily, and knowing their hurts.
I have often thought of myself as a voice to the voiceless but that can be patronizing and imperialistic. People don’t need others to speak for them; they need people to start listening. They need avenues for people outside their community to hear them.
Relocation is really about incarnation. Incarnation meaning “in the flesh” Jesus dwelt in the flesh as a man but also now in Christians. Incarnational living means we embody Jesus and live with people, love them, and learn from them. We don’t expect them to get to where we think we are, they follow Jesus from where they are.
The heart of the gospel is about reconciling the world to God. It is God’s process of building a relationship with us and making us His. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10b). Hate is obviously antithetical to reconciliation.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 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” Ephesians 2:13-14
Jesus is bringing people together. As Jesus reconciles people to himself he opens the door to forgiveness, for our own forgiveness that we need between us and God, and for forgiveness between each other, humanity with humanity.
Consider how important reconciliation was to Paul:
“11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[fn] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:11-16
A church that learns to reconcile, is a witness to God’s power to make the impossible possible.
Everything we have belongs to God. But we lose sight of this at times, and forget that God entrusts us with the things we have. This is not simply about money; this is about all our resources. Redistribution of skills is vital. Sharing those skills with people who would struggle to obtain them opens a path for people to they could not have before. Sharing our skills, our money, our time, with others raises us all out of the flood.
We need a property on higher ground
“9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
“We must all have the compassion, wisdom, and mutual respect to rise above slander, slurs, and snubs, to a place of love. What we ought to be striving for today is a new language of love and affirmation that will replace these slights.” John Perkins in Dream with Me
We can focus on our anger but that will get us very little. It is better to find a way to joy in living out the calling God has for his people.
“You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God –Thomas Merton.”