In a current cultural climate fraught with racial tension and division, BIC pastor Kurt Willems shares his insights and experience reaching across the divide to bring his community closer together.
At Pangea, we strive to be “a church that follows in the way of Jesus, to inspire others in the way of love.” Our vision is to be a church that embodies a better way of living in the world, one informed by the reconciliation of God to humanity in Christ (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5). In any context, this is a challenge. We all have blind spots. Seeing others the way God sees them is often blurred by our life experiences, especially when the person comes from a different cultural or socioeconomic reality.As followers of Jesus, one of the prophetic callings of our day is to listen afresh to the cries of the oppressed and suffering.
As followers of Jesus, one of the prophetic callings of our day is to listen afresh to the cries of the oppressed and suffering. As we know from the Exodus account, God hears the cry of the disadvantaged (e.g., Exodus 3:7), and so must we. The black community represents one such group in our society; they echo these cries of old—their community is in pain.
When the stories of black Christians bear out this reality from a vantage point different from white Christians, we who are privileged in society are invited to listen, learn, pray, and advocate. This is what we are doing at Pangea in our Villages (home groups) this summer: We are engaging with material from The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
As peacemakers, the first two things we can do to partner in God’s ministry of reconciliation are to see the struggles of others and to immerse ourselves into their stories. Out of these two postures emerges the opportunity to contend with them to seek greater human flourishing. After all, if we claim to be “a church that follows in the way of Jesus,” then we must be compelled to model a better way forward beyond political polarities.
We follow a marginalized Messiah, who was crucified by the privilege of an empire, and yet was vindicated as our resurrected King.
Jesus certainly believes in the value of all lives. Unfortunately, in our day, it is black lives that are often ignored by the system at large. So the #BlackLivesMatter movement helps remind us that their cries, although heard by God, haven’t typically been heard by white folks in this country: even those of us white folks who follow Christ! Now is our opportunity to reverse this trend by choosing to learn from our black sisters and brothers.
Adapted from “Bridge Builders: BIC pastors crossing racial divides” for BIC U.S.’ August 2016 Connect newsletter.