In the summer of 2016 the heat rose in America. Murders and alleged murders in what looked like gang-war sequence flared in diverse cities as St. Paul, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. The public was fixated on the conflict. Street demonstrations came back in vogue and social media was awash with the declaration that lives matter – black, white and blue.
The trajectory of this conflict is unclear. The fact that this is an election year means the events were naturally politicized and also that any real action on the part of the national government is unlikely. Finding our way forward in these United States may have to come from another source. It may just have to fall on all of us, working together. Here is my own first step.
We aren’t the first society to struggle with diversity. In the Book of I Corinthians, St. Paul describes a church made up of Jews and Greeks seeking to form a community together. Now that was a cultural divide with some baggage. The Greeks labeled all non-Greeks as barbarians. The Jews described all non-Jews as “unclean”. They spoke different languages, wrote with different alphabets, celebrated different histories, and valued different ideals. Yet, there they were together, worshipping and eating, two of the most intimate things communities do.
Fortunately for us, they had their conflicts too, and Paul told them how to think about them in a revolutionary way that may be a key to leading our own society from self-destruction to harmony. In chapter 12 he told them they had “all been baptized into one body”. His point was that the diversity they brought to the community was valuable, but no longer primary. Their identity in Christ was to be the defining element of their community, and in that they had perfect unity.
Of course, it turns out the Jews and Greeks were both wrong in their assessment of one another. It is hard to credibly refer to Jewish society as barbaric when, even then, it had carried its own poetry, wisdom literature, and law for over 1000 years. Christ himself, through the Apostle Peter, corrected the Jewish Christians’ notion of the uncleanness of non-Jews in Acts 10 and 11.
But Paul didn’t rely on any of these arguments. He superseded them by completely redefining what it means to be a human being. The identity of Christians in Christ is so central and compelling, it supersedes, without eliminating, all our differences. We can’t speak for those outside the Christian community, but within the family of God any of us who find our cultural or ethnic background more self-defining than our identity in Christ have lost something for which He paid with His life. Racism, sexism, classism, and all other forms of discrimination are serious matters to us, but not just because they may violate the law of the land. They are serious to us because they devalue the life of Christ, who died for the kosmos. We all have done things for which we need to be forgiven. We all have suffered things we need to let go. We are all completely dependent on the one life that can accomplish that in us.
Our situation in post-modern America is complicated and I, least of all, have no easy answers, but I believe I know where answers can be found. I also believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is called to this work of reconciliation. What does it mean to be a light in the darkness if not to demonstrate community as God meant it to be? When we allow the spirit of Christ within us to define us first and foremost, when we share in that spirit and love as He loves, we can expect unity and cooperation in the midst of our diversity. God bless you, America. Grace and peace to you.Looking for devotionals similar to this post? The McLane College of Business publishes a weekly devotional written by their own faculty. Go check out Crucial Connections and read more!