“That They May Be One” – The Metanarrative of Race and The Church

Over the past several weeks, America and the western world have been embroiled in the latest of a series of protests, growing far beyond the original events that sparked it; namely, the murder of George Floyd. These protests have evolved rapidly. What started as a cry for justice quickly became a call for police reform, police defunding and abolishment. Then came the tearing down statues, the creation and subsequent dismantling of an autonomous zone in Seattle, and perhaps, the long-foreseen renaming of the Washington Redskins. Beneath these various manifestations, racial tension and a cry for justice remain the cardinal issues. As Christians, we have a unique calling and destiny, and it is much broader in scope than renaming a football team.

Martin Luther King Jr., quoting 19th-century minister Theodore Parker, said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” King was orienting his movement within a metanarrative, one of the common brotherhood of man beneath the lordship of the God who created all men equal. He hearkened towards a future where the evils of institutional racism would be no more. However, in recent years, critical race theory has promulgated the idea that racism is an inevitable and unpurgeable characteristic of western culture, deviating dramatically from the “colourblind humanism” that King espoused. In our contemporary context, we must continue to orient ourselves within the correct metanarrative if we are to have a meaningful impact. 

Increasing Conflict

In Matthew 24:7, speaking of the signs of his return and the end of the age, Jesus says:

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

The word used in this verse for “nation” is “ethnos” (Strong’s G1484), which is also the root of our English word ethnicity. This verse speaks not only of political conflict but also of racial and ethnic strife. The conflict and tension that we see manifesting itself in America and the western world is not just the byproduct of political and social substructures but is also a sign of the end of the age. It’s part of the package that comes with living in the generation of the Lord’s return. Things are going to get worse, not better. We may see some reprieves, but as we continue to accelerate towards the return of Christ, the various calamities and conflicts, or “birth pangs,” will increase in frequency and intensity.

We would be wise to ask ourselves, what is the role of the Church in this hour of human history?

1 Peter 2:9 reads: 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The word for “nation” in this verse is the same as in Matthew 24. The Church is treated as a unique and separate ethnic entity. The word for Church in Greek is “ekklesia” (G1577), “the called-out ones.” God has called us out of every nation, tribe and tongue to be his special possession. In our own way, each of us must deny our previous identities and take on our new primary identity as sons and daughters. Galatians 3:28 says that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is not to say that we completely ignore our natural identifiers, but our identity as lovers of Jesus must take precedence over our ethnic, social, and gender identities and whatever form of status or victimhood (which are becoming increasingly conflated) that they infer. 

The clarion call and grand purpose of the Church are clear. The Church must be God’s demonstrated solution on the earth to racial conflict: “that they may all be one.” To what purpose? “so that the world may know that you sent me.”

That the World May Know

In John 17, Jesus makes his High Priestly Prayer and says:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

The clarion call and grand purpose of the Church are clear. The Church must be God’s demonstrated solution on the earth to racial conflict: “that they may all be one.” To what purpose? “so that the world may know that you sent me.” 

The world is looking for answers. The cry on the street is “no justice, no peace,” but there is no peace without the Prince of Peace, and there is no justice without the coming of his kingdom. As of right now, King Jesus is not on the earth, and he has no body on the planet but his Church. We are the representative of Christ on the earth. As the body of Christ on the earth, it is our divine mission to manifest who he is here and now. We represent the King, and when the King comes, he brings his kingdom. With his kingdom comes everything that humanity longs for:  justice, peace, righteousness and prosperity.

The Soon-coming King

Worship leader, Sean Feucht, recently had his Instagram and Twitter posts censored because he was posting videos of Christians worshiping and praising God at the place where George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. We must be cautious in which narrative we are believing. Media and Big Tech push violence and chaos, while the thing that God is doing gets censored. The ruler of this age doesn’t want to see the church step into her destiny. We could have been living at any other time in human history, but we live now. God created and intended us for this hour, and each of us has a role to play as we manifest the kingdom of God in our spheres of influence and prepare the world for the coming of the one true King.

Jesus shed his blood for the whole world, which makes him worthy to rule the entire world. In Revelation 5:9-10, the elders cast their crowns before the lamb who had been slain.

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

There will be judgement, good or bad, for every individual on planet earth, but often overlooked is the fact that Jesus Christ will also judge the nations, that is, the political and ethnic bodies of the world. Matthew 25:32 says that “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:” Jesus is the one that will bring true justice, and, what’s more, it is the Ekklesia, the called-out ones, that will govern with him. 

The lamb must receive the reward of his suffering, and that is the rulership and willing allegiance of every nation, tribe and tongue on planet earth. Those who are loyal to him in this present age will rule with him in the age to come. It is the believers who will help to bring the nations of the earth under his perfect lordship. Why not start now? The arc of the moral universe does indeed bend towards justice, and the arc of history bends towards the revelation of the son of God as the rightful ruler of the world. It is an inevitable event and the climax of history. This fact must inform our thinking and actions in the world as we represent the soon coming King and prepare to reign with him.

Background Painting on Cover: The Great Day of His Wrath, John Martin