Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Racial Reconciliation: A Matter of Faithfulness

Demonstrating our love for one another is the best advertising the church can have. Jesus prayed for this very thing:

·        "My prayer is …that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)

If we want to show the world that Christ is the Savior, we have to demonstrate this fact in our midst. The best way to prove that God has loved us is to demonstrate that we love one another.

This is not a radical idea. It lies at the heart of our faith. Jesus gave his disciples a renewed and amplified commandment:

·        "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

We live at a time when many scorn the idea that we are truly the disciples of the Savior of the World. Often, they don’t see it because we give them scant reason to see it. We fail to exhibit a sacrificial love for one another.

The reason for this failure is sin – bitterness, unforgiveness, arrogance, jealousy… Sin is life-controlling. After experiencing years of anti-Semitism, I was a walking land-mine, waiting for someone to innocently step on me. All of the six million Jews who had been exterminated in the Holocaust – they were me. With the many who perished in the Inquisition, I perished along with them. In all of the thousands of Jewish exiles, I was there at their side.

Forgiveness was a foreign word to me. Hatred was my closest companion. Vengeance was my guiding light. I became vigilant about who was a Jew, and who was a Gentile, because I knew that the Gentile would reject me. I had Gentile “friends,” but they forsook me when the anti-Semitic remarks and fists began flying. I became convinced that they too were anti-Semites. If they couldn’t kill us Jews, they would convert us into something else. I detested them.

Hatred runs deep. I also became convinced that Gentiles had a different odor. I didn’t like getting on the elevator with too many of them. Their presence nauseated me. Besides, in my book, there were all Christian.

I was also a lonely kid with little attachment to anyone else. Consequently, I formed my bonds with Israel and the historical experience of Jewish people. I reveled in the fact that although only ¼ percent of humanity, our people had won 30% of the Nobel prizes. I might be despised, but I belonged to a people who were in a position to despise others. The knowledge of our achievements enabled me to confidently despise the world that despised me. I became an ardent Zionist and vowed that I would never return to the USA. The nation of Israel would now be my reason for being.

Incredibly, by His mercies alone, I am now a believer in Christ, but this didn’t mean that all of my blindness, arrogance, unforgiveness and hatred suddenly disappeared. Sin is powerful and deceptive. It is so deceptive that it leads us think that whatever we do is right (Proverbs 21:2: 16:2). We rationalize away all of our sins, and convince ourselves that we are really doing what is right. No wonder Jesus taught us to first remove the self-righteous log from our eyes so that we’d be able to see clearly enough to correct others (Mat. 7:1-5).

Jesus called unbelievers “children of the devil” who live according to his dictates (John 8:41-44). The devil poses as an angel of light – as the very essence of righteousness – and so do his servants (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Consequently, we are “experts” regarding the sins of others but are conveniently in denial about our own sins.

Jesus told a parable about two men – a Pharisee and a sinner – who entered into the temple to pray. The Pharisee was in denial, trusting in his own virtue. Consequently, he looked down on others and his prayer was focused on himself and his own moral superiority (Luke 18:9-14).

We are all Pharisees! Our thinking is sinful. Instead of striving for the unity of the Body of Christ, we undermine it. We see the faults in others but not in ourselves. We see the faults in the other racial groups but not in our own. We are like the Corinthian church, which broke up into factions, each convinced that they had a spiritual monopoly. Paul explained that their problem was that they had gone beyond what was written in Scripture (1 Cor. 4:6).

We too have gone far beyond what is written, and our focus is not on the Lord. Our politics are geared towards self-justification. Blacks regard whites as racist, while the whites regard blacks as racist. Blacks claim that whites have profited off their backs and owe them, while the whites claim that the blacks are seeking a “payback.” Blacks claim that the white church doesn’t care about the poor, and the whites claim that the black church doesn’t care about forgiveness. Meanwhile, we are blind to our own logs and have forgotten the prayer of our Lord for unity. We allow our earthly perspective to trump His heavenly one. Our prayer is not:

·        Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10; NKJV)

Instead of seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, we are nursing old wounds.
My old wounds blinded me. It was hard for me to attend a church service for the first time. For quite a long time, I “perceived” that everyone there was a hypocrite and an anti-Semite, but I put too much trust in what I “saw,” not realizing that my eyes perceived through the distorted lens of unforgiveness and racial pride. 

This doesn’t mean that everything that I thought was mistaken. There certainly might have been hypocrites, racists, and even anti-Semites in the church, but there was also something greater there – the Body of Christ and a Savior who groans deeply and longingly over His church (Rom. 8:26).

What is the answer? We need to humble ourselves and cry out:

·        Lord, make us into the church that You have intended. Help us to see the things You want us to see – that we belong to one another and that each of us has a vital role to play. Expose our sins that we might confess them to You and trust in Your healing and forgiveness. Give us the desire to honor You above everything else – to seek Your glory above our own. Help us to see the beauty of our oneness in Christ, and give us a heart that will seek to maintain this unity even above our own immediate comfort or welfare. Lord, start with me!

What an honor it is to serve our Savior. Therefore, let us humble ourselves to His concerns and as He did for ours:

·        Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philip. 2:1-7, NKJV)

Lord, let your mind be in us in every respect! Let us die to ourselves and live for You!

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