Let The Confederate Flags Come Down
Praise the Lord for the heightened sense of consciousness presently sweeping the country, and particularly conservative evangelicals. As a son of the south, a recipient of racism, and a former conduit of racism, I’m encouraged. At the same time, I am afraid we may miss this golden opportunity by settling for peripheral victories, instead of fighting for the real prize.
Wake up brothers and sisters! Almost every institution in our country has been pragmatically desegregated. Yet, our churches remain living monuments of the deep rooted divisions we so desperately seek to ignore. In 2010, research showed only 12.5% of all protestant churches would be considered multicultural. Do we ever stop to ask ourselves why churches are still so segregated?
As Florida, Mississippi, California and Alabama wrestle with the Confederate Flag and images, My question is, “What will the body of Christ do?” Will we again, sit idly by, soaked with inaction and reactions to other entities attempts to act?
The Real Confederate Flags
Like it or not, our churches are the real Confederate Flags! For some, the flag is a symbol of heritage. For others, it is a reminder of the racism and hatred that would have continued slavery, if the Confederate side had won the civil war.
It is fair to say the Confederate Flag is a symbol of division existing in our country. Yet, regardless of our view on the appropriateness of the actual flag, our churches are the ever-waving reminder that racism, indifference, partiality, favoritism, ethnic idolatry, cultural superiority and preference based on skin color still rule the day!
These “real Confederate Flags” are not limited to the South. The real Confederate Flags or symbols of division are raised every Sunday morning from coast to coast. Contrary to popular belief, these “real Confederate Flags” are not the banner of one ethnicity or heritage. No, black churches are just as guilty as white churches.
Every week, we jump into our vehicles leaving diverse neighborhoods and drive through diverse cities. We do this only to miraculously end up at churches to praise a God of diversity with a se-gregated group of people. This should be intolerable for every Christ follower! Where geography and language make diversity impossible, we are free to worship with the saints who are available. However, the rest of the Christian community is without excuse.
The church continues to be the caboose on the train of racism when we were destined and empowered by God to be the engine. Love cannot be legislated. Christ has given us our marching orders! I don’t know if we tune out when our preachers preach Ephesians 2:11-22, or if our pastors aren’t preaching it.
Members of the Household of God
In Ephesians 2:11-22, God teaches us several over-arching truths about salvific anthropology.
(1) Before salvation, we are all equally separated from God (Ephesians 2:11-12). Twice Paul tells the Ephesus church to remember their former position. He wanted them to remember at one time they were without hope, and without God. Meaning that outside of the Jews, the rest of us are just silly to even attempt to claim ethnic superiority. In God’s eyes, we are all the same.
(2) Christ rectifies our hopelessness by the shedding of his precious blood through which we gain access to God (vs. 13). It is not by our work, but Christ’s work we have access to God! We should be eager, out of gratitude and grace, to operate in this new arena in a God-pleasing way, even if it is unnatural or difficult.
(3) The work of Christ breaks all barriers between people (vs. 14-17). Yes, it’s true, that Whites and Blacks have a very complicated and hurtful past. There are deep wounds and divides that will not be easy to overcome. This is also true for other ethnicities like Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, etc. However, our ethnic rifts pale in comparison to the rift between Jews and Gentiles at the time Paul penned these precious words.
The words of Paul concerning these ethnic relations would have been considered “fighting words” by mainstream society. Jews and Gentiles despised each other. Yet, Paul emphatically insists Christ is Peace! Christ is the cure to all barriers! Culture, ethnicity, political affiliation and confederate/union soldiers are all secondary to the peace and reconciliation of the Gospel. In Christ, the two become one! In Christ, ethnicities that wouldn’t typically be unified are inseparable.
Is this an easy accomplishment? Absolutely not! But if we understand the Gospel, it is certainly worth our effort and energy. This gospel reconciles men, not only to God, but also to each other! As a matter of fact, John said, “How can we say we love God, who we haven’t seen and hate our brother who we see?”
When will we call the segregation among the people of God and our churches what it is? It is sin, and an offense to the gospel! However, through Christ we can have the victory in this very difficult area if we would only repent and pray for his help. He would surely walk with us.
(4) Christ has bought more than peace; he has made us family (vs. 18-22). We are brothers and sisters with the God of the universe as our Father. This passage says we are members of the household of God! What an honor and a privilege to be family members!
One of my biggest emphasis as a parent is my children’s love, respect, protection and affection for one another. Living in my house will be extremely painful for any child who can’t love their brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, you can’t even stay here and not love your siblings.
I believe God feels the same way. My kids (like most children) are often guilty of showing preference to their friends and neglect their siblings. In a similar way, we show preference to blood relatives, political allies, fraternity/sorority members and members of our own race over our precious Christ-blood family members. The family Christ has made is of greater connectivity than any earthly connection. We have an eternal connection. He longs for us to be family.
Churches United in Christ
The end game is undeniable. One day, with one voice and one heartbeat around the throne of God we will cry, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10)! We will do this with a respected and beloved family from every tongue, tribe and nation. Why would we not fight to that end now?
As a church planter, one of my greatest griefs is most church plant talk in the U.S. is centered around sending an ethnic man to reach an ethnic group to start an ethnic church (i.e. sending a black man to reach black people to create a black church). We have not only given up on our existing churches, we don’t even think our new church plants should be fundamentally and unapologetically multicultural.
This is indefensible considering Scripture. Half of the New Testament was written by an extremely hyper Jewish man who had an encounter with Jesus, and planted countless churches among Gentiles. He had much to say about the full inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God. We would benefit greatly from weeping over his words!