Can Your Church See People of All Ethnicities as People Who Need Jesus?
When we reach out to people who are entirely different, our churches grow and we fulfill the meaning of the verses in Acts chapter 17. | by Dr. Alveda C. King
No matter what denomination or tribe we belong to, as Christians, we all have the ministry of reconciliation. And, we know that without Christ there is no reconciliation. Paul taught it this way, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
No matter what ethnicity or background we belong to, as Christians, we all have the same opportunity and responsibility to exercise the ministry of reconciliation. How did God reconcile us to him? Through love. He loved us enough to give us his Son, Jesus. How do we exercise the ministry of reconciliation? When we reach out to people who are different from ourselves and share the love of Jesus.
I am a preacher’s kid. Daddy was the pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Louisville. He was killed the year after his brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. I lived in a house that was bombed. My grandmother was shot. I was swept up in the fight for equal opportunity for all people—the Youth Brigade, marches on city hall, sit-ins, getting arrested. But as I fought for something that was so right, I crossed onto a very dangerous path by embracing hatred rather than the love my dad and uncle taught me.
On the night when we got the news that Uncle ML was killed, I told my daddy through angry tears that I hated white people. He wouldn’t accept my bitter diatribe. Wrapping his arms around me in our kitchen, Daddy whispered, “White people didn’t kill your Uncle ML. White people live with us, pray with us, march with us, and die with us. White people didn’t kill my brother. The devil did.”
That just wasn’t enough for me. Sometime later, I remember sitting in a dorm room with two of my best friends, one black and one white. I got frustrated with my white friend, Susan, and yelled something like “Shut up! What do you know about it? You’re white, you’re privileged, and you just don’t care. I hate white people!” I can still see Susan’s face today, flushed and marred by tears. It was the first time I’d let my anger and bitterness erupt. I was hurting, too, but I think I broke her heart. We never spoke again. Our friendship was over. The next semester, I was assigned to my own room. In solitude, I stewed in my bitter juices.
I went on a long and painful journey before I completely embraced the truth of Daddy’s words. Once I was truly born again in Christ, I gained a new and repentant heart. I asked God to forgive me for what I had said to Susan and I pray that Susan has forgiven me for those hurtful words. She was such a lovely soul.
How do you love someone as angry as I once was? How do you love a person of another ethnicity? A racist is a person who believes their “category” of humanity is superior. I believed all white people were bad, so what was I? Realize when you meet someone who is not like you, or someone who is angry at people like you, you’re at the start of a very long road for the person to be reconciled to Christ and have his or her heart healed. Your responsibility as a minister of reconciliation is to love, listen, share the love of Christ, and never stop.
It was the love of my daddy, and ultimately of my heavenly Father, that carried me out of my hatred. That message of eternal love and forgiveness reverberates in my heart today. Many years have passed, many hurts and hearts have been healed.
To me, it’s abundantly clear today that we are all responsible for the ministry of reconciliation. Of all people, we as Christians are equipped to overcome evil with good. One of Daddy’s and Uncle ML’s favorite scriptures to quote is that we are one blood, and one human race. Yes, we have different ethnicities. We are not colorblind. We can see, and that is for the purpose of appreciating each other. I am convinced that God intends for us to use multiethnic friendships as shining examples of the truth of Acts 17:26-28:
“From one blood God made all people, [so] that they should inhabit the whole earth; and God marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek God and perhaps reach out for God and find God, though God is not far from any one of us. ‘For in God we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are God’s offspring.”
My Uncle ML is famously quoted as saying, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” My message is that we must live together as brothers and sisters, or we’ll perish together as fools. Nowhere is this more possible to fulfill than among Christians in our churches. So let’s do it. CGM