I have a bit of sermonizing to do today. Feel free to listen in.
Here’s what I believe the gospel is: We are fallen people, stuck in the muck of sin. While created in God’s image, we are mired in our imperfection, which separates us from God. If the story ended here, us covered with the filth of selfishness, greed, pride, and more, it’d read as the greatest of tragedy of all time. But there’s more, there’s hope because God’s love compelled him to send Jesus to earth. On earth, Jesus showed us more of God’s character, showed us how to live, how to love, what following God means. After all that, he died for you, for me, for all of us, to be the perfect sacrifice, washing us clean of the tar of sin, starting all things new again. Because of Jesus, God reconciles us to himself and to each other. Yes, I said to each other, too. As God makes all things new in Jesus, we get this amazing opportunity to be reconciled to the one who made and loves us and to those around us, also created and loved by God.
There are few Christians among us who would disagree with this…in theory. I bet if I asked 100 pastors that at least 99 of them would say that through Jesus, broken relationships can be healed. We have an example in the early church (see Acts 2), where Jews and Gentiles worshiped and sacrificed for each other, because Jesus had dramatically changed their perspectives and priorities. That’s exciting, isn’t it? We reflect God’s transforming power when we love those who were once our enemies. It’s incredible. But let’s be honest enough to say that the practice of reconciling relationships is messy and hard and needs to take the long road. We must humble ourselves to admit that we need to fully rely on Jesus to work through the sins of our culture and the distrust sown over centuries. It’s one that takes intentionality, because that swamp monster of sin longs to creep back and divide us once more.
A bit more theology: I believe that God made all of us, different cultures, different ethnicities, different perspectives. I believe that when we share that diversity with each other we gain a fuller picture of who God is. I believe that one day people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship God together. Why would I not want to get a glimpse of heaven now? Why would I not want to see God’s power supersede the messiness of life? Why would I not want to see God get glory for doing His work, here and now?
I went to a new church this morning. There were things I loved: the sermon was one of the best I’ve heard in years, exegeting scripture, following the text, teaching and applying it to our lives. The music was good. There was slave-free coffee. But all, and I repeat all, the people standing at any point in the service–from music to preaching to leading communion–were white males. I was a bit taken aback. They recently studied Acts and decided to physically meet the needs of others in their congregation because of what they studied. Awesome. Perhaps they do care about reconciling all people to each other; I hope so. But, as I told a friend later today, the proof is in the pudding. There was nothing showing me that this was even on their radar, and it made me sad. Because if God has broken down the dividing wall for His glory, may I never, ever place a brick back in its place. O Lord, hear my prayer.