Each week, I want to share something I appreciate about my community of faith, the Belton Church of Christ located in Belton, TX. Each week, I will highlight one “bright spot” in my congregation.
I love my church because of the grace I witness.
A couple of weeks ago, I concluded preaching through a series over the parables of Jesus. The final parable was the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10. (I will confess that I selected this parable to conclude the series because there were many difficult parables that we tackled, and I wanted one that was “easier” to interpret and understand.) As I approached this parable, through prayer and study it became clear that the radical call from Christ to my congregation is to acknowledge the fence that separates one from another, the barrier of racism. The call of Jesus is to understand the division and tear that fence so we can truly be a neighbor to one another. The crucifixion of Jesus declares the love of Jesus for all humanity. When Jesus was crucified, Pilate ordered Jesus’ crime for which he was executed to be displayed on his cross in 3 languages, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Any person from any race or language in Jerusalem could read and understand the claim that Jesus was “The King of the Jews.” The Cross itself crossed racial, political and language barriers. The Cross is a fence torn down.
After preaching, I had several conversations with African-Americans from my congregation. These men and women approached me after service and called or emailed me throughout the week. The men and women I encountered were older than me. Most were in their 50’s and 60’s with one person being in the 70’s. These were people who experienced racial divisions and Jim Crow. One recounted how her mother was asked to not attend a church in her small home town because it would seem “unseemly” for a black woman to attend and commune with white people. The people I talked to appreciated the words and the acknowledgement of racial division. To me, the Civil Rights movement is pre-history. I see black and white TV and read accounts of this like I do World War II documentaries or old photos of Lou Gherig and Mickey Mantle. But my brothers and sisters lived this struggle and have personally suffered. They have known (and still know) the fear of walking into a church building unsure if they will be accepted because of the color of their skin.
Here’s the amazing thing to me: Not any of the men and women to whom I spoke were angry. Instead, to an individual, I heard nothing but gratitude and grace. These men and women serve as amazing examples of how Jesus forgives. I am deeply humbled by their witness and testimony.
I love my church because of the grace and forgiveness I see in our midst. We are not perfect, but we are being perfected through God’s Spirit and God’s Word. I believe that when we do the hard work of tearing down fences, we will be surprised when we find the pieces of the fence can be built into bridges of grace and healing.