In light of recent racial violence in the United States, Rev. John Eigege has begun writing a series of letters about racial reconciliation to his calling church, New Life Christian Reformed Church. John is a community chaplain with Christian Reformed Home Missions in Houston’s Third Ward neighborhood. Do Justice will be sharing these letters with the wider CRC community over the coming weeks.
Dear New Life,
As my family, dearly beloved by God, I want to be open and vulnerable with you. I trust our relationship, so I want to give you an authentic view of some of my thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Today, I want us to wrestle with conversations that may be difficult. I want us to enter together into the beautiful mess of reconciliation. I want us to have a candid conversation, as family, about Race.
Let’s begin with scripture. It is evident to me, as I read scripture, that God made all humanity in his own image (Gen 1:26-27). Out of the abundance of his love, God makes humankind. Therefore, the worth of every human life does not fundamentally depend on the value we assign to it, or take away from it, or on skin color and facial features, but on the importance which God thumbprints onto human life. I believe God makes one race, the human race. And he assigns intrinsic value to every member of the human race.
I also believe, that out of this one race, God calls out a multitude of nations and an abundance of ethnicities. In his creativity, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, creates diversity out of unity and unity in diversity. Only God can do that, because that is exactly who God is; God is simple unity and vibrant diversity, co-existing harmoniously together.
God creates humanity, one race, expressed in pulsating diversity, to reflect Him. God fashions us to be united in our oneness, and to celebrate the beauty of our differences. This is God’s manifold wisdom. In God’s design, there is no hierarchy of ethnicities. No one is superior, and none is inferior. God assigns the same value to all of us. His diverse and unified family is a reflection of God’s inherent diversity and unity. Human beings, in our unity and uniqueness, are created as echoes of the beauty of our Triune God.
However, human beings rebel. We are broken and choose to see diversity as a dangerous threat to be thwarted, not a glorious reality to be embraced. Instead of living in the freedom God makes for us, we choose to shackle ourselves with an evil sin called racism.
Racism fails to see the diversity and unity of humanity. Racism preys on our fears and prejudices, instead of nurturing our hopes and good will. Racism assigns distorted value to some that God has created, and takes it away from others who are made in his likeness too. Racism (prejudice plus power that preys on the oppressed) creates a dividing wall of hostility and separation between those God has created to be one and many at the same time.
But like all sin that so easily entangles us, racism is unraveled and destroyed at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ! Christ Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, purchases for us peace where our actions ushered in hostility. Christ helps us to realize God’s vision for us as one humanity. Christ takes in himself, on the cross, our prejudice and racism, and gives us unity in diversity.
Through Jesus Christ, you and I are united and reconciled to God, and to one another. This is not a far off goal that we are striving for. It is already ours for the taking today! Through Jesus Christ, the dividing walls of hostility that racism builds come crashing down (Eph 2:11-22). Through Jesus, we can lament together, the injustices we see in our world, as we work hand in hand for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness a never-ending stream. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes us citizens and fellow members of the household of God our Father. In Jesus, we can tell the truth that racism systematically destroys our lives personally, and communally. But in Christ, we can also work faithfully knowing that racism, like all sins, is nailed to the cross of Christ. In Christ, I can celebrate my unique identity as an African of the Idoma people, and my shared identity with you as a human being. In Jesus Christ, I celebrate that at the end of all things, people from every tribe, and tongue, and nation are invited to join Christ in his rule and reign, as he makes his dwelling place with a reconciled people; his perfected, complete, diverse and unified family.
These are the foundational truths that undergird my invitation to you. As we enter into this dialogue over the next few weeks, I want you to see the desire of our Triune God for his church to be one. As we chase oneness, our conversations will be awkward. Our conversations will be hard. Our dialogue will be uncomfortable, and sometimes just plain old painful. But Christ died for our oneness, not sameness. Lean In. We are God’s diverse and unified family, and no sin can rob us of that precious identity. So we lean into this conversation boldly, knowing God will give us mercy and grace in our time of need.
Even if our world rejects these truths, the church must lead the way in racial and ethnic reconciliation. The church must tell a narrative of grace and truth, of love and lament, of mercy and justice. The church must be unified and diverse at the same time, and celebrate both our unity and our uniqueness. Our unity, and diversity are our apologetic to the world, showing her that we are a new community, where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, chose to dwell.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God our Father, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit guide us as we pursue God’s truth together; truth that truly sets us free.
Watch Do Justice on Fridays in the coming weeks to read the next of Pastor John's letters to his calling congregation after they are shared with New Life. Subscribe to receive our biweekly email to be sure that you don't miss a post.
[Image: Flickr user David Gillaspia]