Tag Archives: Galatians 3.28

A Litany for Undivided Churches

Leader| When the world is split on differences of opinion, we confess that we
are not split down the middle—but are all on the Lord’s side. We stand arm in
arm, leading the charge for unity, chanting:
Congregation| We are undivided.

Leader| When we are tempted to worship our interpretation more than the Holy
Spirit’s inspiration. Not blown about by every wind of doctrine, we confess:
Congregation| We are undivided.

Leader| Because we have hatreds we love and people we love to hate, we ask
for the vision of Peter who said to the leaders in Jerusalem: “The Spirit told me to
go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us” (Acts 11.12,
NRSV).
Congregation| We are undivided.

Leader| We wrestle not against flesh and blood but set our sights on the words
of Paul who said to the church at Galatia: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek,
there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you
are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.28, NRSV).
Congregation| We are undivided.

Leader| Because Christ’s body cannot be separated “for in the one Spirit we
were baptized all into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were
all made to drink the one Spirit” (First Corinthians 12.13, NRSV).
Congregation| We are undivided.

Leader| Because Jesus prayed that we may all be one, give us the courage to
answer his prayer (John 17.22). Because his blood is thicker than water, let our
differences become water under the bridge.
Congregation| We are undivided.

Not My Problem

Image result for not my problem image

I am at a meeting of clergy for three days of specialized training in interim ministry.  Day one focuses on theories.  On the second day, the facilitator offered a few tools and way too many personal stories.  But, when we began a discussion about power and he wanted to move to his next slide, the group of mostly European Americans wanted to say more.  He sat down in his chair uncomfortably.  He had not prepared for this.

Without prompting, they begin to critique their own privileges and then someone said, “And we need to listen to those who don’t share the same experience.”  Another clergywoman saw this as an opportunity and began, “I am a black woman.  I am a minority.  I am powerless.”  She is perhaps 20 years my senior and of a different time.  She bears the scars to prove it and most of our colleagues can remember when she got them.  I had only read about them and watched documentaries.

But, I realized that it was not only age or time that created distance between us.  I could not agree with her statement.  And while the social construct of race would suggest that we think the same and share the same beliefs, it left me no other choice but to challenge its omniscience.  My heart was pounding by now; the words were throbbing in my head.  “Let us out,” they seemed to say.  I am not one to hold back truth so I let them go.

“I do not identify with the social construct of race.  I don’t believe that human beings are colored people, that there are beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white people.  I would not describe myself as a minority as we are all counted as human beings.  And I am not powerless.  I enter the world with power; consequently, no one can give or take my power away.”

So, apparently, I am an anomaly.  My comments were met with silence– though we have a Word- God who affirms our being down to the hairs of our head (Matthew 10.30).  Afterwards, another clergywoman thanked me for sharing my perspective.  She wished she could see as I did.  For me, she, too, was expressing powerlessness.   “These are not my eyes.  I am not in control of what I see.  I can’t see anything else.”

She went on to talk about the fights that she had engaged in for the rights of others.  I expressed that I had also chosen not to start there.  I do not have to live on a battlefield.  I have rejected the fights of the past, decided not to enlist or allow anyone to force me to sign up.  No human being can tell me who I am or am not– and I don’t have to fight for my identity.

She started to credit her generation for my position but this too was rejected.  God had given me this vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.18, NRSV).  This was not my problem because I accepted God’s promise.  I pray that you would accept it as well.

Receive this holy vision.  This is my prayer.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Cultural integration anyone?

flags-of-the-worldThis is what Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners magazine, recently argued in an article titled “The Parable of Los Angeles.”  Pointing to the obvious and inevitable multiculturalism of our society, Wallis posits our diversity as a plus not a minus, a blessing and not a curse.  And apparently, despite our attempts to segregate and book “white flights,” it was all apart of God’s plan.

Projections from the U.S. Census Bureau say that the majority- minority theme will be no more by 2045.  We already are multilingual and religiously plural.  And despite our efforts, there has never been one way of being American.

A multicultural society is where America is headed and there will be a need to change our country’s narrative.  But, there will be no need to amend God’s story (not that this is possible) because it was always apart of the script: “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3.28).  The question remains, “Which casting call are we showing up for?”

To read the full article, click here.

The Double- Minded Church: Spiritual Formation and the Impractical Theology of Race

27029_360054929042_83975054042_3430697_4705708_nThe conversation I entered into with the attendees of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s ChurchWorks this week picks back up and concludes here:

I suppose that it is a matter of pride and it’s a mind game. James uses the descriptor “double- minded” when speaking of the doubter who prays[i] but this two-ness is found both in the Old and New Testaments. “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” asked the prophet Elijah.[ii] Isaiah recorded the voice of the Lord saying, “These people draw near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips while their hearts are far from me.”[iii] Jesus spoke of Pharisees who were clean on the outside but inside were “full of greed and self- indulgence.”[iv] He asked them, “Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?[v]

Great question, Jesus. God made the outside as well as the inside, flesh and spirit.[vi] So, God knows the spirit and while we have a hand in our formation, our nature is a sight unseen by us. And the outside of us does not fool God. He sees everything.

In fact, God knew us before we were in our mother’s womb,[vii] before texture of hair or eye color, before shape of nose or size of lips, before the social coloring of skin. God beheld a form that we cannot see and that no label can attach itself to.

And Paul echoes this spiritual reality and ends the culture war by waving this white flag at the Galatians and Colossians, who are now in the Body of Christ, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek.”[viii] Consequently, race does not form us spiritually but socially and should not inform us spiritually but assist us in understanding our society. Therefore, we must retell the story of our spiritual formation, our Christian identity without it, beginning with God.

Race has nothing to do with it. It is our idolatrous belief in the social construct of race, our support of its prejudices, our use of its stereotypical lens that has made the Church unstable. We waver between two opinions behave as if there are two gospels, two sets of commandments, two segregated heavens and hells. But, we forget that we cannot serve two masters, God and race. [ix]

Therefore, Christian education must challenge social realities and subject them to the scrutiny of Scripture. Christian educators must keep race in its place— out of the pulpit and pews, out of our hymnals and Bibles, out of our fellowship and worship. Christians must serve the Lord with their minds, not merely repeating after society but examining ourselves, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”[x]

We must change our minds about race as it does not renew us.[xi] We must learn about race in order to unlearn it. We must see race for what it is so that we can see our selves and our neighbors as they are. We must speak up about race in order to take its voice and find our own.

Because our faith and race do not agree. Race is not a partner in our becoming. It says that God creates no one new, that God is a Copycat, that we are all members of a boxed cultural set.  Race teaches us that God stereotypes.

Race says that it is a part of God’s plan, that God makes some persons better than others, that God decides who is best according to the image that He made us in.  Race teaches us that God judges and prejudices our physical features.

Race also says that we can put God on our side— the side of the oppressed or privileged, that we can discern based on the outward appearance who God loves and hates, accepts and rejects, blesses and curses.  Race teaches us that God racially segregates us.

But, race is the false teacher, an instructor without credentials, made up as we go along.  We must stop singing and teaching about race as it is a learned behavior that neither edifies us nor glorifies God.

Believing in race changes our confession of faith, compromises our witness and confuses our allegiance, fighting for flesh instead of standing in the solidarity of God’s Spirit. The theology of race both deifies and demonizes our flesh. Calling us to worship whiteness, one color becomes our symbol of righteousness and the other of social condemnation.

Suggesting that we are saved by our skin, it becomes our social messiah. Race says that our standing with God and in society is determined by our epidermis. Race says that it knows who we are and that the inside of us, our inner being, our spirit cannot change that.

So, how did we come to believe this, support and endorse it? How did we, spiritual people, get stuck on the surface? How did the Church of the living God submit its mind and members to the power of the flesh? When did we change our minds about the God who loves us all and sent His Son to die for us all in order to support a divided and double- minded Church, a color- coded and dismembered Body? What were we thinking when we began to categorize God’s love, to divide the image of God—all for us and none for them? And what of our witness to the little children, to the next generation?

Do we really believe that Jesus loves us and that he can love us without race? What do you think now? Where do you stand?

________________________

[i] James 1.8

[ii] First Kings 18.21, NRSV

[iii] Isaiah 29.13, NRSV

Also, the writer of Proverbs speaks of a “double heart” (Proverb 25.26).

[iv] Matthew 23.25, NRSV

[v] Luke 11.40, NRSV

[vi] Job 33.4

[vii] Jeremiah 1.5

[viii] Galatians 3.28; Colossians 3.11

[ix] Matthew 6.24

[x] Second Corinthians 10.5

[xi] Romans 12.1-2

The Theological Problem of Race

Common Dandelion; Seed head; Taraxacum officinale; macro; close up;

“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.'”

~ Acts 17.28, NRSV

Persons may wonder how I can talk about race the way that I do.  For me, it is a matter of allegiance.  I recognized some time ago that I could not serve God and believe in race.  I had to choose one and every day, I choose to believe in God and God’s Word– not race.

I do not honor or believe in race and suspect that there are more unbelievers out there.   We just need someone to say it, to deny it: race-less.  You don’t need race and in fact, our humanity is better off without it.

And I no longer swear by it.  Race’s stereotypes get people wrong all the time.  It prevents authentic communication and relationship with God, ourselves and every one else.  Because we not only live by our prejudices but we hide behind them.  (Peek- a- boo.  God sees you.)

I suspect that if one is still identifying her and himself according to the terms of race, that she and he have not met their true or new self in Christ (cp. Galatians 3.28; Colossians 3.11).  Frankly, race does not assist in self- discovery or self- actualization.  It prevents it and thrives on our unwillingness and disinterest.  Our belief in race is a bad one as it creates problems all around… even with ourselves.

Race creates a sense of dissatisfaction within and around us that only grows.  It is a part of all that we are and the world that we live in because race is about living, moving and being.  And that’s God’s territory, which makes race a theological problem.

Race is theologically problematic because the racial identity conflicts with our God- given identity and the identity that we have through Christ Jesus.  Even if persons do not confess Christ as their personal Savior and Lord (cp. John 14.6), they are still loved by God, “proven in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8).  Unlike race, God’s love is unconditional.

The racial self does not come from God.  It is socially validated not divinely attributed.  The racial self does not seek to be transformed by God.  It is also not focused on God but survival and supremacy.

Race is theologically problematic because it calls into question our relationship with God and bases it on the social coloring of skin, which can be a sin or our salvation according to the social construct.  Race says that God sees us and consequently, relates to us according to the social coloring of skin and physical features– even though we are all made in God’s image.  It raises concerns about my relationship with God and who God is.  Since my identity is tied to my Creator, race then becomes a snare when it suggests that God created some persons for the sole purpose of domination and/ or to be hated and others to oppress and/ or to receive His love alone.

This racial favoritism, of course, impacts the way that we see and treat persons from different cultures.  Clearly, race is a problem not a solution to our living, moving and being.