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How should we respond to racial tensions?

Christ is all.

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Colossians 3:1-17 ESV)

God has created a family, diverse and new.

God has raised and is raising a new family. He has chosen people from all walks of life, all ethnicities, all people groups to be part of something new. Revelation 7 pictures people from every tribe and tongue, every people group of the world, praising and worshipping the One True God. Paul, in Ephesians 2, says that God is making a new family from the old families of the world. Jesus said that the Gospel would be proclaimed to all the world, to all different peoples and ethnicities, and then the end would come (Matthew 24:14).

God is creating a new family, with a new identity for his new purposes. This new family is diverse. It has blacks, whites, former Muslims, tribal leaders, barbarians, Scythians, slaves, and even rich people who owned slaves.

Our old identity is gone because Christ is all.

But in this new family, the old is gone and the new has come. In this new family, although from the outside looking in it appears to be very diverse, there is not black, white, man, woman, barbarian, Scythian, free or slave (Col 3:11). Paul does not say that in this new group of people we find greeks and Jews and barbarians. He says quite the opposite - they look like Jews and Greeks and barbarians, but in fact they are simply the body of Christ. There is no more “White Christian,” but only Christ - for Christ is all and in all. We have become his body, radically diverse in its design, but that body is now identified with something much greater than our former walk of life and culture.

In his diverse beauty we retain our former culture - worshipping him and praising him in our own cultural heart language, but we are no longer identified with our previous identifiers. We don’t respond as a white Christian or a black Christian. We don’t process information as a poor Christian or as a rich Christian. We are dead; Christ now lives in us.

So we live like Christ to make it all about him.

So how then do we live? We live, not as people who are still of the earth, but as people who are of a higher kingdom that transcends culture. We will never experience this in full until we are made completely like Christ. We fail and we moan like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 who cried out, “Why do I do the things that I do not want to do, and not do those things that I desire to do?! O, wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death” (author’s paraphrase)? Yes, we are weak, but that does not mean that we cease to strive. So what do we strive for? We chase the embodiment of Christ, modeled by the cross and exemplified in compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love, justice, peace, patience, meekness, humility and more.

As part of a new kingdom, as ambassadors in a foreign land, we look at the plight of the peoples around us - a people we live amongst but no longer belong to - and weep. We weep along with our minority families, thirsty and hungry for justice, sick and tired of seeing the boot of oppression upon their loved ones.

We have our hearts broken as we see the violence on television and proclaim, “There is a way to justice and this is not it!” No, it is not found in dialogue, though that can be helpful. The only true justice is found on the cross - where an innocent man who claimed to be, and was in fact, God, was executed for crimes he didn’t commit, but for crimes we did. Justice will not be served, ultimately, upon the soil of this earth, but it will be served in totality one day, and that fact should both spring us forth into joy and halt us in sober moments of terrifying self-assessment.

We stand in the gap and pray for the guilty, knowing that Christ died for us not because we deserved it, but despite the reality of our condemnation in the flesh. So we pray for the spiritual conviction of the police officers who abuse their power, knowing that God desires all to be saved and that salvation is a work of God. We pray for the young, angry black men, knowing that Christ needs to awaken them to the love of the Man of Sorrows who was crushed and afflicted for their transgressions.

We speak soothing words to the angry, knowing that the way forward is not violence or even a Christian-veiled righteous indignation. The way forward is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Gospel movement only happens when the veil of spiritual blindness is removed and a dead heart is quickened to life.

We mourn for our nation - a nation that is eager to embrace a facade of Christianity without submitting to the demands of Christ. We gnash our teeth and wail knowing that large swaths of our country believe that they understand the Gospel, but their hearts remain cold and lifeless. We beg God for spiritual revival, knowing that hellish circumstances that we see on television are tragedies that pale in comparison to the ultimate suffering that awaits those who do not know Christ.

We don’t respond solely as black men, white men, latinos or any other variety. We respond as those who have been made into something new. We respond as the new man who realizes that Christ is all and in all. We respond as those who realize that their identity is now found in the diverse, transcultural body of Christ - a new family with new identifiers that looks very much like a wild conglomeration. We respond as adopted sons of the king. We respond as Christ. We respond to show that we truly lift him up to be our all.

So we cannot respond with silence. We cannot respond with violence. We cannot respond with stereotypes. We respond with grace, love and the Gospel.