I recently saw a meme on social media with the words, No one else is your problem, and below were loads of affirming comments. I was immediately annoyed by it, but it took a while to put my finger on why. Then I realized it too easily lets us off the hook. I may not be responsible for other people’s problems, but I am responsible to those people. I am responsible to love well, speak truth, offer mercy, encourage, lift up, pray for, sacrifice, and honor. As a Christ follower, I don’t get the luxury of closing my eyes to the problems of another. If they hurt, I hurt. That’s part of the privilege of carrying a God stamp.
When addressing unity, it can mean different things to different people because we can divide over our gender, generation, and politics, but I am calling us to be unified as one body, while diverse in color and culture. Racism is the sin of partiality, and that’s important to say because the Spirit of God helps us overcome sin. There are other sins that pour into it–greed, pride, and preference–and all over the world this is true. But James tells us we can’t live like that. Partiality has no place in God’s family.
Mahalia Jackson was a gospel singer and a dear friend to Martin Luther King Jr. The night before he delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech,” he gathered his friends and shared that he was struggling between using a metaphor in his speech about America’s bad check (“promises it can’t cash”) or the idea of having a dream. In the end, he decided to talk about the bad check, and on August 28, 1963, in front of 250,000 people, he started out, “In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
Then Mahalia leaned over almost ten minutes into it (she was on the podium with him) and yelled, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” He pushed aside his notes and leaned over, stating boldly, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up … I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (He was quoting powerful words from the prophet Isaiah.)
I want to acknowledge the problem: we have an enemy who is attacking both God’s kids and those who don’t know Him yet. We have racial tension, vulnerable children, struggling adults, hurting families, and evil running rampant. But I want to say (thanks, Mahalia!) there is a dream—that lost children come to the Father, people experience healing, evil strongholds are demolished, and biblical community is experienced. We were created for it.
There is fear around this conversation. Are we saying the right things? At the right time? In the right ways? Probably not always. But fear can’t stop us, the Church should be leading this conversation on reconciliation. What we are longing for is systemic change because there is injustice around the world and in this country. It is painfully obvious and evil, but universal transformation starts with individual hearts.
The Church is a picture of what is to come. It matters that we are unified here because we will be unified there. The Church is meant to be prophetic–to model the destination at which the culture is to arrive. We cannot have injustice in our midst.
Paul wrote to the diverse church in Ephesus: “I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV).
In the Greek, “eager” could be translated as “spare no effort.” We must do all we can to maintain unity. It’s not enough not to be racist. We have to be anti-racism. We have to stand against any activity that diminishes the value of any life, anywhere. This isn’t controversial. This is biblical.
God’s way tells us the way to victory comes through death, the way to treat our enemy is by love, and the first shall be last. His way is community, reliance on each other, and submission to one another. He taught us to be at peace with one another and to wash each other’s feet.
Through Paul, He said to be devoted to one another and honor one another above ourselves. Live in harmony and stop passing judgment. Instruct one another, accept one another, wait for one another, serve one another, carry the other’s burden, be patient, kind, compassionate, forgiving, encouraging, and hospitable. This is how the world will know we are His kids. When people come together to live this way, it forms an attractive community. It invites, engages, and is inclusive. In community, people fight for each other and pour out into their relationships what God is filling up in them. This is always how God intended for us to live.
I can’t fix what’s broken in the world, but I can let God heal me. When I see racial tension, I can humanly try and concoct solutions, but this isn’t to be solved or fixed, it’s to be healed. There’s only one repairer of broken walls and one Healer. Let’s invite God in to do further work in our lives and in this country.