I used to think us unique. We had slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement – a spirituality formed in the crucible of suffering. A certain arrogance or belief in superiority can come from a history of exploitation. We could read the bible from the right perspective because the bible was made for people like us, the oppressed. Alabama and my own sin worked together to shrink my perspective. I began to see the whole of Christianity through the lens of the seemingly endless saga surrounding blacks and whites in the South.
The first cracks in that armor came when I moved to the northeast and met Korean Christians. I was a man full grown when I began to ponder the complicated history of Korea, Japan, and China. Later I met African Christians and listened to the story of how tribalism formed a core part of their story. Walking the streets of Jerusalem amongst the Jews, Christians, and Muslims reminded me that the struggles of Alabama are not unique. We are all, the whole world round, divided and torn apart by strife and sin. That is why the various forms of black nationalism that attempt to construct a worldview in response to struggles of Selma, Birmingham or Ferguson are ultimately caught up in the same trap they are trying to escape. Their story is too small.
The Christian has been baptized into a larger story. It is story of the God who loves and seeks all his wayward children. The gospel is the message that God himself came to reclaim us through the reconciling life, death, and resurrection of his Son. I am so convinced of the power of the blood of Jesus that I chuckle at those who try to tell me that the Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, or Jewish believer is anything other than my brother or sister. This family, as broken as it can be at times, is by God’s grace the hope of the world. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Today I stood on the remains of the steps that once led up to the temple. Israel’s Messiah walked those steps in the days before his death. It felt so particular and for that reason universal. His love stretched from his people and city to the world. Could this be a model for us? A love that begins at home and stretches to the end of the earth? A larger story that encompasses all times and peoples? Later they took us to rooftops of Jerusalem. From there we could see Golgotha. It shone even in the darkness that pressed in upon it as the night drew on. I told my son about that view and he asked me, “dad is the cross still there?” No son the cross is long gone. Jesus has won the great victory and the created a family whose weeping will one day know an end. Until then we live in hope. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in the Messiah Jesus our Lord.