- Culture & society
Today I watched a video of an elderly man getting attacked by a black man who was angry. Last month I watched a video of a white police office kneeling on the neck of a black man, suffocating him to death. Both images are burned in my mind and in my heart. They both make me angry and sad. And, there are hundreds more of these images to be viewed if so desired. The unrest of our civil culture is becoming a slow boil with potential massive changes coming. Some of those changes will be long overdue and good (true equality) while others, I fear, will have lasting destructive impact (disregard for the law as a binding equalizer).
I have been reflecting on Ephesians 2 almost daily these last few weeks. I have pondered the message from the New Testament and the people of God as I have observed what is happening in our modern-day American society. Paul, in talking about the ethnic division between Jew and Gentile, noted that the gospel kills the hostility between these 2 people groups and in its place, creates one people with true relational peace under Christ as head.
Ephesians 2:14 says, "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility."
I believe that the gospel changes the human heart and reorients a life to a new set of values when fully embraced. It is the gospel which destroys the barrier between God and me, and it is the gospel which destroys the hostility between myself and others. The challenge is when we associate culture to gospel and confuse the two. God is neither Republican nor Democrat. He is neither American nor some other nationality. God is not for one race over another. God is, however, gathering for himself a multi-ethnic people to enjoy and worship him for all eternity. And, he is gathering His people together on planet earth by way of the local church and calling them to live in peace with one another.
God calls His people to be a beautiful mosaic of color, class, and cultures living in real unity.
The local church must put on display this "killing of hostility" between people groups. The local church under the Lordship of Jesus must live out honest engagement with other people not like ourselves and tear down the hostility of misunderstanding and sinful ugliness. We must do this with determination, patience, and humility.
Here are three things you can do to engage and be proactive, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility.
First, pray and ask God to open your eyes to issues of color, class, and culture. Becoming aware of other people's perspective is so valuable. Ask God to make your understanding of other people's agony or frustrations deeper and more realistic. As a pastor, lead your church toward this kind of prayer peppered with humility, brokenness, and hunger for unity. As a multi-ethnic family through adoption for the last 22 years, I have grown increasingly sensitive to these issues by way of personal experience with my kids.
Second, seek out a relationship with someone of a different color, class, or culture and work at deepening that relationship. Invest in that relationship by spending time learning to listen and asking deeper questions. We will only tear down stereotypes when we have good relationships to challenge those false ideas. I made this commitment in 1996 at a Promise Keepers event to always reach out to another pastor of a different color and, by God's grace, I have been able to do that these last 24 years. I have much more to learn and can only do so when I am in genuine relationship.
Third, read widely on the topic of racial reconciliation and make sure that you are applying biblical gospel principles as you develop a Christian worldview. Don't only get your news from social media or even media outlets which often traffic in short sound bytes. Rather, dig deeper, read wider, and challenge your thinking to a more nuanced understanding of genuine issues. Resist simplistic answers recognizing that those can flow from ignorance, pride or even arrogance. I am often grieved by the rhetoric I observe on social media where good Christian people inflame hostility rather than abolish it by their posts.
The gospel kills hostility. Those who love the gospel carry the burdens of others. The gathering of God's people must be a safe place for genuine unity to be cultivated and ultimately enjoyed. May every Converge Great Lakes pastor and church engage with the gospel of peace and live out the unity Christ calls us to as we model for our culture true peace.
Ken Nabi, Regional President
Ken Nabi has served as the Regional President for Converge Great Lakes since 2016. He earned a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist before enjoying 21 years as a pastor at Community Church of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Ken is a strategic leader focusing on movements and reproducible systems. Community Church of Fond du Lac planted five churches during his tenure, and those churches helped plant seven more churches.Additional articles by Ken Nabi