I remember as if it were yesterday the first time I heard the gospel preached. Four years ago this month I was invited to a Bible study for football players at my university.
I had never attended a Bible study, so you can imagine my unease and anxiety when I arrived. But when I walked into the room I was shocked to see it filled with young, African American men who you wouldn’t think would ever be sitting in the pews of your local church.
Then when I met the leader of the Bible study I went from being amazed to perplexed. He introduced himself to me as Zach Marcum, a short white guy from rural Kentucky. Zach isn’t one of those guys who tries to act like he was from the “hood” in order to fit in; he is 100 percent suburban white. Neither is he one of those guys who keeps on talking about his favorite African American movies or rappers in order to prove that he understands “my people.” Zach is simply an honest, genuine guy who shows everyone genuine Christ-like love and affection that isn’t based upon reaching some ethnic conversion quota.
God has used Zach to lead not only me to Jesus, but also dozens of other African American men on campus throughout the years. How does he do it? What is his magic formula?
There isn’t one. He is simply a man with a genuine love for people who are different from him. And he has decided to move outside his comfort zone and obey God’s call to make disciples of all nations.
End of Tension
We often hear about ongoing racial tension. Did you know that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week because of homogenous church services? Did you know that many church leaders of the past owned slaves and supported their beliefs with the Bible? Did you know that many evangelical seminaries did not allow minority students until the latter half of the 20th century? These questions and many more remind us of the challenges.
But as we ask these questions we must also seek answers to the problems. How? By looking at the early church we’re inspired as we see the beautiful message of the gospel spreading to people of all nations and places (Acts 2:1-41). We see new believers from Ethiopia (Acts 2:24-29), Egypt (Acts 18:24-27), Corinth (Acts 18:1-4), and Rome (Acts 28:23). Remarkably, they were all led to Christ by Jewish men and women who were ethnically different from them. The Holy Spirit tore down the dividing wall of hostility in order to show that “in Christ we are all children of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26).
The early church knew that Jesus made it possible for all people—regardless of race, creed, or nation—to join the trans-cultural family of God. These Christians didn’t view people of other ethnicities as projects, and they didn’t view them as “those people” they were guilted into helping. They saw these men and women from around the world as created in the image and likeness of God, as purchased by the blood of the Lamb. Still today such Spirit-empowered Christians share this heartbeat. Captivated by a beautiful vision of the diverse family of God, such believers trust God to end the ongoing racial tensions in our country.
The day Zach got married, I still remember crying as I sat in the church. At that moment I reflected on our love for one another, a bond stronger than blood brothers. The world says we could never be friends. But my friendship with Zach offers a glimpse into what relationships are going to be like in heaven. Before the throne of God we’ll enjoy love between people of all races and places as together we worship Christ (Rev. 7:9-10).
We serve a God who is big enough to bring together for his glory people who have been segregated for years. We will never experience this family perfectly until eternity. But we can still catch peeks of our destiny today.