“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.” Ephesians 2:14-16 //
This morning our lead pastor Carl Gulley wrapped up our series, All Peoples. In this series, we have been taking a look at racial reconciliation with a biblical perspective and dialoguing about what that looks like in the church and beyond. Last week, we talked about the race continuum – from active racist, to passive, to beginner reconciler and finally, ambassador.
BELIEVERS CAN’T AFFORD TO BE PASSIVE.
We are called to be ambassadors. When we, as the Church, take up that call, we can be the healing balm our world needs.
Today, we took a look at the dual narrative dynamic and what it means to be bridge builders. Racial reconciliation conversations can feel difficult because there are always two sides to every story. Our story makes sense to us because of our background and life experiences. It’s easier to just stay with our people and be comfortable with our story. We won’t find unity until we are willing to go over the barriers and seek to understand the other side of the story.
Much like our society today, the early Church experienced division between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews typically stayed on their side of the wall, referred to the Gentiles as the unclean and the foreigners.
This began to change in Acts 10, which we read together this morning. In this passage, the Lord tells Peter to go with the Gentiles. As he does, he realizes that God has no partiality, but all are invited in.
RECONCILIATION RESULTS IN A MOVE OF GOD.
In Acts 10:44-48, the Holy Spirit falls on all who were gathered. The Gentiles finally have an invitation to meet God, and they are later baptized. Revival is still possible today, but it starts with us getting outside of our four walls and becoming bridge builders. We don’t want to just stay with our people or make everyone become just like us, we want to celebrate all people.
FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF A BRIDGE BUILDER –
- Intentionally build relationships across cultural lines // It starts with reaching across the barriers and genuinely building relationships with people who may not share your story.
- Good Listeners // Actually listen with compassion, and don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Ask yourself if you’re just listening to the statement, or if you’re listening to the pain below the statement.
- Seek to learn and understand // It is on all of us to take ownership of this topic. Take time to learn and educate yourself before engaging in the conversation.
- Not offended easily // Racial reconciliation is not for the faint of heart. It can get messy and it won’t always be easy, but it is what we are called to.
RECONCILIATION IS NOT A TREND, IT COST JESUS HIS LIFE.
Choosing to go against racial and social injustices may not always going to win you the approval of others. Even Peter received backlash from the other disciples when he chose to engage with the Gentiles. Choosing to go against society may not be the popular choice, but it is the way of the Kingdom.
James 1:19 says, “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It seems our culture has completely flipped James 1:19. We can’t let culture dictate our perspective, we need the Word of God to be our lens.
JESUS BROKE DOWN THE WALL OF HOSTILITY.
Ultimately, we all belonged on the other side of the wall, separated from Jesus. Our sin made us unclean, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, the wall is broken down and we are invited in.
Now, we have the opportunity to model what Jesus did. We can break down the walls and instead, be bridge builders.
IN RESPONSE //
Throughout our series, we recited this prayer together. Let this continue to be our declaration as we seek to bring reconciliation and make unity a reality –
“Lord, I know every person is an image bearer of the God I worship. Therefore, please empower me to joyfully extend my love to every person regardless of color, culture, gender or ethnicity.
Whether in my home, my school, my community or my church, I need your help, God, to promote a culture that values and celebrates diversity.
And by Your grace, Jesus, I will follow Your lead and dedicate myself to a lifestyle of honor, radical love, humility and action!
In Jesus’ name, Amen!”
Adapted from Willow Creek Community Church