Last Saturday afternoon, my mother sent me a text message. She and my father were watching the news reports on what was going on in Charlottesville and deeply struggling with what they were seeing.
“It’s just too painful,” she texted.
My mom was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and my dad is from Monroe, Louisiana. Please try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
They both know the marginalization and sting of Jim Crow segregation. My father went to segregated schools his whole childhood and teen years. My parents have specific experiences connected to the Confederate flag and other symbols associated with it.
What do you think was stirring in their hearts as they watched the rally put on by White nationalists and White supremacy groups? Would you open your heart to what memories would have been stirred up in them? Would you be willing to suspend your experiences and political ideology, if different from theirs just for a moment?
My parents are Christians. They are praying people. I am the Christian, pastor, theologian, and African-American that I am because of what God did through them. My heart for racial reconciliation, equality, justice, evangelism, discipleship, and love is deeply connected to being raised by them.
Regardless of your race, ethnicity, or political ideology, are you willing to respond to the unfortunate events in Charlottesville with the knowledge that my parents are your brother and sister in Christ? Are you willing to respond to those events as if my parents were your parents? To do this is to embrace the message and ministry of reconciliation and liberation that is required for Christian living.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate liberator and reconciler. He declared this and demonstrates this in the Gospels. Paul speaks of the ministry and message of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. He connects the reconciling work of Christ with the call upon Christians to live as ambassadors of reconciliation.
The problem collectively with the Christian Church and the evangelical expression specifically is that we continue to live as if reconciliation and liberation is optional or secondary in the Christian life and within the mission of the Church. We live as if reconciliation is optional or secondary in the Church. Click To Tweet
Christ’s Experience is One of Oppression
Christ declares his public ministry in Luke 4 and then puts the declaration in action among the oppressed, marginalized, broken, left-for-dead, and the terrorized. Christ doesn’t just minister to them, he is born into the world as one of them.
Christ experienced being the oppressed, the refugee, and the marginalized. This is not some political spin on Christ–this is biblical truth. Christ then goes to the least of these and offers new life, empowerment, and an intimate relationship with God.
In Matthew 25, He connects the work of serving the least of these with serving Him. Or, to put it another way, what you do for the least of these is what you are doing to God.
Racism–individually, systemically, historically, and presently–is about forcing people into oppression, marginalization, and obliging upon them a less-than-human existence.
Testing the Heartbeat of the American Church
The reconciling and liberating work of Christ is about restoring full humanity as one made in the image of God, which offers us new identity as citizens of the Kingdom of God or what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the Beloved Community. So why is it so hard for the Christian Church collectively and the evangelical expression of the Church specifically to put liberation and reconciliation in the forefront of what it means to share the gospel and advance the beloved Kingdom of God?
This is not a time for evangelicals to defend a political ideology or look for blame on multiple sides. This is a time for a consistent and long-term commitment to declaring how racism is in no way representative of Christ or the Kingdom of God, and instead demonstrating that reconciliation and liberation are deeply connected to living as disciples of Christ. We need a long-term commitment to declaring racism is in no way representative of God's Kingdom Click To Tweet
I imagine that the recent events brought tears to the eyes and grief to the hearts of many African Americans of my parents’ generation. Now the true heart of the Christian Church in America will be tested.