me a story, if you will. Many years ago, in this class, I delivered a lesson
which included within it my observations on racial prejudice. I am proud to
say that my class paid excellent attention that day, because many of them came
up afterwards and explained to me (vigorously) that there was no racial
prejudice in this church. In short words they told me that I didn’t know what
I was talking about.
after all the white folks left, one minority member of the class came up. He
explained to me that I had no idea how bad things were. I had barely
scratched the surface, in his view. He then told me that I didn’t know what I
was talking about.
next week I began the lesson by summarizing these two views and announcing
that, unfortunately, the only thing held in Christian unity was the fact that I
didn’t know what I was talking about. So if I seem to be approaching the topic
more forcefully than you think required, remember I want to know what I’m
me to introduce to you three ideas, brought forward by that most radical of
thinkers, one Jesus of Nazareth. While all of these ideas are found in the Old
Testament, they are most clearly taught by Jesus directly.
Concept: the Fatherhood of God
introduced us to the idea that God is our Father – remember the first two words
of the Lord’s Prayer? So?
means that He has authority over us by the nature of His responsibility
for us. He is our creator. We are obliged to obey His physical laws; we
should also obey His moral precepts.
is fitting, He disciplines us. He sends adversity or discontent to bring
His church to where she should be.
also implies, as is stated quite clearly, that He loves us. Indeed, He
loves us to the point of sending the Son to die on the Cross.
Concept: the brotherhood of man
we are His children, we are then to be known as brothers and sisters. Some
history has divorced the civil rights movement of the 1960’s from the
church – but that’s not what happened. The Reverend Martin Luther
King appealed to the white church on the basis of the brotherhood. The
white church resisted his political appeals, but could not resist his
appeal to the Scripture for this.
idea – that the church is one – is scriptural, and is one which is part of
the very heart of God: the unity of the church. He prayed
that we all might be one.
idea resounds in our nation’s heritage: “that all men are created
equal.” The great experiment, the democratic nation, was laid on the
foundation of the Word of God.
Concept: the imitation of Christ
all lives lived, the greatest is that of Christ – the sinless man. He is the
one man who can safely lift up his own example; even Paul said “follow me, as
I follow Christ.”
We are taught that Christ gave his life as a ransom for many, indeed for
“whosoever will.” We are told to preach this to the nations.
lies a paradox. When the chance arises, dozens of people in this church will
jump at the opportunity to spend several thousand dollars for the privilege of
two weeks in a slum in Kenya, just to spread the Gospel. But when we seem to
be invaded by Mexicans, our reaction is? It sure isn’t hospitality!
– why do we build them? Why do we habitually surround ourselves with barriers
of our own making?
build them to keep out the strange, the alien, the unknown. We are
comfortable where we are in an uncomfortable world.
build them to keep out the dangerous – physically or otherwise. This
isn’t always guaranteed to work, but we try.
build them to keep out the different. We do not wish to be disturbed by
disturbing people or ideas
we can see this in a different way: just what kind of fences do we build?
fences, obviously. See the US-Mexican border for an example.
fences, too. Those who don’t dress right, who are too old, too young, too
fat can be kept out by social fences.
are walls in our minds, too. Things we don’t want to talk about; people
we don’t want to talk to.
I suggest to you that your service to Christ will call you to break down those
walls? There are those who will steal from you; consider it a sacrifice for
Christ if you are doing His will. They will change us, somehow; perhaps God
wants us to change. In all these things there is fear; but remember that
perfect love casts out fear. Is He perfecting your love?
down the walls
we really required to break down our social and mental walls? Here’s what the
Bible gives us as an example:
Jas 2:1-13 NIV Favoritism
brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show
favoritism. (2) Suppose a man comes into your
meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes
also comes in. (3) If you show special
attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for
you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on
the floor by my feet," (4) have you not
discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (5) Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen
those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit
the kingdom he promised those who love him? (6)
But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are
they not the ones who are dragging you into court? (7)
Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you
belong? (8) If you really keep the royal law
found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. (9) But if you show favoritism, you sin and are
convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (10) For
whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of
breaking all of it. (11) For he who said,
"Do not commit adultery,"
also said, "Do not murder."
If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a
lawbreaker. (12) Speak and act as those who
are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, (13)
because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been
merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
this happen in the church today? Probably not. But the principle remains the
same: no favoritism, the doors open to all. We give gifts to the poor; but we
can’t stand their presence???
is this done? By individuals. Church programs to break down walls rarely
work, because they are top down. Individual programs do work – because they
start with the Christians closest to the problem. An excellent example is found
in our Celebrate Recovery program.
The church leadership didn’t start it – though they blessed it when Sandi Mason
another example? I give you the one and only Loud Larry.
He was welcomed not by the church – he specializes in not fitting in – but by a
is this all necessary for the church? Why don’t we just let those who care to
participate do so, and the rest of us be comfortable as is? Consider:
we break down these barriers, we speak with one voice to the world – no
matter who in the world it is.
appeal to everyone, not just more sheep like us. Middle class is not a
prerequisite for church membership.
church is called in her material, physical view to the world to portray
the kingdom of God. In that kingdom, neither slave nor free, male nor
this is the imitation of Christ. He has broken down the wall of hostility
between us and God the Father by His sacrifice on the Cross. We can at least
imitate Him by breaking down the walls that divide His children.