We Bear Witness of Jesus and His Church Better Together
How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!
Psalms 133:1, NIV
Growing up, I lived in and around racism. I remember being handed a flyer to join a KKK rally in Harrison, AR, by a guy in my high school. It was $15 to apply for membership at the next clan rally. I took the flyer and burned it.
I was grieved to know that I had friends involved in that kind of activity. These were deep country-folk that were taught from an early age that white people were superior and black people were inferior. It scared me. As a result, I distanced myself from these guys. At the same time, I had friends in the black community that were in gangs, both Bloods and Crips. I was lost. I didn’t know Jesus, but I knew people were people. I was asked to join a gang and I did. As a result, I tried to stay neutral. This gained me widespread popularity, so much so I was elected as Prom King, and held a position in student leadership in High School, in Advanced English and Debate Clubs. In other words, I was good at seeing different sides of the story and arguing. During my senior year, I traveled to Washington D.C. with others that were leaving gangs and the KKK, all in pursuit of a better life. What I learned in D.C. was that we were better together. I learned more and performed better as a student in academic and cultural debates when I genuinely sought to listen to others from different backgrounds. While this gained me popularity, it’s also intensified my problems. I was repeatedly given death threats by gang members and clan members alike. So much so that at my final exams, I was escorted by police to ensure my safety.
As Christians, we are called to live differently.
While we may have an affinity within our own culture, be it black, white, Hispanic or other, we are called to unite not around people who look like us, but love like us, as Christians. In fact, the greatest testimony of the Christian faith is in the unity the Christians can have despite ethnic diversity. This is why Jesus spoke of the great importance of unity as Christians among all peoples. In doing so, this was a witness to the world. In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” In addition, we see in Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 that he prays for all Christians for all ages to live in unity despite their ethnic diversity.
The Apostle Paul joined Jesus in this vision for unity in the midst of diversity as well. In fact, he fought for this in the church. We read in Galatians and Acts of his fierce fight for the inclusion of the Gentiles into Jewish Christian churches (Galatians 2, Acts 19). These weren’t just culture wars, but ethnic racism issues he was fighting against too! The gospel was and still is good news for not some people, but all people (Luke 2:10).
our differences help us to function better together.
The Apostle Paul illustrates this in his teaching to the church in Corinth. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:12–13) In other words, the members of the body together all make up the body. The head is essential for the rest of the body to work, and the hands and the feet all have a particular function as well.
I can remember in junior high, my legs and arms were growing so fast, I could hardly keep up with them. I would stumble over things in my sneakers; my voice started changing and I was squeaking so much my friends called me squeaky at times. The church is like a body, when it’s young and growing and can be a little goofy, but as we grow together, we become more coordinated in our efforts and began to grow more functional.
CHURCH MEMBERS WORK TOGETHER
For example, once the Covid-19 crisis hit, as a staff, we had to learn to work together as a team and change our model of ministry from onsite bricks and mortar to online, streaming live services in 7 days. It was a week of sleepless nights and lots of coffee in the mornings, but we made it. Looking back nearly three months later, I can see how each of our staff team was willing to reposition and relearn how to make things work. More encouraging was seeing our church come together.
As a church, we had to learn how to serve our community as well. We launched an awareness campaign to serve our community, provided to aid to those who suffered loss during the crisis, and then we launched a drop-off food drive to help our Christian brothers in the Navajo Nation, where the coronavirus had wreaked havoc on remote communities in Northern Arizona. As a church, we have to quickly learn that each member learns they have a role to play together, and when we work together, we can get far more done together than we can apart.