The issue of ethnic diversity is something we really care about at Cru. My colleagues and I have taken purposeful steps to listen to our staff of color, to lament with them, and to ask their forgiveness on behalf of our organization for wrongs committed. Personally, I am grateful for the ways in which these deep discussions have changed me, for the ways in which the vulnerability and honesty of my ethnic brothers and sisters has enriched my life and helped me to understand the gospel in deeper ways. And, while I firmly believe we have made some progress, I recognize the fact that we have a long way to go.
A few years back, as we began to actively seek to understand on an even deeper level, several of us had an opportunity to attend a "Race & Reconciliation" gathering in an Atlanta. In the midst of a very frank and honest discussion, a pastor of color warned us, "This is going to get a lot harder before it gets better." And, it has. Today I have more questions and sometimes feel more confused than I did when I entered the conversation, but the Spirit within keeps prodding me forward. My team with Cru continues to link arms with friends and colleagues, pastors and leaders to seek healing and restoration.
Lately, as I try to engage with the Lord and with others, the truths of Ephesians 2:13–22 stand out:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
The essence of the gospel is powerful–through the sacrifice of God's son on the cross we are all brought near by his blood. His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that separates us from God. The reverberating effect of the gospel breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that separates you and me. In a powerful and transforming way he has created (because he is the Creator) in himself one new person in the place of two. In Christ we find peace and reconciliation with God and with each other through the cross. Hostility is destroyed.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Somehow, in the complex and mysterious way of the Spirit, I reach out to touch this deeper meaning of identity and unity. What eludes my grasp now in my experience has already occurred in Christ. In him the dividing wall of hostility crumbled and at the very same time a new foundation formed–this time on resurrection ground, and Jesus Christ provides plumb. In him a whole new and living structure began to take shape from Jerusalem, to Judea, to the uttermost parts of the earth. I imagine living and breathing walls of faces joined together from every tribe, tongue, and nation giving shape to a holy, vibrant temple–a living house where God by the Spirit dwells. We, the holy temple of God's Spirit are fellow citizens, members of the same household of God, The living, breathing body of Christ, the dwelling of God by the Spirit, is by its very nature unified in its diversity.
As a white follower of Jesus, I realize I have a role to play in helping to sweep away some of the debris that made up the dividing wall of hostility in our country, and I have a responsibility to love and understand my brothers and sisters. One way I am continuing to learn is by joining my colleagues as we engage together in The Repentance Project: An American Lent Introduction. Here is a description of the project's purpose.
The Repentance Project was born out of grief and desire.
The grief comes from knowing that the wounds inflicted both by centuries of slavery in America and a century of Jim Crow laws are not barely healed, and that many systems of racial oppression are still in place as its diabolical legacy, affecting millions of lives both Black and White.
The desire comes from knowing that those wounds can be stopped and healed, that there really is hope and possibility for the “Beloved Community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. so often spoke.
This possibility, however, requires that we reckon with the long history of racial oppression in America and are able to recognize the legacy of slavery that still persists. When cities like Los Angeles in the early 90s and more recently Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas, Charleston, and Charlotte erupt in protest and flames because of racial tensions, it’s not without context and a long history. While America was founded on some noble principles, it must also be said and grieved, and repented of, that for centuries explicitly and decades implicitly, America was founded on the attempted genocide of one group of people and the oppression of another.