Racial Reconciliation: Our Identity in Christ

Written by: Marlon Wade, 2015-2016 Emerging Leaders Participant

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

If you look at the state of our society today, you will see a world divided. We have created so many categories of people that the differences between us can’t help but be exemplified. Gender, economic status and most recently race have been the catalysts that have separated friends, family and church members alike. From the world’s perspective, there have been many solutions put forward in order to bring all peoples together, but none have made any lasting impression. Racism and prejudice have run rampant, from the days of the slave trade, where millions of Africans were shipped to America in chains, to the Civil Rights era, where dogs and fire hoses were unleashed upon blacks in southern cities, to the present day, where African-American males are institutionalized and killed by police more than any other demographic. As the Body of Christ, what answer do we have? How can we bring relief to a disease that has festered in this country for the last 400+ years? Is it even our responsibility? Before we can even begin to think of a solution, we have to realize that we’ve been looking at this problem the wrong way from the beginning.

The Jews and Gentiles were the 1st century equivalent of how black and whites as a whole interact today. The former were God’s chosen people and were proud of their heritage. As a result, they excluded the rest of the world, the Gentiles, from receiving God’s favor, which created a rift between the two groups, even after Christ’s death grafted the Gentiles into His family. Thousands of years later, we see ourselves having the same issue again. History tends to repeat itself, and this case is no different. So, how did Paul deal with the animosity between the Jews and Gentiles? The answer is found in the above verse, specifically the last 8 words. Under the Lordship of Christ there is no black, white, Hispanic, Asian and African, etc. We are all one in Christ Jesus. We, those who have trusted in His name, are all children of God, and that is where our identity lies. Race, gender, age, nationality, social class and all other signifiers are insignificant in light of being child of the Most High. I should not identify as a 25-year-old, African-American male who follows Christ because if I were to die today, only the last 3 words of that distinction would mean anything. Not that our cultural identities should be thrown to the wayside and not be celebrated, but if they become what defines us instead of Jesus then we have to see them for what they are: sin. Anything we put above Christ is an idol and therefore sinful. So in the end, the race wars we see splattered across the news and affecting those closest to us are simply cases of mistaken identity.

So, now that we’ve identified the real issue, what can we, as the hands and feet of Christ, do to reconcile the situation? We do just that, we reconcile the situation. Paul speaks again of the problem in 2 Corinthians, but this time, he presents us with not just an answer, but the God given solution to the sickness of racism: us. Chapter 5, verse 16 5 says that “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” Ok, so again we see that what’s on the outside is really not what we should be focused on. Let’s go a step deeper in verse 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” A new creation? Just as Nicodemus did, we may question how a person may be “born again” or become a “new creation”, but God, through Paul, makes it extremely clear. He is not concerned with the outward appearance “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). To God, the condition of the heart is what’s important, and it’s how He sees us. So, what do we do in response to this war on God’s standard? In the rest of the chapter Lieutenant Paul gives us our battle plan:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

That’s it. We are supposed to be the mediator between God and the rest of the world. We are Christ’s ambassadors, given the duty to reconcile the world to each other and to God. So how do we do that? There are tons of answers in Scripture, but at the core of them all are three points:

  • Make every effort to be at peace with everyone. (Romans 14:19, Hebrews 12:14, Philippians 2:3-4, 2 Corinthians 5:19)
  • Pray. (John 17:20-23, Ephesians 6:18, James 5: 16, 1 John 5:14-15, Philippians 4:6-7)
  • One day…our prayers will be answered. (Revelation 7:9, Revelation 21:4, Revelation 5:10)

Just as the tension between the Jews and Gentiles was eased in Paul’s day, as he and others went around establishing the early church, the same can be done today. As believers, we must remember we are called to reconcile and to love as Christ loves because our identity is found in Him. Celebrate how God has made us different but recognize that Christ is who defines us. Will racism and prejudice be eradicated? One day yes, but until then we must go out in love and see people through the eyes of Christ. So much emphasis and attention is put on the outward appearance of man, which is temporary, but the soul, living forever, is where God focuses His pursuit; so should we.