For the past few months I have been a Canadian living in the USA (Chicagoland). This hardly makes me an expert on anything American but it certainly does give me an unique perspective on the reaction to the events that have happened in Ferguson. Racial divide is not just an American issue. Growing up in the Toronto area has given me enough exposure to know that racial conflict is a sin problem shared by many around the globe. What seems to be unique in the USA is the reaction to racial issues. No doubt this is because of the history of this wonderful country. Knowing that so many fought and died over this very issue gives it a “just below the surface” feeling within the culture of this country. So once again the events of Ferguson have sparked national attention on a significant problem.
Yesterday I listened to Pastor Bill Hybels address the issue at Willow Creek Community Church. He spoke from a heart full of personal passion and angst. He did not preach on the topic but he obviously believed it important to speak to the issue pastorally before his congregation. He spoke of the importance of understanding each other’s stories. He rightly noted that in conflict there are always at least two narratives. He wisely noted that the problem is when the two narratives don’t intersect with one another. My narrative as a white Canadian does not include being perceived with suspicion because of the color of my skin. For many, unfortunately, this is exactly the case.
We need to listen to and understand one another’s narratives. This is important but there is a greater narrative that if we are willing to submit to, believe in, and celebrate can lead to the solution of the sin problem of racial divide. This is not a uniquely Canadian perspective but it is a uniquely biblical perspective. The grand narrative of the Bible tells me that what Christ has done in the past informs the present. Ephesians 2:19-22 speaks of peace, bringing together, and being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. The church is the picture of reconciliation. Because Jesus has died and through faith in who Jesus is and what he has done on the cross, this results in a family relationship that surpasses racial divide. The Apostle Paul makes this so clear in Galatians 3:28-29. We are all one in Christ Jesus and heirs according to the promise. The truth of what Jesus has done informs how I view those around me. The church leads the way in this kind of reconciliation because we have been reconciled to one another and to God through Jesus Christ. The grand narrative of the Bible tells me that what Christ has done in our future informs the present. Revelation 5:9-10 is a picture of heaven, of eternity, of a reality that is so much more than what is presently realized on this earth, and an understanding that there is more than now, not all is as it seems to be. As we catch a glimpse of the eternal we are reminded that from every tribe, language, people and nation there are ransomed people for God, a kingdom of priests to our God. Worshipers of every race surrounding the throne of God declaring their love and praise for Jesus Christ, the one who died for them and who is alone worthy to hold God’s plan for history in his hand. One biblical narrative that informs the present.
We need to listen to one another’s stories but do this within the context of a greater narrative, a biblical story. The gospel changes things!