Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
Here's a comment that is Godly and will strengthen our faith. I've promoted it from beneath the very lengthy discussion of race that's developed under the post, "The World Cup, racism, and the reprobate." But first, a few words.
As in the time of the New Testament, race is one of the most difficult questions facing the Church today, both in the U.S. and around the world. The public policy debates of the past several months show its incendiary nature within our nation as we work through border control, immigration, and our balance of trade. And personally, my daughter, Michal, and I disagreed by E-mail in front of our family, recently, over whether or not our nation should have a single official language.
After fifty-six sermons, I'm finally coming to the sixth chapter of Galatians this Lord's Day, and although I'm not prepared to engage the entire New Perspective on Paul debate, it's inconceivable to me how any shepherd of God's flock could read of the Judaizing conflict in the New Testament church without recognizing the classic newbies vs. old-timers, people of God vs. goyim, citizens vs. wetbacks, imports vs. native-born, blacks vs. whites group conflicts that have divided us from the time we were expelled from the Garden of Eden. My mother-in-law jokingly hung a plaque in the bathroom recognizing her as a member of SNOB--the Society of Native Oregonian Born. And here we see within one state the same attitude toward outsiders being expressed against illegal aliens across our nation just now.
What is the Christian response to all the group-hatreds that entice us?
Always, the Christian starts with the personal and local. Jesus started with the story of the Good Samaritan, teaching us to ask ourselves, personally, "Who is my neighbor?" This is the question the Holy Spirit is asking us still today, and the answer each of us and our families give is one of the principal barometers of our heart faith. Do we pass on the other side of the road or do we stop and help?
For instance, every form of education chosen by Christian parents for their children has its own strengths and weaknesses...
Mary Lee and I have used four different methods to educate our own five: we've had them in public schools, we've homeschooled them, we've had them in several Christian schools in Wisconsin and Indiana; and two of our high-schoolers got part of their high school education on the campus of Indiana University. So we're anything but naive about the mixed motives Christians have when we put our children in private Christian schools or teach them at home.
Much of the discussion this past week under the aforementioned blog post has mentioned the choices we all make about where we're going to live and raise our families. An under-discussed aspect of this same issue is the parallel question of where and how we're going to educate our children. Without entering that debate here, I can say with firmness that when we Christians make choices concerning where we live and where our children are taught in such a way that we are able to maintain our pristine lives without threat from the outside, we are going directly against the command of our Lord Jesus Who warned that the loveless would always protest, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or sick or naked?"
Whitebread schools and neighborhoods and churches are, after all, quite dangerous for Christians because they rob us of our Lord Jesus. The loveless aren't lying when they say, "Lord, we never saw you!" They didn't see Him because they made a choice not to see Him.
Well, Nick Raia has made a different choice. With Joshua, he has said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." And so, one believer and his family at a time, we are carrying out the ministry of reconciliation that God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, and that He's also given us. May God bless Nick Raia and all his neighbors.
I feel deflated by reading your comments, and a sense of utter defeat fills me when I listen to the justification of your negative feelings towards other races and cultures.
I grew up in a rich white suburban area in Minnesota, went to school in Chicago and now have lived in the multi-ethnic urban setting for about 3 years now. My wife and I just bought a house on a street where almost every night we play the game "fireworks or bullets". I have felt what you refer to - the desire to move to someplace safer and more comfortable, especially when it comes to deciding where my kids will go to school. I have yet to be mugged but am planning on it happening any day. I work in the one of the worst public high schools in the state. I feel it, I know what you're talking about (even though Minneapolis isn't the same as Atlanta or Philly).
But when we give up and let these feelings prevail, we are denying that God's grace is sufficient for us and that HE is greater than all the things that we face day to day. When we give up, we also show that we haven't set ourselves up with the necessary support to help us through the rough times (with neighbors, church members, and friends).
I grew up with nave eyes, hoping that white Christians had improved. I've argued for you with my African-American friends and colleagues. But hearing you talk on this blog makes me feel that they are right; racism, especially in the suburban church, is as strong as it's ever been - it just looks different now.
Weisbrot, you said, "Now that I've had time to experience the reality of living near both blacks and Hispanics, though, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to continue living near them, moving among them, or experiencing their "culture"." In your time living there, did you have any meaningful friendships with any African-Americans or Hispanics? Did you discuss any of your experiences with them? Did you show love to any person that you lived by? (Matt. 22) Have you ever prayed, laughed, cried with any of them? You talk about self-preservation; the Bible talks about putting self to death.
I am sorry for your experiences, I know they are real and I know what kind of effect they can have. I simply wish I could walk you around and introduce you to the amazing people I know. You would be changed forever (like I have been).
As for the role of the suburban church in loving our urban brothers and sisters; it must be by supporting the churches that are in the city and not through well-intentioned but actually harmful short term projects. Paul built churches then worked to build up the Christians in those churches.