I am often discouraged by the nature of our fellowship, by the obvious hypocrisy of the Church in North America. We claim to be the body of Christ while socially coloring in his hands and feet so that he is one of us– and not them. Black Jesus. White Christ. Emmanuel, God is with us– and not them.
I am left to wonder if we will ever be known by God’s unconditional love when we have divinized the segregation of holy space. Black Church. White Church. And before we begin the finger- pointing to say who started it all, I am looking for hands raised to end the reality that some churches are “for white people only” and others are “for colored people only.”
How the Church can claim to represent the spiritual reality of “God with us” when we have allowed race to come between us is dumbfounding. How can we be siblings according to our faith, one family under God and base our fellowship on the social coloring of flesh– instead of Christ’s cross? No need to make the claim of being an alternative community because there is more of the same behind church doors. “This church is my church. This church is your church.” We do not worship well together.
I lament the theologies that support the doctrine of race and its progeny. I am saddened by the calculated and polite distance between churches of different cultures and ethnicities. I am surprised by our level of acceptance and comfort with this social arrangement. Because this is not what God wanted. This is not God’s kingdom on earth but our own racial empire. Made in America.
And where is the authentic conversation about the social construct of race and its progeny? Where is the vulnerability and the willingness to show our wounds, to share what we have witnessed and to wonder aloud, “Why are we so divided as Christians? Why can’t we come together? Why aren’t we in this faith together?” These questions bear repeating until we have answered them with transformed lives.
This afternoon, I was rereading the words of Eugene Peterson in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. He writes,
“Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ. We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.
… There are Christians, of course, who never put their names down on a membership list; there are Christians who refuse to respond to a call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians, who say, ‘I love God but I hate the Church.’ But, they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not. For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people. His relationships with us are personal, true, intimate, yes; but private, no. We are a family in Christ. When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith. No Christian is an only child.”
Peterson reminds me that we have been saved together, that one culture does not have an inside track on salvation, that God made no back room deal that allowed one people group to be more or less saved, less loved, less blessed than the other. Because there is but one cross, one Christ, one blessed sacrifice, one reunion around one throne, one banquet table with seats for us all.
God undivided but shared with us all so that we could be saved together.