a CHALLENGE to the CHURCH of America, in light of all that Ferguson has exposed in us

photo by Vanherdehaage

According to Paul in 2nd Corinthians, reconciliation may be what the Gospel looks like when it is alive and well among us. With all that Ferguson and other race actions and reactions of recent days have exposed in us, it is time for the church to embody the Gospel to become the picture of reconciliation.

Followers of Jesus should lead out to shape the culture of our country and the future of America, not through legislation or judgments or sweeping change, necessarily. But through relationships full of gospel and grace and love and forgiveness and confession and restoration alive. This is resurrection among us. Friendship is required.

And the new movie SELMA may give us a very unique but timely opportunity.

Regardless of what critics say of either Martin Luther King, JR or of the new movie SELMA, he and the movie offer an engaging chance for us to converse together and confess to one another and call out to Jesus to help us embody the gospel of reconciliation.

What I am about to challenge you to do is not for an opportunity to draw attention to yourself. It’s not for show. It is not another story for the newspaper or the local news. It is not intended to become an event for your church family or your ministry group. It is intended to be about loving first like Jesus loved us first, initiating a new friendship with someone not like you or deepening an existing one.

HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: on the weekend of the Martin Luther King, JR holiday (January 16th-19th), invite someone whose skin color is different than yours to go see the movie SELMA. Then, afterward:

  • go have a meal or a coffee together
  • converse about what challenged you and disturbed you about the movie
  • dream about what “on earth as it is in heaven” might look like for local churches and your local community and then cultivate for it together
  • pray for Jesus’ help and for reconciliation, for gospel and grace alive in daily rhythms and everyday relationships
  • commit to continuing your friendship, not for show, but for love’s sake and to sharpen one another and in hopes of making Jesus known.

And take this challenge just for the JOY of it. Because we were made to love one another like Jesus loves us.

So, why this challenge?

Following the brutal beat-down of the first attempted march their in Selma, Martin Luther King, Jr. called people to come to Selma and stand with them for the second march. He asked blacks and whites and all colors to come. And people came. Why? Because it was the dignified and humane thing to do, he said.

Humanity is plagued with inhumanity. Humans are consistent at only one thing – being inhumane, falling short of what God intended us to know and make known. It is why we are so desperate for the Gospel. It is why we needed Jesus to come and die and rise again.

The current events regarding racial relations in our country demonstrate the continuing struggle with our being inhumane. Whether it is those few white cops who abuse their positions of power in contrast to the many who faithfully serve and sacrificially protect, or those few black reactionaries who promote violent retaliation in contrast to the many who call for peace and reconciliation.

But what is most inhumane is not as obvious to us. We are not as aware of the subtly inhumane way we relate with one another, or better said, don’t relate with one another. But the events of Ferguson and the many reactions that followed painfully and sorrowfully make us aware.

The subtle inhumanity to which I am referring is the inhumanity of those who call themselves “the church” who are content to preserve their existing relationships and maintain their preferred activities that they call “church,” rather than taking the initiative to become a friend to those not like them and learn Jesus together and be the family of God that the death and resurrection of our Messiah redeemed us to be. The subtle inhumanity to which I am referring is the inhumanity of those who declare themselves followers of Jesus and yet do not make disciples the way that He did. Instead, they are complacent to know more about God through something they have labeled as discipleship rather than learning God through disciple-making as learners who take initiative to become a loving friend and learn Jesus in cross-reconciled, gracious community.

This happens in friendships with those not exactly alike and includes even mentoring gun-yielding boys toward becoming God-fearing men. Nothing is more inhumane than the absence of fatherly figures loving and mentoring fatherless boys. More than a service project, it requires close, consistent relationship.

Yes – there are those who are going close enough and consistently enough to provide family-like friendship and life-transforming disciple-making. But I contend that it is the exception and not the norm.

And thus the reason for this challenge.

And here is my prayer – Lord Jesus, we need You. Strengthen us to have hearts surrendered. Give us wisdom for action. Expose our blindness. Help us in our unbelief. And may Your goodness be believed as enough to reconcile us from the lack of goodness among us into being family united in your grace and gospel and goodness and love. May we be restored by and grateful for your grace, and may we then be compelled to show it to one another.

May it be so.

Here is the trailer for the movie SELMA. I saw it Saturday night, the 10th. It was opening weekend. I was one of four people in the theater.

photo at the top by Vanherdehaage

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