Helping or Hindering? A Look at Race, Gender and Class
At the core of the Christian faith is the notion of reconciliation. God created the earth and its inhabitants according to his plan for them. The original humans subverted God’s plan causing a rift between God and humanity. However, God created a way for the relationship to be reconciled through the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about their responsibility to
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to
himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling
the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the
message of reconciliation” (English Standard Version 2 Corinthians 5.17-19).
The church is the collective group of ministers of reconciliation to the world. The goal of the church is to be the center of reconciliation for those who do not have a proper relationship with God. Author of Dynamic Diversity: The New Humanity Church for Today and Tomorrow, Bruce Milne suggests that, “all Christian congregations, everywhere, are called to be just that – bridging-places, centres of reconciliation, where all the major diversities which separate human beings are overcome through the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit” (16). In order to truly be a center of reconciliation, the church must be adamant about its role in leading people to become a part of God’s family and by proxy a member of the Christian community. Each believer has a special role in the process.
There are many ways in which followers of Christ can engage their local congregation in bridging the gap between God and the people they encounter. Primarily the church needs to understand that they are, “...called today to intentionally develop local churches in which the primary human polarities are transcended in a supernatural ‘life together’ in Jesus Christ”(16). Christ must be at the center of the motivation for reconciliation. We do a disservice to the cause of the church when we put programs and the pursuit of making our communities diverse when living for Christ is not the goal. It is Christ who supernaturally allows us to come together as one body of believers moving towards the same goal. We must find our satisfaction in the term, “in Him”. Paul wrote about being complete in Him in the letter to the church at Colossae. He shares the truth that “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2.9-10)
Likewise, we greatly hinder our congregation’s ability to be a center of reconciliation by not allowing Christ to be at the center of our efforts. “Lift high the cross!’ we cry, and rightly so. And here is how to do it: build congregations of reconciliation” (Milne 66). Milne points out that the lifting of the cross is imperative in the building of our congregations. Being a community of reconciliation and one that proclaims the truth of the gospel message found in the imagery of the Cross are deeply intertwined. Far too often the world that God is reconciling to Himself can attest to the church’s stance on the various sins that they feel keep them from entering into a relationship with their Creator.
Essential to my journey of being a proponent of advocating the local church as centers of reconciliation; was developing a theology of our “new humanity”. 2 Corinthians 5.17 declares that believers are new creatures. In our newness of life, we have been baptized into His death (Romans 6.4), and have become part of a new family. Although on the exterior we see that we are different, this should not be a hangup for reconciliation. Members of the church need to be able to look past any distinction that divides us from who we are being formed into through Christ, as well as from fellowship with our new family. Milne adds, “All the redeemed, whether Jew or Gentile in their pre-Christian lives, come to God, and are established as his children, by their faith in the cross-work of Christ, and by that alone” (35). This new outlook requires believers to view the world of human interactions and relationships in a fresh new way. The apostle Paul wrote extensively to the early church about how the newness of life should bring about devotion in the way we are to view people who are different. The church today can learn quite a deal from the early challenges of Christianity when the Old Testament and New Testament worlds seemed to collide.
“...calling of every local church, everywhere, if it is to be faithful to its New Testament roots, is, among other things, to be a community of reconciliation in which all the primary divisions and polarities of its surrounding culture are confronted and ﬁnd resolution under the gracious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ” (26), says Milne. We cannot forget that the church is consistently being challenged with the ills of this broken world. In its broken state creation will never be perfected, so believers must work towards the goal found in God’s will. It was evident with the Church in Corinth, and it continues to this day. “The divisions in Corinth were proverbial, and hence a timely reminder that the new humanity is always an enterprise ‘in progress’ on this side of the return of Christ” (42). It is the ‘in progress’, that only can be found ‘in Christ’, that informs our methods of reconciliation. The church is to be conduits of God’s character to the world, drawing men into His redemptive plan. We have much work to do, yet the work is well worth it.
English Standard Version Bible. Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.
Milne, Bruce. Dynamic Diversity: Bridging Class, Age, Race, and Gender in the Church. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2007. Print.