JoshRossFrom the ages 8-12, I lived in a small town in East Texas called Crockett. It was named after Davy Crockett, because apparently when he was on his way to fight in the Alamo, he stopped there to get a drink of water or something like that.

It was my dad’s first preaching job, and our Sunday mornings looked like this; my mom would pile her 3 kids in our maroon Astro van. Then, we would begin our shuttle service around the town. We would pick up kids who were black, brown, white, rich, poor, and everything in between. It was back when you didn’t have to wear seatbelts in the back seat, so we would cram into the van and drive to church. Once we got to the building, I witnessed a church that faithfully loved up on every child who came.

At the time, I didn’t realize how this Sunday morning shuttle service, and the hospitality of the Grace Street Church was teaching and shaping my heart for God’s Kingdom. It was in Crockett that I declared Jesus as the Lord of my life through confession and baptism, and it was in Crockett that God began orienting my life for a calling so much bigger than anything I could have ever imagined.

***

If racial tension were a beach, a red flag would wave today signifying high surf and strong currents. Every camp has its extremists, yet what you hear are most minorities screaming for help and to be heard, and most whites who don’t really know how to respond, which means they either shrink into a shell, or stand still unsure of what to do or what to say about the current social climate.

When people ask me, “What do you think of this #blacklivesmatter stuff?” My immediate response is, “Do black lives matter to God?” Because if we answer that with a yes (which any follower of Jesus should), then we must wrestle with what it means to pursue whatever needs to be done to restore dignity, beauty, and reconciliation.

Here are 4 points to consider as we partner with God to live into His dreams for His world.

Embrace the Gift of God’s Colorful World

A dear friend, Don, challenged me a few years ago that one of the primary goals of racial reconciliation is not to be colorblind, but to embrace humanity as colorful. Being colorblind is helpful; I just don’t think it is realistic. To be colorful means that each tribe, nation, peoples, and language has a history with stories that have shaped their existence. Revelation 7:9-10 doesn’t describe heaven as a place where all redeemed bodies are reshaped into one skin tone, but rather that God’s creativity still shines through. If read right, heaven isn’t where ethnicities go to die, but where they go to be fully redeemed. The cross is where racism, elitism, and every unhealthy form of privilege went to die. And the resurrection is where the church was launched to set in motion God’s ultimate plan to bring together everything that has been divided.

Live to Shrink the Gap

The word “intercession” has become one of my favorite words; in fact, I’m currently preaching a 10-week series called Intercession at Sycamore View. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” He could have just said to offer up prayers for everyone, but he didn’t. Intercession is a way to pray, and it is also a way to live. At the heart of intercession is to “create a meeting” or to “shrink the gap.” Isn’t this what we ask for when we pray for others? We are asking for a meeting to be created between God and a person. We plead with God to shrink the distance between a divided, confused heart, and to mesh it with His.

To live as intercessors also means that we stand in the gap. Wherever forms of injustice, blight, confusion, depression, or the loss of dignity exist, intercession calls us to step into those places—not as those who fix the problem—but as those who listen for ways God is redeeming hurting hearts and communities. To intercede is to get involved with the work of God, and the work of God is messy.

Tolerance Isn’t the Goal; Reconciliation Is

The more I study the life and teachings of Jesus, the more I see that His desire for humanity is not tolerance and cordiality, but reconciliation. Paul didn’t invite Jews, Gentiles, rich, and poor to shake hands in the marketplace, but rather to join together in a common community and mission for the sake of the gospel. And they believed it. Scales fell from eyes, privileges were laid down, and Jesus-followers learned to listen and respect each other as they worked in and for the Kingdom. When we fail to passionately pursue Jesus’ desire for diverse communities, we fail to properly embrace “let your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” Tolerance is easy, yet leads to entitlement and apathy. Reconciliation is hard, yet it leads to life.

Redeemed Tables

Nearly every time when I hear people say, “I’m not a racist, but…,” the next few words reveal a racist heart. On a few other occasions, I’ve heard people begin by stating that they’re not a racist, and then they proceed to name all 4 of their black coworkers and friends. Pursuing the heart of God begins by acknowledging the pieces of my heart that are not of God. They must be rebuked so that the fullness of God can be embraced. Racism, elitism, and entitlement will have no place in heaven, and they shouldn’t have a place in a redeemed person’s heart either.

One challenge I give our church is to take time to eat a meal with someone from another race or economic bracket. Reconciliation happens best when feet are placed under the same table. Tables are more than the place where food is eaten; it is where stories are shared. In 2015, one of the greatest redemptive acts for my white sisters and brothers might just be to sit at a table with a person of color, and to ask them to tell you stories of their lives, challenges, experiences, and difficulties. And when they pause after a story is told, respond by saying nothing more than, “Tell me more.” Shared stories teach us to love and respect all of humanity, and asking people to share their story is one of the most effective ways of letting people know that their lives matter.

***

Let’s pursue and cultivate our eternal reality now.

Let’s embrace our eternal future as a life to be lived right now.

Let’s be guilty of loving relentlessly and spreading grace liberally.

Let’s pursue the other—whoever “the other” might be—as image-bearers of God.