Dream of Destiny encourages the intentional fostering of ethnic diversity by Christian leaders both in our churches and other organizations as well as in our own personal lives. For leaders to truly be successful in this regard – going beyond surface acquaintances and into real, deep relationship – we must be willing to have hard conversations.
In today’s post, Matt McGue, founding pastor of ONE Church in Ridgeland, MS asks some poignant questions about peace and race relations.
So where is this elusive “peace on earth” that the angel promised at the birth announcement of our savior, Jesus? Our present world is far from peace, even though we have a longing for such anxiety-free living. That longing gives a hope for a peace-filled eternity in heaven, but while we wait, a contrast of chaos grows.
Over the past 21 months, our country has experienced 15 high-profile cases that have revealed the deaths of unarmed African-American men and women by police. The unhealed wounds are reopened, creating a national uprising and unrest that is deeply connected to historic and systemic prejudices. A collective voice echoes in the streets of our nation: “No justice, no peace!”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. Be the peace you wish to see in the world.”
Can there be a peaceful society void of injustices this side of heaven? I believe we should hope and pursue such a beloved community.
And then just when we felt we were making progress toward peace, our worst nightmare woke us up on that dreadful Wednesday night in Charleston, South Carolina. At Emanuel AME Church, nine Christians attending a Bible study were slaughtered by one self-proclaimed racist.
A church. A place of peace forever scarred by evil violence motivated by hatred.
Within 14 days of the Charleston massacre, seven African-American churches were burned, inflaming the racial tension.
So when the ugliness of injustice burns our bridges toward peace, what do we do, especially as people of faith? I believe Jesus said it best when he called us peacemakers: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We are his tangible, active agents of his peace.
While vacationing in Charleston just a week after the massacre, I woke up to the news about another church burning in South Carolina. After reading about the story and praying for them, I felt compelled to get in my car and drive to the scene an hour and a half away. My brother-in-law joined me for the journey early that morning. We arrived upon a crime scene with yellow police tape surrounding the smoldering church remains. Over the next two hours we became peacemakers. We
spoke and prayed with many of the parishioners along with the pastor and his family. We shed tears together over their loss and quickly became friends of faith for life. Amid the ashes, there was a supernatural calming that everything was going to be all right — truly a peace that passes all understanding.
Jesus said in the gospel of John, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So the world’s peace is different from God’s peace. Those who follow Jesus carry a supernatural peace through the Holy Spirit, no matter the circumstances and chaos.
When the world around us is falling apart, an opportunity is created for the church to rise up as peacemakers and unite. Unity, oneness and peace is infectious and irresistible. Unexpected and unlikely harmony is one of the most intriguing and attractive agents of the gospel of Jesus.
In fact, when enemies unite and become allies, the entire world notices. King Solomon said, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
While in Charleston a few weeks ago, I attended a unity service rallying black and white Christians to come together for peace, prayer and communion. During the service they had a few white pastors wash the feet of a few black pastors as a beautiful symbol of peace. After the service a white man came up to the front and asked the pastor if he could wash the feet of a black man. He explained that his ancestors were slave owners and he grew up in a family that taught prejudice and bigotry. The pastor then spoke to a black man, explaining the unusual request from this stranger. Both of them removed their shoes and washed each other’s feet. Tears were shed. Forgiveness was granted. Peace between enemies was birthed. Something beautifully redeeming took place. A supernatural worship experience between two souls collided, making an eternal difference.
Chris Rice, a former Jacksonian, author and peacemaker wrote, “God is not going to use the church to heal the race problem, he’s going to use the race problem to heal the church.”
This article is reprinted with permission.
About Matt McGue
Matt is the founding pastor of ONE Church, in Ridgeland, MS. He experienced the forgiveness and grace of God when he was in high school and it was just a few months later when he dedicated his life to pastoring and preaching. He and his wife Sara have been married for 28 years and have two sons, Mike and Ben.