Recently I called two friends who pastor in NYC: one in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the other in the Bronx. My questions are about the spiritual climate in NYC in light of the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case.
My phone call itself is telling. It assumes that I need to get a feel for the tension that is “out there,” somewhere in those mysterious places like the left coast. Like Cair Paravel of Narnia, these are places so far removed from my daily life that their machinations can only be conjured up in my mind via mediated images. After all, race tensions are “out there.” Yet just as easily I could have called a friend across the hall from my office. The race problem is not outside, it’s inside. This supposed distance is exacerbated by the fact that many white pastors have not experienced racial tension first hand.
So pastor, we must discuss this. The question is, how. A leader is one who defines a situation. So, here is an idea for pastors who are charged with defining this situation: identify the reality of God’s singular multi-ethnic race. Initially, God created all of humanity as one race as Eve is the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). Christ re-created a new spiritual race in the church. An interracial church is not a church composed of many ethnicities. Spiritually speaking, an “interracial church” is oxymoronic. The church is one race (1 Peter 2:9), and in the end this is the one race that matters. There is one race that God privileges and that is those who are born into God’s Kingdom. God’s ultimate objective is to glorify Himself by bringing people into this race. This is a spiritual race that is made up of every ethnicity.
A deeper problem is spiritually interracial churches, meaning a “church” where believers and unbelievers coexist apparently as one body. As much as we follow the scriptural mandates to protect the church with the Word of God and church discipline, this is something that Jesus predicted would happen in, for example, His parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30). Weeds exist wherever there is wheat, and that at least means in a local organized church.
What is the remedy to this problem? The parable answers this for us: let both grow to harvest time. This does not move us to accept an unregenerate church member or prohibit us from evangelizing; it is rather a telling and prophetic theme of God’s mercy. God will ultimately judge all evil, and until He does, we should press on with our work and remain focused, because while judgment looms He is still, if I could press the parable, turning weeds into wheat. He is expanding the spiritual kingdom.
This is a merciful God indeed. This shockingly gracious treatment of those who are not of our spiritual race becomes our template for others of a different physical race. If God takes those of a different spiritual race and mercifully and patiently works with them, can’t we do the same? Shouldn’t a white pastor try to build bridges with his African American brothers? Shouldn’t African American pastors try to protect their people from incendiary rhetoric? If God shows mercy to those who are His enemies, certainly we must build bridges with those who represent the future, multi-ethnic, singular race of God.
We actively seek to bring all ethnicities into one spiritual race, because that is what God is doing. In the meantime we seek both mercy and justice for all because that is exactly what God has extended to us. Mercy and justice should exude out of us, because it’s not yet harvest time.