There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you."
Exodus 12:49 (ESV)
An overlooked component of the Exodus narrative (God personally delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt) is the fact that God did not deliver only ethnic Hebrews. "A mixed multitude also went up with them," is how the crowd is described (Exodus 12:38). It is interesting because as God was developing a community of people who would represent His ways, he purposely chose a multi-cultural expression. Fast forward to 30 AD, and God does a new work where he creates a new people for himself who are defined by the presence of His spirit. Interestingly, the book of Acts tells us that this is also a multicultural event (Acts 2). Looking into the future, we see that eternity is also marked by a people in the presence of God from every nation and ethnicity (Revelation 7:9).
It is clear in Scripture that God's work through Jesus was to first to reconcile the entire world to himself, not just certain ethnicities and nations (Colossians 1:20). The net effect of having all people reconciled to God is then to have all peoples reconciled to one another. A.W. Tozer stated that "100 pianos are easily tuned to one another if they are tuned with the same fork". The goal was never to have a certain favored race, but that all would be reconciled through Jesus.
Yet, Sunday remains the most segregated hour in America. Emerson and Smith, in their outstanding work, Divided by Faith, demonstrated that there are serious cultural, social, geographical and even theological expressions that keep self identified Christians of different ethnicities from being united. Interestingly, Jesus states that the unity of diverse groups of people will be the sign that we are of God (John 17:21-23).
I have found that although there have been significant movements of racial reconciliation within the evangelical Christian communities, particularly in the 1980's and 1990's, these movements have largely died out. The prominent movement today is nothing more than an awareness and appreciation for other cultures, but not a true reconciliation.
Specifically, I have found that there are two problems that the Christian community needs to address.
1. We desire relationship without reconciliation. Due to our overwhelming emphasis on individual accountability and relationships, we have a desire to enter into relationships based upon individual histories. This says that if I personally have not exploited or dehumanized another, then I am not responsible for the effects that people like me have exerted on others. Everything is "water under the bridge". However, you can not have reconciliation without forgiveness. Forgiveness requires an understanding of the wounds and pains that have been caused individually and systematically. A German in 1948 Europe can not develop a relationship with a Jewish person without understanding the experiences of the Jews under the German people, even if that person did not personally perpetuate it.
2. We desire a peace without justice. Peace that Jesus desires is not just the absence of conflict, but the promotion of health and wellness. Injustice that continues in the face is a lack of conflict is a fake peace, but not the shalom of God. A White man in the 1980's South African Apartheid can not develop a significant co-existance with Africans until the injustices of apartheid were dismantled. The same occurs today.
I am praying with Jesus in John 17, that God's plan of a multicultural expression of His love would happen in and through my congregation and in the region of Rochester, NY. It will require relationships based upon reconciliation, and peace with justice.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Tralor