How to Achieve Racial Harmony

Leaders of Living Hope Baptist, Faith Presbyterian, and Iranian Church

Leaders of Living Hope Baptist, Faith Presbyterian, and Iranian Church

Just over six years ago, Americans elected our first African American president, Barack Obama. My hope was that this would be a watershed event, an opportunity for racial healing and greater harmony between Americans of different economic classes, races, genders, sexual preferences, and ages. Unfortunately, these hopes have not been realized. Indeed, there is a pervasive feeling among people that instead of uniting Americans, our current administration has divided Americans along these lines. The man who campaigned on hope and change has governed as Al Sharpton.

Let me cite two examples, lifted from recent news accounts. The first is the President’s decision to suspend portions of immigration law which require deportation of certain immigrants who entered this country illegally, effectively providing amnesty for some five million people. Immigrants who played by the rules and processes are naturally outraged. So are many Americans who believe that our porous southern border should be strengthened before a naturalization process be initiated, especially a process solely put into place by the President. Many people are furious that the President would unilaterally change the law and perceive his actions as unlawful and unconstitutional. The President’s actions have had the effect of dividing Americans, especially between Latinos and whites.

The other event is the unrest along racial lines stemming from the tragic incident in Ferguson, MO. There, an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer in a confrontation. A grand jury reviewed the circumstances of the shooting and found no probable cause existed to bring any criminal charges against the police officer, Darren Wilson. The grand jury’s verdict caused outrage among many – especially in the black community – and riots have destroyed much of the community of Ferguson and protests have occurred elsewhere. Many people consider the Obama Administration’s actions to have exacerbated the tensions between blacks and whites and have fanned the flames of resentment and perceived injustice.

Now, in the light of this environment of division, let me tell you about an extraordinary worship service held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at my church, Faith Presbyterian Church of Aurora, Colorado. First, a little background: Some thirty-five years ago Faith Church was a mega-church, a packed and happening place, located on a cusp of rapid growth in the Denver metro area. Today, however – due primarily to growth patterns, demographic and cultural changes – Faith Church has a much smaller congregation. As a result, the church campus is too large for the church body. The church leadership wisely chose to share this overcapacity with other Christian churches, some who pay rent, and some who cannot. Today, there are six congregations who worship at our facility: There is Living Hope Baptist – a vibrant black church, Naya Life, a congregation comprised of recent immigrants (mostly new converts)from Bhutan and Nepal, the only Iranian church in Colorado, and two Hispanic churches, one largely of former Mexicans and another whose congregants are mostly from South America. Faith Church is an older, predominantly white congregation, the kind of church derided by many non-Christians as intolerant and bigoted. Nothing could be further from the truth. The leaders of the six churches decided to hold a single service on that Sunday before Thanksgiving. It was amazing! When I looked into the eyes of my black, Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic brothers and sisters, I saw only love. There was no resentment or envy; there was pure joy in the Lord. The service was a glimpse of heaven, where every tribe and every nation will be represented at the feast. My friends, it will be glorious and we can capture glory in the world today, when we step out in faith and love one another, irrespective of our faith and clan.

Praise Singing (courtesy of Paul Erdman).

Praise Singing (courtesy of Paul Erdman).

Racial harmony will be fully realized only in the next life. However, we can pray for an awakening in this country and throughout the world. God can heal the divisions between us, and believers are truly brothers and sisters in the Lord. I have more in common with my poor Bhutanese or Iranian brother in Christ than I do with my rich next-door neighbor who does not place his trust in Jesus. I saw a concrete example of the family of God last week; believe me, you will be amazed, too.

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