In the aftermath of this most recent series of tragic shootings — Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas — the spiritual disarray of our nation is manifest in how we tend immediately to cluster into two groups. One identifies with anger at injustice and the other identifies with the need for order and calls urgently for unity.
The unity our nation needs — and we do desperately need it — is not a “group hug” unity, and it is not that kind of unity with a Jesus shine put on it.
The message is not “Jesus could help us to like each other better,” although that would be a downstream consequence. The message we rather need to hear, and which the church needs to declare, is that “Jesus forgives our sins.”
Before we can have — black or white — unity in Christ the risen, we must have unity in Christ the crucified. But this means unity in sin. This is not going to happen unless we repent of our own sins. We need to repent of our white sins and repent of our black sins. To whatever extent you identify with any group, you must identify also with the sins of that group. This is not to the exclusion of identifying with their virtues or strengths, their culture or heritage. It is simply a shared gospel identification, and not a carnal identification.
We must find common ground in Adam. We must find common ground in our shared iniquity. That is the only way out. When we recognize that we are all one great mess in Adam, then we can by the grace of God shake hands in the second Adam — and only there.
The only true victim in all of this is Jesus Christ, and every color of fist drove the nails in. Let me be specific. What did Jesus die for?
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, ESV).
I am marking that last phrase — hated by others, and hating one another. That is what we are doing, right this minute. When sinners fight with other sinners, the problem is never one of finding a plausible target. The problem with the spirit of accusation is that it is diabolical and destructive, not that it is inaccurate. The flaming darts of the evil one frequently find a suitable target. But there is a difference between the condemnation offered by the devil and the spirit of conviction offered by the Spirit of God. They both strike at the darling sin, but one with a cudgel and the other with a surgeon’s scalpel.
So when it comes to race relations in America, absolutely no one has a right to a high horse.
There are many examples, but let me simply juxtapose just two. The iniquitous Middle Passage was the death of at least 2 million kidnapped Africans, and the ungodly enslavement of millions of others. The image of God in these slaves was rebelliously denied and arrogantly insulted by an ostensibly Christian civilization. We are still at it. Since Roe v. Wade around 57 million American children have been executed. Many of them had their bodies taken off to market and sold for parts. Over 15 million of them were black children — black children have been disproportionately targeted by this vicious business from the very beginning of it.
Not only so, but they were abandoned by their fathers, killed by their mothers, and sold by the ever-enterprising whites. Nothing has changed except the scale, which has gone up. In Africa, blacks sold blacks to whites, who knew how to make a profit off that kind of thing. We are doing the same thing now — blacks selling blacks to whites, who compensate for their massive guilt by making sure to buy fair trade coffee.
So back to black and white. To compare ourselves to the “other group” as though abominations were graded on a curve is like guards at Buchenwald sneering at the guards at Auschwitz for their manifest moral inferiority. Was not their slaughter count much higher?
The only thing we should do with our sins is mourn for them, repent of them. We do not get to compare them to the sins of the “others” as a means of justifying ourselves. The only justification of ourselves that any of us could possibly receive is the free grace that is offered through Jesus Christ — free grace to the undeserving.
In the meantime — of course — individual crimes and abuses of power must be handled with all the biblical principles of justice kept in mind. They must never be taken as a flash point excuse for hating another group. If a white man hates blacks because some good cops were randomly gunned down by a black man, he is simply demonstrating his need for a Savior. If a black man hates all whites because a bad cop abused his power and killed a black man, then he is simply demonstrating his deep unity with the white hater — their shared legacy in Adam. But it is not a unity to be proud of. It just demonstrates a shared need for the Savior of all mankind.
In short, there will never be unity in the crown without unity in the cross. We all need it, and no one needs it “less” than that other despised group does.
Lord willing, next week I hope to write on the neglected tribal aspect of all of this.