The Gospel and Race: On Earth as It Is in Heaven
Part 3 - On Earth as it is in heaven
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Racial tensions have always existed in our nation. Not just between white and African-American, but between any other race as well. And, maybe you are surprised to hear this - racial tension exists in nearly every other country as well. Even more shocking is the fact that this has always been the case in human history across all national boundaries. Examples outside of America are simply too numerous to count. This problem isn’t unique to us - it seems to be a problem within who we are as humans. What does this mean about tomorrow? Racial tension will continue to exist. Why will it continue to exist? Because we live in a fallen and cursed world. We shouldn’t be surprised by this.
One evidence of a sick and corrupt nation is that politics becomes a remedial science. What I mean is this: when a nation looses it’s moral compass, there is now a vacuum of a standard for what should be considered moral. As much as our society claims that whatever feels good is right, we still look elsewhere to guidance on what is right or wrong, and we also go as far as looking for someone to enforce this across the land. This is one modern view of justice - for us in 21st century America, we look to those in power politically to heal our land. Friends, this only means our nation is running a high fever, and is plagued with disease.
And this is where we often find the conversation of racial injustice going to. Did a man of one race die by the hands of another race? We immediately look to those in political power to say the right words at the right time without delay - for if they misstep, it creates massive controversy. We look for judges to cast the correct judgement against them - if they do not, than our whole system must be corrupt. And so on and so forth.
Now we cannot engage the conversation above and come out with clarity and righteousness. When any one single event occurs, today in our age of smart phones and wireless internet, videos of injustice can reach a worldwide public audience in a matter of minutes. When it gets public, there are dozens of angles or spins of understanding of what has happened. News agencies rush to be the first to respond without knowing the full story, and thus the waters are incredibly muddy as to what is fact or fiction. The first uninformed story that was delivered becomes the lasting story, as the videos of the event have been viewed millions of times without context overnight. The real story that slowly surfaces over time arises with little notice. Debate ensues, confusion arises, and as Pete said in the previous blog post - the conversation falls into winning whatever debate that has emerged from the event.
All the while, as this process continues - there is a huge elephant in the room that is no longer being discussed. It’s the issue that is the actual problem - why is there still racial tension? Why has this always been the case? Why is it still happening now? Can it actually cease to exist on this earth? We get distracted by the surface level events, and can quickly loose sight of the real conversation to be had.
I would argue that racism cannot be repaired in our day.
It hasn’t for millennia past, so it will not be for the millennia forward. This, however, is not a cop out in discussing the issues. As a pastor, I write with Jesus and the Church in mind. Therefore, I will argue that a remedy does exist today, even if its manifestation will be imperfect on this side of the cross. It is not politics, or social media debates. It is not about electing the right senator, or appointing the correct person over a certain federal department. It’s not about hearing the president say the right things at the right time. The true remedy is indeed the Gospel.
The reality is this - the Church holds the keys of truth that can bring the ultimate bridge between any race of humans across this globe.
How we display to the world reconciliation between races within our doors is only meant to be a shadow of what is now currently happening in heaven. Let me explain: one of the more fascinating verses in Scripture that accord to this topic is found in Revelation 7:9-10. Just read these words and be amazed:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Let’s re-examine these verses and also look at the context. This is John, in his famous apocalypse, graced with a peek into heaven itself, and in the very throne room of God. There on the throne is God, and at his right hand is the Lamb - Jesus Christ. Standing before them are a great multitude without number. This multitude are not a neutral colored people with all the same looking hair wearing colorless robes - rather, these people are from every tribe, language and nation on the earth that appear to be recognized as such. How so? I can't for sure say, but does this point towards us carrying over the color of our skin into heaven? Nevertheless, this is indeed a fascinating look into heaven!
Secondly, let’s look at the scenario. They are all together, worshipping God. They are carrying palm branches - the symbol of peace in Scripture. They are all boasting in their salvation they all universally have in the Lamb - their spiritual purity in Christ represented by their white robes.
So what has united this unnumbered multitude of various colored people who speak various languages from various nations together for all of eternity? Their salvation in Jesus.
Now, remember these famous words of Christ as he taught us to pray? “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) As the church we have the opportunity to be the display of racial justice by, through our common salvation in Christ, uniting ourselves together. And we don’t have to do so by claiming a “color blindness,” or saying “I don’t see black or white, I only see my brother.” No!
It appears that national and, by way of implication, racial diversity is retained in heaven. The diversity in races is a God-given blessing to us, and it only further represents his creativity and diversity within himself as we are all image bearers of God. One race of people are not enought to display the wonders of the image of our God! The Church can celebrate this and embrace it together and rejoice in our diversity, knowing that through God in Christ we find a brotherhood in the midst of diversity.
So what are the steps for the Church today? We need to be the example to a corrupt and feverish nation of racial reconciliation within our walls. We need to pull ourselves out of these political debates and conversations, reject that politics will be the ultimate and final remedy for this massive issue, accept that in a fallen world it will not be going away, and embrace our role in this world as being “lights of the world” and “salt” to a perishing world that no longer has any sort of moral compass or foundations. I want people to look at the Church and be able to say “wow! How is it that there is no racial tension within those doors? How do they embrace one another and love one another and even celebrate their differences? How do they stand side by side, together?” We can all point to Jesus, and share the Good News of the Gospel to a world that desperately needs it.
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