My heart is breaking as I watch the events that are currently taking place in the United States around race relations. The killing of both black men and white police officers is so wrong. It feels as if society is falling apart.
I must confess that this is so strange for me to see as a Canadian. I’m not saying that Canada is perfect. We have made many mistakes, especially with our aboriginal peoples. But I also know that Canada has a more blended culture and race relations have been smoother than with our neighbours to the south. A good friend of mine that I grew up with here in Canada and who has been living for more than a decade in the United States has told me that attitudes toward race are much different in the United States than it is in Canada.
However, the purpose of this post is not that the United States should be more like Canada. I’m more interested in challenging the Church to lead the way. We may not be able to have an immediate influence on society, but as Christians we should be able to shape the Church as being a positive witness of mutual respect and love.
I am the pastor of Queen Street Baptist Church. One of the many things that I love about our church is that it is multicultural. I would guess that 40% of our church is white, 30% Asian (mostly Philippines but a few other countries) and 30% black (mostly Jamaican and African). When I look out at my congregation and see us worshiping God together, I feel like I’m getting a taste of heaven. Of course with this multicultural nature of our congregation, our potluck meals are amazing!
In addition, we have a Spanish congregation as part of our church. But this is not a segregated congregation, as we often get together. We are separate services only in that it benefits them to have the worship and preaching in Spanish.
There were racial tensions in the early church as well. The big challenge that we see both in Acts and in Paul’s letters is the conflict between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. We can argue about the nature of that conflict (old vs new perspective), but the fact is that the conflict was real. In the midst of this, Paul wrote these powerful words:
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, HCSB)
This is a vision for what the Church is supposed be like. We come from different backgrounds and have different labels from a worldly perspective but we are to be one in Christ.
This is not something that the Church can just sit around and hope will occur naturally. We have to work at it. We need to create a colourful culture that acts colourless within the Church before we tell the rest of society what to do.
Here are some questions we should be asking ourselves:
- Does our congregation represent the racial diversity of our community?
- Does our leadership represent the racial diversity of our congregation?
- Is there an “us” vs “them” mentality within our congregation?
- Is our congregation ahead of or behind our community when it comes to mutual love and respect between races?
As sad as recent events are, this can be a time for the Church to have a prophetic voice. Not a voice of condemnation or finger pointing. But rather a witness of what we believe being in Christ means in terms of breaking down the walls between the races.As sad as recent events are, this can be a time for the Church to have a prophetic voice. Click To Tweet
Is the Church up for the challenge?