The political events of this week have once again thrust the issue of race in America into the spotlight. Barack Obama’s speech a few days ago sparked conversations across the country about the issue of race and the solutions needed to solve the problems. Interestingly, I did not see a single news reporter interview a pastor or a theological scholar. This troubles me (though it doesn’t surprise me) because it shows that the church has not been successful in communicating and demonstrating the truth of the Gospel. Many in our churches simply have not taken the time to plumb the depths of the Gospel’s power, especially when it comes to the issues of race.
With Good Friday and Easter approaching, I wanted to focus on a pivotal portion of Scripture on this new community called the Church. Paul writes,
Remember, therefore, that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, who were called “uncircumcision” by those who were called “circumcision”, made in the flesh with hands, that you were at that time without Christ, estranged from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and no God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have become near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, having made both groups one and having broken down the dividing wall which separates them in his flesh, having abolished the law of the commandments with its decrees, in order that he might create the two into one new man in himself, making peace, and that he might reconcile both groups into one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility in him. And having come he preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those near, because through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but your are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s house, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom all the house, being fit together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom we also are being built together by the Spirit into a dwelling place for God (Eph. 2:11-22).
Consider quickly these things:
Gentiles like me were by and large cut off from the favorable activity of God. We were without Christ; without any association with Israel, God’s covenant people; without any covenantal grace; without any eschatalogical hope and, ultimately, without any relationship with God.
Christ, through his death, accomplished what was necessary to bring us near to his grace. The death of Christ abolished the law as a dividing wall separating Jew from Gentile, thus bringing believing Jews and Gentiles into one new man in him, called the Church.
Through his death, Christ also accomplishes the redemption necessary to reconcile this new body to God.
This peace with God and with each other, then, is preached to all Jews and Gentiles, since through Christ both Jews and Gentiles have access by the Spirit to the Father.
Thus, Gentiles are no longer strangers, but are also fellow citizens and house-members with the rest of the saints. They are a part of God’s big building project, as he builds a new temple for himself, with his saints as the bricks, the apostles and prophets as the foundation, and Christ as the cornerstone.
The work of Christ on the cross, then, forms the foundation for peace between man and God and man and man. Jew and Gentile are made one in Christ. I bring this up for a very important reason. The gap between Jew and Gentile is greater than the gap between black and white. The gap between God and man is infinitely greater than all other social gaps. And Christ came to the earth and accomplished his work perfectly so that those gaps would be erased in him.
So how do we solve the race issue? We don’t. Christ already did it all on the cross. What we need is to take the Gospel seriously. Walk in the victory that Christ already accomplished. The Church is evidence of the power of God to save all who believe. The Church must now join together, across racial, socio-economic, age, national, cultural, and all other boundaries to display the magnificent power of Jesus in our redemption. Perhaps then the nation would not look to a politician to fix the racial divide, but to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who will then answer, “It is finished.”