Much of the teaching I see in books, articles and online sources on race and culture negate the finished work of Christ. Hopefully in this post I will be able to explain what I mean. I expect writings by non-Christians to either disregard or argue against the work of Christ but I still enjoy reading them for perspective. However, I expect a different tune from those who place their hope in Christ. As I mentioned in part 3, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ and now I intend to explain what that means. Early on in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn that mankind was created by God and was able to intimately commune with Him in all His perfection. Then mankind disobeyed God, which is treason by Heaven’s standards and brings the penalty of spiritual separation from God, called spiritual death. In kindness, so that mankind wouldn’t have to hopelessly wander the earth for eternity, and so that mankind understood what separation meant from God’s perspective, He then implemented physical death. But rather than leave it there, in hopeless despair, God gave His creation a future hope- He promised to redeem them back to Himself through a savior. Prior to Jesus walking this earth and giving His life, the Israelite people lived under many strict laws. These Laws were in place in order to show the people how far they had fallen away from God’s original design, the true North, if you will. It was understood by the entire community that they could not keep the 600+ Laws, but they were to constantly try in order to keep God's favor upon them. God also instituted sacrifices to ceremonially clean the people from their sin, an arrow pointing to the sacrifice Jesus would make. Their hope was in a future savior who would come and bring about a new Kingdom. They referred to this future savior as their Messiah.
The Perfect Ledger
Jesus then comes on the scene and says:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
Jesus lives the perfect life by keeping all 600+ laws and fulfilling all the prophecies about how the Messiah would come and what He would do. He was perfect. Then, though He was all perfection, He willingly gave Himself to die, to take the penalty for disobeying God, a thing He had never done. He was the perfect sacrifice because He knew God intimately like the original created man, making him the true image bearer of God. Adam (the first man) sinned while having full and intimate knowledge of God and since him all mankind has fallen short of the glory that God created them to be. This created a predicament because there was none capable of paying the price for what was lost. A perfect sacrifice was needed to pay the penalty, but all mankind was in need of spiritual resurrection. At any point during His death, Jesus could have stopped what was happening to Him as every angel in Heaven was at His beck and call, but instead He emptied and humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death. This one man went where we could not go and paid the price we could not pay. Why? Because Jesus is God’s perfect Son in whom God is well pleased and God's will for His children is to yearn for what He yearns. Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise, to redeem back God’s lost children and bring about his Kingdom on earth. For He (God) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (1 Colossians 1:13-14).
One of the newest items on my bucket list is to attend a naturalization oath ceremony. A friend of mine attended one at the federal courthouse and, after describing it to me, it immediately made the list. A naturalization oath ceremony is the event where a person born outside of the United States becomes a citizen of the country. As soon as the individuals who have worked hard to get to this point recite the U.S.Oath of Allegiance, they are then citizens of the United States. The people who go through the process are often very excited and filled with joy. From that point on they have every right that I, a natural-born citizen, have only short of becoming President or Vice President of the country. The new citizen can vote, get a passport, and stand on the rights every other citizen has within our country. If they don’t like something in their city, they can run for political offices and lead police departments. Sure, there may be some who still look at them as less-than-full Americans, but, according to the United States, they are equal and are free to walk around and take pride in their country. No matter what anyone says, they can stand on the truth of their citizenship and should not accept anything different. It would be an extreme injustice for a government official to deport a naturalized citizen for any reason. If this happened ,the naturalized citizen could seek justice against the official in a court of law and he/she would win and possibly leave with a settlement.
Through Jesus, we who place our hope in Him and pledge our allegiance to Him are citizens of the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. As citizens of the Kingdom, we have many privileges. Through Jesus, we have access to God, once more being able to have intimacy with Him like in the beginning. We are no longer bound by the 600+ laws that were impossible for us to fulfill. Through Jesus, we are able to fulfill them just like Him by simply humbling ourselves to His will and when we slip up His mercy is new each morning. No matter what anyone else may say or how much they bring up our past, we are able to stand on the finished work of Christ and trust He will avenge all injustices done to us. This is the reality where our hope rests. Through Jesus, we have peace with God. This is a peace unlike anything the world can promise; it is a peace that ensures us that nothing can separate us from God’s love so we never need to allow our hearts to be troubled or to be afraid (John 14:27 paraphrased).
Clean and Unclean
Within the old Laws there were many that stressed separation from outside influences. These laws mostly used the language of clean and unclean. I could go deeper into these various laws but, for the purpose of simplicity, it was God's way of protecting His people from influences that could easily deceive people who were spiritually dead.
Where am I going with this summary of Christian history? Through the blood of Jesus, we who place our hope in the finished work of Jesus are now of one body and one Spirit and called to one Hope (which is Jesus), one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6 paraphrased). That which used to be separate is now brought into unity. Jesus stated in His high priestly prayer, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and you in me that they may be perfected in unity and then the world would know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). It is in our unity that we are perfected and through the love we show, that is contrary to the world, people will know Jesus came from God and God loves us. In addition to being naturalized citizens of the Kingdom of God, we also went through an adoption ceremony and are now children of God which makes us not only citizens but royalty. Speaking on our adoption, one of Jesus' original disciples wrote, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called children of God and such we are and for this reason the world does not know us because they did not know Him (1 John 3:1). All people who claim the blood of Jesus are children of God! Do you get it? If God has adopted us as His children through Jesus, and we all claim the same blood, that makes us...family.
Early in church history there was an event that is recorded in Acts 10 where God is bringing the Apostle Peter up to speed on the fullness of what all was accomplished through Jesus' sacrifice. In those days, Jewish people did not associate with other people as they were seen as unclean. Separation was ingrained into their culture and religious practices. To get His point across, God put Peter into a trance and 3 times gave him a vision of a buffet of animals that were considered unclean by the old Laws standards. Each time, Peter refused, stating he had never “eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.” Then God spoke with a voice and said to Peter “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” God used this lesson to get Peter to go into a non-Jewish home and lead a whole family to Jesus which is something he never would have done. He realized that day that when Jesus said his last words from upon the cross, “It is finished”, the reason for the separation laws were fulfilled and all mankind was invited to be children of God or...family.
Landing the Plane
There have been many injustices and innocent bloodshed in our nation's past and probably every other nation’s past, for that matter. The law of the land is “Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21). And according to the Law, one may almost say,”all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). To all who are not in Christ, those rules still stand and various groups are lining up and demanding justice for generations of injustice. The sins of past generations are being unearthed and with each new sin payment is being demanded. In the Law, only one with authority could apply the Law to the people and enforce the Law. Also, the one who has been the most wronged by the injustice is the one to whom payment is due. God, as the creator of all, has the ultimate authority to say what is right and what is wrong and He, as the author of the highest moral code, is the one most offended by mankind’s injustices. All will stand judgement in the high court and justice will demand blood. This is right, the justice upon which our concept of justice, and injustice, is based. The good news is that payment has been paid in full. It is finished. The wages of sin, which is death, has been paid and the free gift of God, which is eternal life, has been granted, but only through Jesus who gave his perfect blood as payment. All who accept this gift and pledge their oath of allegiance to the Kingdom of God get the privileges of the kingdom which are redemption and the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, they are adopted as children and become one with one another.
I expect non-Christian teachings that do not claim the free gift of God to demand blood, but I expect something different from people who understand how much they have been forgiven. God's will is for all to take cover under the blood payment of Jesus Christ. It is also God's will for His children to yearn for what He yearns for which is to be drawn more and more into intimacy with God and unity with each other. Pride keeps people self-seeking and not concerned with the will of God. Pride leads people towards polarization, even within the church, and labeling brothers and sisters in Christ as “supremacists”, “oppressors”, and demanding blood that was already given. God does not see them as these labels just like He doesn't see people as oppressed or victims, but as royal children and blessed. “What God has made clean, do not call impure.” THUS SAYS THE LORD!
Yet God does see the injustices done even amongst brothers and sisters and the next 2 posts will be on how the body of Christ is instructed to deal with things that don't line up with the kingdom.