“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23 (NIV)
It is no question that the past few weeks have brought much sorrow, anger, confusion and even division amongst Christians as we have watched the death of two African Americans caught on video — the video that captured Ahmaud Arbery’s death while jogging in Georgia and the video that captured the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
During the week that the video was released of George Floyd’s death, another video surfaced — the Amy Cooper video. Amy Cooper was caught on video in Central Park telling an African American man that she was going to call the cops on him and tell them that an African American man was harassing her. She proceeds, and then the video ends.
These three incidents within a month’s timespan may seem like three isolated events having nothing to do with one another. But what if we paused for a moment and asked ourselves this — “What if God is using the racial injustices and deep rooted racism of our country to get the church’s attention? What if God is using the events in the world to wake up the church and help them see that they have a problem?”
Could it be that God is cleansing and healing the church through the events taking place in our country? There is no denying that these events have brought many controversial conversations and much division in the body of Christ.
The past month has been one of the most emotionally draining and frustrating months I’ve had in a while as I’ve had to have many conversations on these issues. From text messages and Zoom calls to socially distant conversations and phone calls. They have not been easy, as everyone has had their own opinions. Each person is approaching the conversation with their personal experiences, fears, hurt and a variety of worldviews, which makes the conversations frustrating, challenging, painful and even hopeless. Can we ever attain unity in the body if we never see things the same way?
Satan seeks to thwart the plans of God and divide the church (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8) but Christ died on the cross to defeat Satan’s power and authority in our lives and to unite us as one. Jesus prayed for that oneness (John 17:13-23), Christ died for that oneness (Ephesians 2:14-18) and Paul reminds us of our oneness — one body; one Spirit; one hope, Lord, faith, baptism; and one God and Father of all, over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:5-6). At the foot of the cross we all stand as guilty, condemned sinners but at the foot of that same cross we all receive the same grace that unites us as one family. So how can we fight for this blood-bought oneness?
- Educate yourself.
Before we can move ahead, we must look back. It will be very challenging to experience oneness if you lack the knowledge of people’s history and experiences. Search for some books, podcasts or articles that will help you gain knowledge. There is a reason that African Americans feel the way that they do during these moments, and it’s because of a long history.
- Be quick to hear and slow to speak.
James would urge us to be slow in our speaking and quick in our hearing as it can lead to unrighteousness that does not honor God (James 1:19). It’s OK to just listen and ask questions. Wisdom is gained when we can just sit silently and listen to others without feeling the obligation to have a response for everything.
- Be a brother or sister in Christ.
I really believe that we have lost sight of what it means to be a brother or sister in Christ. If one part of the body is hurting and in pain, then the whole body is (1 Corinthians 12:26). Let us be people who are filled with compassion, sympathy, love, forgiveness, grace and patience. Let us embody the “one anothers” of Scripture.
My prayer is that we experience Revelation 7:9-10 on this side of heaven. Churches are filled with so many different people from all backgrounds and walks of life. If we are going to see that come to fruition, then we must begin to fight harder for the oneness that our Lord and Savior died for.
Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.