Part Two: Introduction: God’s Word: The Power of the Gospel
Natasha to Trillia: Piper begins this introduction with a lessons learned, “If you wait until all your shortcomings are remedied, your dreams will die. All your advances are with a limp (109).” As I read and reflect almost daily, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the injustices of this world and feeling so small to have any lasting impact for real change. Most people are therefore paralyzed to doing nothing. They simply ignore the problems and pretend as if they don’t exist. But not you. Why do you press forward towards racial reconciliation in spite of your shortcomings? Concerning racial reconciliation, what dreams do have for our lifetime and that of your children?
You hit on something that I struggle with personally almost daily. The injustice in this world overwhelms me. Pain and suffering is extremely difficult for me to accept. I am limited in every-single way! Homelessness, starvation, orphans, and disability are all issues that weigh on my heart. Add racial reconciliation (complete and total) and it can all seem hopeless. But it isn’t.
I am limited in time, wisdom, and energy but can make a difference in my small sphere and in my community. God hasn’t called me to try to save the world or to change hearts. Only he has the power to do that. But, I can be faithful to what he has called me to: serving my family, serving my community, serving my church, and writing.
So why do I press forward towards racial reconciliation in spite of my shortcoming? Because I believe it is important to God. Diversity was God’s idea. Modern language calls it diversity but we see it in the Trinity, in the various tribes and tongues He created, and we see it through our varying gifts.
Reconciliation was also God’s idea. We, Christians, were enemies of God and were reconciled by the death of Jesus (Rom 5:10-11). We have been reconciled to God and have been given the ministry of reconciliation, that is the privilege to share the Gospel so that others might know the ultimate reconciliation that comes only through Christ (2 Cor 5:18-21). And if reconciled with Christ, how much more should we be reconciled with each other.
I press forward because the Word tells us that we should love one another. I am convinced that racial reconciliation isn’t just some modern idea, but rather the heart of God. That’s why I press forward. And God has given me a very specific way to contribute to this cause. The demands of this season do not allow for much more. I am thankful to write about race and ethnicity from my Christian worldview.
As far as my hope for the future and for our children, I will save those thoughts for a later day. I hope to write about it soon. But for now I will say that I hope that our children won’t need to be concerned with racial reconciliation. I realize that is idealistic but if you ask me “What is my dream,” that would be it. I dream of our children worshiping together and enjoying the gift of being reconciled first to God and then to each other.
Trillia to Natasha: In this section Dr. Piper begins to write about salvation and the implications of justification on race and ethnicity. How do you think justification affects racial reconciliation (or perhaps how should it)?
Fundamentally, like I mentioned on last week’s post, I believe the fact that we are all created in God’s image should affect how we deal with each other. Most of the time when racism is a work, we are not seeing people as image bearers of God. We actually make them enemies. We dehumanize them, and turn unique individuals into a group of “they.” It’s hard a love a group of they who are our enemies, and is much easier to connect with friends and neighbors as we.
When we talk about justification, what we are essentially talking about is the condition of being made right before God the Father on the account of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. In other words, we accept God’s grace with the knowledge that we are sinners and nothing that we have done has earned us salvation. Having this understanding should place Christians in a position of humility when dealing with each other and grace when dealing with those who have not yet acknowledged a relationship with Christ.
Oftentimes when people talk about salvation in the Western context, we talk about what we get out of the deal. We get a personal relationship with Christ…We get saved from hell…We get to go to Heaven, etc. These biblical truths are all results of the saving grace of Christ. (Dr. Piper refers to this teaching as irresistible grace, page 166.)
But I think we need more conversations and a better understanding concerning the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart of those who belong to Christ, and the enabling grace received as a result of that power. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke a mighty promise and blessing over the people when he said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promises is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord God will call (Acts 2:38-39 [NIV]). The Holy Spirit within us enables or gives us the ability to live in a manner pleasing to God.
Titus 2:11-14 reads: For the grace of God that brings salvation [saving grace of Christ] has appeared to all men. It teaches us [enabling grace] to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Dr. Piper builds the entire thesis of the book on Eph 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” As sinners, all of us were separated from God. Christ brings us near to God and each other (2 Cor. 5:14-20).
So the short answer to your question is: Justification affects racial reconciliation because it is the only way that we can truly be connected to God. Only through the connection of Jesus, are we able to overcome sin and extend the same grace to others that we ourselves have received. This is the miraculous work of the cross, this is the hope we have in the gospel, this is what changes our hearts, and this is what changes our relationships. Christ’s love compels us!
So what do you think? Are you still dreaming? Reconciling? Have you lost hope?
We are discussing Chapters 7-10 next week.
© Trillia Newbell and Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012 #RacialRec