This is a beautiful vision and yet a difficult vision. And it is only possible by the love of God that is far beyond our own human limits, capacities and understanding. For the whole gist of the Christian story is this relentless, merciful, abundant love of God from the beginning to the end. John F. Alexander, author of Being Church, says, "The point isn't that (we’re) supposed to love God. Nor is it that (we’re) supposed to love others. The point is that God loves (us)." And in the midst of this reality, there is only abundance, never scarcity.
And yet in the paradox of the kingdom, there is this invitation to receive this abundant, extravagant love as well as the invitation to die, to pick up our cross daily and to lose our lives so that we may find a whole new kind of life together.
"By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything..Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free [I would add black or white, Muslim or Christian, liberal or conservative, documented or undocumented] —are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive." [I Corinthians 12:13 The Message]
And so as we talk about this vision of the kingdom and this revolutionary new community, we must be grounded in this extravagant love of God so that we can then count the cost. To follow Jesus into a way of life that is contrary to everything we know. Where our individualistic gospel is transformed into a communal gospel. This upside down kingdom where the last are first and the least are the greatest. Where we leave behind our individual rights, freedoms and comforts to be a part of a new abundant community. This must be our starting place.
This last weekend, Sarah Bailey and Cecelia Romero-Likes facilitated a conversation around race. And I loved how Sarah talked about a theology of abundance as our context for this conversation. For there is more than enough for everyone. We don’t have to defend or fight, compete or hoard. Instead, we can live generously knowing that there is no end to God’s love, favor and provision for us. And in this knowledge, we can then lay down our need to be right, our own fragility, our discomfort, and our shame. And we can listen and learn. We can repent and we can mourn. We can speak up when necessary and we can be silent to let others speak.
Below is a list of resources for you to explore, and I sincerely hope that you will do so. This is a challenging conversation and I commend you all. Be gentle with yourselves and with each other. Breathe. Listen well. Enter the discomfort and don’t expect others to do the heavy lifting for you. If something offends you, breathe again. Listen. Reflect. And consider what the log is in your own eye [Matthew 7:3]. What is it that you need to defend? Can you lay it down in light of God's extravagant mercy and grace? There is much to learn and there are many stories to attend to. But I believe that it is vital as we say yes to participating in God’s abundant and diverse community.
May you experience the profound love, grace and mercy of God as you open your hearts to “the other.”
Resources About Race & White Supremacy
MUST LISTEN TO EPISODES
“Charlottesville and White People” -It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders
'We're Not Them' Condemning Charlottesville And Condoning White Resentment - Code Switch
NPR’s Code Switch
About Race (no longer airing, but a great roundtable format with lots of back episodes)
Pod Save the People
Hidden Brain (about sociology not race specifically, but good episodes on the sociology and psychology of race in America)
PODCASTS by People of Color Primarily for People of Color
See Something Say Something
White Supremacy Culture
For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies
Racial Identity Models
Why I Stopped Talking About Racial Reconciliation And Started Talking About White Supremacy
White Privilege:Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack
by Jessica Ketola