It’s Midnight and America is Knocking

Another homicide by police in Atlanta. Rayshard Brooks, shot in the back by police, dies in a Wendy’s parking lot. The understandable anger, fury, lament and despair of black family, friends and neighbors erupts into a protest that leads to burning down a Wendy’s. The police officer is fired. The police chief resigns. The lament and yearning for justice, for reform, for reconciliation continues.

I believe what we are seeing in America right now is apocalyptic. In American pop culture mythology, apocalypse might be “the end of the world”, a time when we are supposed to stockpile canned foods and weapons, but in the Biblical imagination for the body of Christ, an “apocalypse” is a time of revealing, an exposure, a revelation, an unveiling.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest sparked by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and too many others, the curtain has been torn back, we are seeing the original sin of America exposed in all its horror.

But, judgment begins with the household of God. This is a time for the church in America to examine our hearts. Marching is good. It’s not enough. Voting is good. It’s not enough. Social media posting is good. It’s not enough. Listening is good. It’s not enough.

The call is to return to the Lord in wholehearted adoration and obedience.

Look at how Jesus started his revolution.

God came to the earth as an oppressed, brown-skinned, minority, oppressed, Palestinian Jew. His life immediately plunged into refugee status as he and his parents fled to Egypt. When he begins to announce the availability of the kingdom and implements his plan to continue the announcement of his gospel to all nations on earth, he does this by gathering women and men, prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, zealots, a murderous Pharisee. This is what the kingdom looks like – oneness and unity in diversity, wrought by Jesus' gospel of peace.

As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, his high priestly prayer included a request that the Father would make us ONE in our love for each other as our best witness to the world.

Much good has been done by the church in this country to display that love, don’t get me wrong. But, lately, I confess, it can look like we are still so divided.

Yes, we have seen hundreds of thousands turn out for marches. People have filled their social media accounts with cries of lament and calls for justice. That’s all wonderful and necessary.

But how will we move toward ONENESS?

Paul says that in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor slave, nor free, nor male nor female – but all are one in Christ. (Gal. 3:28; Earlier in the letter, Paul reports his encounter with Peter when Peter was not "acting in accord with the gospel" but was separating himself from Gentiles.)

This doesn’t eradicate our differences. Rather, it means Christ is big enough, so to speak, to be able to gather us all in and hold us together. What separates us in worldly terms is merely a means by which God redeems us and gathers us together into a beautiful mosaic in Christ.

Is our vision of community grounded in new creation, or in the fall? In the kingdom of God, or in the kingdom of man? The twisted theology and ideology of slave traders, slave masters, preachers and leaders in America and in South Africa was constructed not upon new creation and oneness in Christ, but rather upon racial hierarchy rooted in distorted interpretations of Old Testament narratives.

Repentance and reconciliation for us today must involve a movement toward new creation vision, a movement toward the imago Dei, toward mutual love, respect, togetherness and unity in Christ our Lord.

We are too segregated in the bride of Christ. Personally, I believe that, as hard as racial barriers can seem in the church, class and education barriers are often even more difficult to surmount. We are just not in proximity with each other – where we live, work, eat, play, learn and worship is often with people who look like us and have similar education and economic means. We must learn from the brothers and sisters and communities who are ignoring those worldly boundaries. Let them be an example for us.

I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t judge how racially reconciled our lives are by the color of our friends on Facebook, but by the color of the feet under our kitchen table. Perhaps, we need to go further and add, by the dollars in our 401Ks and the degrees on our wall.

What if the church was known for breaking bread with others at table, sharing stories, listening to one another, praying together, lamenting together, reading God’s Word together, discovering assets and talents in each person regardless of class or race, pursuing mercy and justice in the community together?

I like Isaiah’s vision of the Kingdom in chapter 11 when the lamb and the lion lay down together. The powerful and the weak. We are called as Christians to both lay down power for the advantage of our neighbors who are suffering and also take up courage to follow Christ in the midst of our weaknesses.

Dr. John Perkins is an inspiration to me in this area. In the 60s and 70s, he was on the front lines, alongside his wife Vera Mae, as forerunner in calling for justice, peace and racial reconciliation. At age 90, he’s still championing the dream and hope of God’s kingdom that we would be one. He lives a reconciled life and holds hope, even though he has been beaten and left for dead and has seen far too many black lives and black communities oppressed, murdered, ignored and marginalized.

In fact, I am just continually in awe of the resilient faith of my black brothers and sisters in Christ. They are able to identify with the lynching tree of the cross and the freedom and deliverance of Christ’s resurrection that I will never know. I also know there is much pain, anger, grief and agony. Four hundred years of varying degrees of racism and oppression in this country is unconscionable. I want to pray and work for their good, but I also know that my own liberation and joy is bound up in theirs. I am not an island as a white man in this country. The body of Christ is corporate. There is a corporate virus still affecting the church. Yes, Christ has defeated the evil one, the powers and principalities, and we are conquerors through his love. But, we have a responsibility to one another.

Let no debt remain, except the debt to love.

As, Dr. King said over 50 years ago and sadly remains true today, it’s midnight and America is I need, she is knocking at the door. (See Luke 11:1-8)

Will we get up and act on behalf of our neighbor in need? Will God get up and act on our behalf? (The good news is - he has and he will! He is for us, not against us. He is a better father than any of us.)

The call now, is to love one another as Christ has loved us.

It’s time to lay down our lives for one another. It’s time to leverage our freedom for others.

God is at work in redeeming this mess. We must not lose hope. That’s the resource we have in God’s Spirit that the world does not have in this current fight for racial justice. We have resurrection hope and new creation hope. Let’s be a sign and foretaste of that hope with our unity and our love.

Let’s live like it’s true!

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2)
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5)
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8)


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