segregation alive and well

i wonder if all of my friends are friends because we have things in common?

over the last several months i’ve been involved with a sunday evening college/20 something’s group.  i’ve been traveling a lot as of late for photography so i haven’t been there as much as i would like, but i’ve committed myself to this community of people and i’m excited about what’s to come.  in september we will begin to meet on thursday nights.  i will be a co-leader / teacher which i’m ecstatic about.  i wish i could explain how excited i am to discuss scripture again in this type of setting.  teaching has been a creative element in my life that i’ve missed dearly.

as usual, we met yesterday, but we didn’t look at scripture and talk. i didn’t get to play devil’s advocate like i usually do, which i love.  it’s always good to make people, myself included, think more deeply about scripture, life, God, etc.  all we did was discuss ideas that we had for the college night coming this fall.  it was great because aaron (the other leader) and i were given the opportunity to share our hearts for this ministry and what we hope it will become.

at the core, we want it to be a place where anyone of any race, denomination, theology, belief system, etc, etc, etc can come and feel like they are safe to share their thoughts, struggles, doubts, beliefs and more.  we want it to feel like home.  you feel the most secure and safe in the places you call home.  this is what we want to create – a multicultural place of refuge.  i know this will be difficult.  i know cultural lines will keep people from returning or even coming at all, but i’m hopeful.  i’m hopeful because i’ve seen these boundaries crossed and relationships built successfully.  the catch is, the people who were successful in building lasting relationships with people of different cultures actually lived among those people or at a minimum spent significant amounts of time with them.

this thought plagued me last night.  the thought of creating a “successful” ministry that is actually just a simple community of people loving people kept me up until about 4:30am.  my one fear is failing.  not failing at my own endeavors – i can take that kind of failure and shake it off.  i’m speaking of failing when it involves the lives of others.  there is nothing more that i want than to make sure people know they are loved, to push them to think for themselves and to challenge/urge them to make their faith their own, even if it looks crazy to everyone else.

essentially i want to be Jesus in the flesh.  i’m not saying that i’m some looney proclaiming to be the actual Jesus, i simply want to live a life like He did.

i want to love everyone with a love powerful enough to cross all barriers we have constructed.

the only way to break down barriers is to meet people where they are at, in their environment, and then love them like there is no tomorrow.

isn’t this the way of Christ?

didn’t he dine with the sinners?

didn’t he immerse himself in the culture of the samaritans, the very people who were considered “dogs” by his own people?

if i hope to build a multi-cultural community i must myself be part of one.

i know i might get a bit of flack for the next statement but i feel it needs to be said.  in the states we talk about having unity in our church and even in the larger christian community, but we don’t really want it.  why do i think this?  because far too many churches are segregated.  yes, segregation still exists and it’s alive and well in the church.  too many churches today are blazingly white, or hispanic, or african american or asian.  we can blame it on the demographic of our community or whatever we like, but for the vast majority of churches in existence we choose to separate ourselves.

in a world dying for loving community, we’ve chosen to move away from people who look different than us.  i want to break this cycle.

i believe churches should strive to be multicultural.  i believe they should embody this from top to bottom, from leaders down to the once a year church goers.

what happens in church is we talk a lot.  we talk and talk and talk about doing things for “this” part of the community or “that” area of town and we might even do it, but we hardly ever create a consistent presence in their communities.  for the most part, churches “local missions projects” are the one hit wonders of the missions world. we reach out but only to keep people at arms length.  we need that safe distant to keep our comfort level on sunday mornings. our sanctuaries are too pristine to get dirty.  we don’t even let people drink coffee inside them.  call me crazy, stains on the carpet or no stains, i’d rather have an alert listener than a sleepy one.

BUT, i have hope that this can and will change.  we don’t have to wait on the deacons, elders, or the churches personnell team/committee to hire a person of a different race.  we can begin building relationships with people who don’t look like us or worship like us.  we can do this.  we don’t have wait on anyone.  community can be built with our own two hands.

change can come, but only if you want it to.

Today, may you see the beauty in other cultures of the world.

may you not simply “reach out” to serve people but may you walk among them with love.

may your heart take you to the unfamiliar and my you love it there.

people like Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Robert Kennedy, and Whitney Young fought too hard to help our nation overcome this segregated lifestyle for us to simply ignore the beauty that lies in community.

Grace and Peace

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bryce says:

    Rustin, I completely agree with you. Great post.

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