The apostle Paul writing about relationships between the Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians 2 has this to say:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (v14)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (v14-16, 19-22 edited)
To believe the gospel is not simply to give mental assent to some rational truths that you agree with (it is certainly not less than this). To believe the gospel is to hear the word of declaration of the arrival of God’s King and his means of salvation and to join your life with His Story. It is the Great Story whose aim is the glory of God and whose plot is the restoration of true humanity.
When the gospel is at work among his people in South Africa we ought to see the church, in part and yet in significant ways, overcoming these issues. We ought to see churches bringing people of different races, cultures and socio-economic classes together in the gospel.
The desire of our nation, reflected in the talk of our politicians and thought leaders is for meaningful racial reconciliation. But for all that talk we have made little progress. We may work in the same buildings, ride the same trains or even attend the same churches but at the end of the day we go home to our own communities, by and large populated by “people like us”.
We may exchange small talk and pleasantries or even engage in rigorous professional or academic debate but what do we say when our guard is down and there are only people like us left? I am frequently shocked by other white people “taking me into their confidence” with the assumption that I too am like them and will concur with their frustrations and prejudices.
What of the church? If there is any place that racial reconciliation ought to be succeeding it is in the church. The gospel gives me reason to lay down my privilege, my grudges, my cultural distinctives, my personal preferences, my history and together stand at the foot of the cross amazed at the grace of Jesus. Jesus, who though he was so very different from us, became like us, in order to redeem us.
Jesus who died for us so that we might live, be forgiven and adopted into his family. Jesus whose resurrection life has broken out into the world breaking down the dividing wall of hostility (through his own body) and creating in himself one new man, thus bringing about the shalom (peace) of God. That would surely look and be good news to our divided and broken nation.
In Revelation 7:9-10 the Kingdom of God in it’s fullness is revealed as a heaving multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural people. And this united, restored humanity is directly linked to the gospel (v10).
“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
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