Same Team --
This summer we'll be doing a mid-week series at Bethany called "Meet the P.R.E.S.S." - It's acronym for five topics around which we will dialog: Personhood - Racism - Environment - Social Divisions - Sexuality. In each case the idea will be to caste the vision of what is supposed to be true for those who are in Christ - then to consider the realities in that realm - and finally have a panel based conversation with an eye towards taking steps to move closer to God's ethic.
The Racism topic is occupying me this days, in part because I'm reading a book loaned to me by a new friend for whom this subject is very important. It's called Reconciliation Blues, and I'd recommend it for any white person seeking to understand what it's like to grow up as an evangelical AND a minority. It, along with conversations with a few people, is helping shed light on this issue, and though I'm slow to understand, some of the clouds are certainly beginning to part.
Yesterday my friend and I had a discussion about this and I said, "why is it that sports teams, at least on the court, don't seem to have any of the race issues that plague the church?" He pointed out that, for those two hours, everyone has the same uniform and the same objectives. Thus the distinctions of privilege and oppression are set aside as the only thing that matters becomes getting the ball through the hoop, or across the goal line, or the runner home.
It seems that this too is the calling of the church, and yet somehow we miss it. The church, like a team, is also called to 'put on' new clothing by virtue of her calling. Of course, nobody disputes this, but perhaps the reality is that we're not quite wearing the same uniform yet. We've reduced our notions of Christian maturity to being nice people who don't commit adultery, get drunk, or cheat on their taxes. But perhaps the clothing of Christ is more profound then that; perhaps it includes working towards reconciliation with those who are different than us; perhaps it includes letting go of our previous ambitions towards upwards mobility, instead favoring a pursuit of a world that looks as it will when Jesus reigns - a world where everyone has enough, and children are no longer being sold into slavery or co-opted into tribal wars - a world where those with means are utterly devoted to the empowerment of those on the margins, that they might have enough to live with hope and dignity.
A commitment to this kind of world brings previous strangers together because this kind of world is neither white nor black, but the creation of a whole new thing. Rather than white evangelicals saying, "of course we're not racist - anyone is perfectly free to come be a part of our white world", there would be a commitment, on both sides of the racial divide, to the creation of something completely new, something that draws on the rich heritages of all parties to create a foretaste of Christ reign. After all, the picture we use all the time to describe the future is that of nations streaming together, joining hands in peace because they are collectively submitting to the reign of a new King.
It's this commitment to making Christ's reign visible that becomes, to use the sports analogy, our common cause. If the commitment is high enough, we'll set aside our differences, no longer caring who carries the ball, as long as we're moving forward, as long as mercy, justice, reconciliation, and peace, are moving out from our life together into our hurting world. That's a team worth playing for - a uniform worth wearing.