Despite many years as a missionary kid – a white-skinned minority among dark-skinned Congolese people, very aware of my color – when my family was in the US, our neighborhoods, churches, and schools were always very White. It was a shock when I came to college here in Chicago and realized, at 18, that I had not thought about race in the United States.
I was fortunate to have friends who looked different from me and who were willing to answer my sometimes ignorant questions. I had thought racism was mainly a thing of the past, and learned that none of my brown-skinned friends agreed. Race was ever-present for them, even in the grocery store. I found, for example, that every Black person I asked had stories of being mistaken for an employee by shoppers, on one hand, and being followed by the actual employees, on the other.
A White friend also wrestling with these issues once asked, “If racism is such a big deal, why doesn’t the Bible talk about it?” We learned, painfully, that the Bible does address racism; it simply was not addressed in the churches we were raised in. God’s desire for unity is clear from the very start of Scripture where God created all people in the image of God (Gen 1:27), to God’s Abrahamic Covenant that all people groups would be blessed (Gen 12:1-3), to the end of Scripture that proclaims Christ calling people from all tribes, languages, people, and nations (Rev 5:9). All of us.
Racial reconciliation is more than one among many important causes that you could choose to support. Reconciliation is the heart of the Gospel. We know from the Bible that God desires to bring all people to himself (1 Tim 2:1-4); that Jesus destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between us (Eph 2:14-16) and made us one body (Eph 4:3-6); that in Christ there should be no ethnic divisions (Rom 10:12); that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-19); and above all, that God calls us to love our neighbors and to be people of justice. We pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and we also know that the Kingdom of God is vastly diverse, right here and right now.
I believe we at First Free really do value justice, unity, reconciliation, and living out and reflecting the Kingdom of God. But if we think about what in our country and in the Church most hinders all of these things, it is often race. And as we seek to love and serve our neighbors, we cannot ignore their race and ethnicity. First Free is placed in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city: Edgewater is fairly evenly split between Hispanic, Black, and Asian populations (12-16% each), Andersonville specifically is only half White and over a quarter Hispanic, and over a third of households in our community speak a language other than English. To love our neighbors, we must seek to rectify injustices against them in our nation and Church body, and we must truly love and be united with them in Christ.
Racial reconciliation must be important to us first because of the truth of God’s Word and second because of the reality of God’s Kingdom in our very midst. Knowing what we do about the Bible, and also about our church neighborhood where God has placed us, is why racial reconciliation must be important to us.
Please understand that this Sunday is not for us to check racial reconciliation off our list of topics to discuss. “All of Us Sunday” is not an end. It is only the beginning of the very hard work of wrestling with, talking about, reading about, seeking to understand, and acting in racial righteousness in keeping with the Gospel we proclaim and the God we follow. God’s Word is for all of us. The Kingdom of God is for all of us.
Join us this Sunday, January 11, as we welcome Pastor Jonathan Brooks of Canaan Community Church, in Chicago’s West Englewood community. Pastor Brooks will speak from God’s word about the case for racial reconciliation. Afterwards, we’ll enjoy lunch and discussion together. RSVP TODAY>>