“That they may be one.”
Those are some of Jesus’ final words. In John’s gospel, he had just finished giving them a new commandment to love one another. He had told them he is the way, truth, life, the true vine. He promised the Holy Spirit, said he would leave them with peace, and said their joy would be full. He also said that the world would hate them, they would get kicked out of synagogues, and will weep, lament, and have deep sorrow and tribulation. And, then he prayed. He lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed. He prayed to the Father about the time that had come. Then starting in verse 20, he prays for us – those of us who will believe in him through their [the disciples’] word.
“that they may all be one…that they may be one even as we are one” (verse 21, 22).
It’s really easy to pray that prayer of unity if you are a white evangelical Christian. It’s easy to pray “How good and pleasant it is when we dwell in unity” like the Psalmist said. I know, friends. I am one. And, those prayers are good and ‘amen!’. But, it hasn’t been until the past 20 years that I’ve seen why Jesus’ final prayer for us is a prayer of TRUE unity, not cheap unity just for those of us who experience unity and peace easier than others. I used to think that prayer was one simply of “let’s just all love one another and be kind. We just need to be kind and have more love.” If you can say “amen” to that within 5 seconds, then stay with me. Jesus’ prayer for unity is inclusive to all he was about to die for., including those who cannot say that within 5 seconds. He was about to dismantle walls of hostility.
Ephesians 2 talks about the cross dismantling the dividing walls of hostility and HE HIMSELF IS OUR PEACE. Why did the cross need to do that? Why couldn’t the cross simply usher in love and kindness and peace? It certainly did all of that, but it did more. It brought down walls of hostility. Why? Because there are walls of hostility up.
****How do we know we need to take a harder look at walls of hostility?
If you bristle at the word ‘privilege’ and you can easily say ‘I’m not a racist’, this post might be for you. If you are not saying, “I am an anti-racist”, this post might be for you. If you don’t see the difference, this post is for you. There is a difference. It’s much easier to say we aren’t racists. That doesn’t take much work to say and then we feel good about it. But, being an anti-racist means we have to take a harder look at walls of hostility that we haven’t seen before. And, then to do something about them once we see them.
Please stay with me on this friends. I know that some of you are frustrated at me right now. Stick with me a bit longer. Many of us in the white evangelical spaces hear the word ‘privilege’ and think, “But, I’ve worked very hard to get where I am. Things have not been handed to me on a silver-platter. I am not privileged”. And, I have worked hard and many of you have too. That’s not what privilege is about, though. The real understanding of privilege doesn’t discount our own experiences. It does, however, acknowledge the fact that opportunities and resources, historical and present-day, have not been and still are not equal. There is a history to be reckoned with.
So, stay with me. Because once we acknowledge, it gives us the opportunity to do something:
For the white evangelical church, those walls of hostility have been slowly built over decades of oppression. Some of the building-of-walls happened overtly and is easy to call out. But, a lot of it has happened covertly and is hard to call out and easy to be “normalized”. Go read Dr. Jemar Tisby’s work The Color of Compromise on the church’s complicity in racism in America. Go read his next book on “How to be an anti-racist”. Get in a “Be the Bridge” group and listen, white church. Truly listen. Those systems have built the “good old days” for a privileged few that so many of you are still yearning for. For those of us in the privileged few, if we do not see those systems are still ever present here, there’s Cross-honoring work to do.
Unconscious, blatant, jokes with your buddies about the China-flu, complicit silence, blame-shifting the pandemic to immigrants, blame-shifting to BLM rallies, and leadership verbiage are building blocks the keep those systems in place. I have the data showing that the pandemic in the US is not being driven by immigrants or BLM rallies and have shared that in the past months. But, those jokes are still being told in faith circles or talked about as truth. What is driving it? Walls of hostility of nationalistic allegiances, not masking in the name of “faith over fear”, unequal access to healthcare and poverty, and unconscious disunity of systems that many in white evangelical spaces are even unaware of. These walls affect certain groups in unequal fashion. It’s time to be aware of it, friends.
Why? Because it’s cross-honoring work. It ushers in heaven on earth, can I get an amen!
Jesus ushered in a true form of peace because, like Ephesians 2 said and what he told his disciples in his final thoughts, He Himself is our Peace. True peace, not cheap peace. Being for peace without standing against these forms of non-peace is cheap. It may be a privileged and feel-good peace for a few, but not an equal peace for all.
Real peace opens up good ole days for everyone’s future, not simply a privileged few’s past.
Dismantling walls of hostility is hard work and might require you to change friends and communities. It will definitely require humble soul searching and empathetic listening, especially if you are white. I’ve included some incredible resources at the end of this post as a start. But it is necessary and good. It opens up what was brought near by the blood of Christ for all. It says “yes and amen” to the Ephesians verse – what was broken down in his flesh – the dividing wall of hostility – for he himself is our peace.
So, on this Good Friday we remember the glorious Cross. We remember that the ground at the Cross is now level and we have been brought near by the blood of Christ – all of us. In our moment of the here-and-not-yet, let’s remember that we pray that on the level ground of the Cross with all our brothers and sisters. And, also do the work of dismantling walls of hostility that do not agree with the Cross’ work.
The dismantling that happened on Good Friday came in a messy, loud, heart-breaking, dark way on the way to Golgatha and on the Cross. But, it was powerful enough to rip through curtains, shake the earth, and level the ground. It was powerful enough to bring forth true peace for all. Yes, he is our Peace. But, it is a peace that has to be lived into as ambassadors through work and allegiance to the priestly King that ushers in Peace.
Real peace, not cheap. Real unity.
***I’ve included some resources below and other posts I’ve done on this topic below.***
Here are some of the best resources to dismantle walls of hostility in our churches:
My other writings on this topic:
-The March 4th post on blame shifting to immigrants:https://tinyurl.com/8e29x97x–
The Capitol Riot post: The Capitol Riots and the thread – https://tinyurl.com/y6y3oxr7
-The solidarity post with our Asian-American neighbors: https://tinyurl.com/uwm9txp6