That we might be brought to complete unity
By Jeff Broadnax, Regional Director — East U.S.
Picture 1,000 dimes ordered neatly on a table. See yourself lifting the last dime from the bottom right hand corner. Hold it between your thumb and index finger. Look at it against the backdrop of the other 999 dimes arrayed on the table as you consider this finding of the Human Genome Project:
“All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup.”[i]
Science has proven that only one tenth of one percent of our genetic make-up accounts for every difference we see among human beings (things like eye color, height, susceptibility to disease and skin color). Why then do humans choose to divide, devalue, and destroy each other over a dime’s worth of difference?
The apostle Paul pierced the understanding of the thought leaders in Athens by teaching them about the God who, “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth…so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27, NRSV). Through their own poets, he taught these learned people that in God, humans “live and move and have our being” because we are “his offspring.”
As Christians, we accept that all humanity came from one ancestor. We were created by God as one human family, yet with differences we should appreciate and be fascinated by. However, our regular human pattern is to seek racial and cultural superiority over each other. In America, it shows up in black and white racial tension, but Pastor John Perkins offers this insight in his book titled, One Blood:
“The truth is that there is no black race – and there is no white race. So, the idea of ‘racial reconciliation’ is a false idea. It’s a lie. It implies that there is more than one race. This is absolutely false. God created only one race – the human race.” (p.17)
Wow! That initially raises some hairs on the back of my neck. But then the Holy Spirit tells me to not miss the profound truth to this. Absolutely, God does want us to recognize that there are differences among us as human beings. He created us in diversity because of his love for us—after all, everything he does is in love. To not recognize that truth is to deny his supernatural design. He simply wants us to appreciate and keep our diversity within the context of our greater unity.
Our world has neither learned nor embraced our God-ordained oneness. For millennia we have divided, enslaved, brutalized, oppressed, marginalized and dehumanized each other. America today has come face-to-face with centuries of individualized, localized, and systemic mistreatment of people of color.
The problem started in the Garden of Eden with the first brothers and has continued to this very day. This is why Jesus came in the flesh, and through his shed blood redeemed and reconciled humanity’s brokenness, animosity and enmity with God and each other. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul addresses the “us-vs-them” divisions when he writes,
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph 2:14-16)
The problem of healing broken human relationships is and always has been beyond our capacity. As Perkins added,
“The problem of reconciliation in our country and in our church is much too big to be wrestled to the ground by plans that begin in the minds of men. This is a God-sized problem. It is one that only the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit can heal. It requires the quality of love that only our Savior can provide. And it requires us to make some uncomfortable confessions.”
Repentance and forgiveness are critical to healing deep wounds of racial and societal brokenness. Whether overt or covert, intentional or accidental, active or passive, we each must confess and seek forgiveness for our role in the sin of human separation.
On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus prayed that we “may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23b).
Are we showing the world that Jesus has come as Savior to reconcile all things?
As we navigate the racial and social divisions that seem to infest our culture and our collective journey, may we not simply seek racial reconciliation or even social reconciliation. Let us seek what Perkins called “biblical reconciliation.” He defined it as “the removal of tension between parties and the restoration of loving relationship” (p. 17).
Jesus called it being “One” as he and the Father are one. He made it possible through his shed blood, which is a whole lot more than a dime’s worth of difference.