I pastor a multi-racial, multi-ethnic church. That fact, by the way, is a complete miracle. I don't know how it has happened, except for two factors: (1) I prayed a lot that God would make our church ethnically broad, and (2) by grace I actually try, for real, to care about people who aren't from my neck of the woods (as we say where I'm from). God has been pleased to do what I've asked, and I'm really grateful for that.
But in the broader church world, we're not quite as together as we could be. Oh sure, we'll have the odd unity service. The black pastor and the white pastor who've hardly ever met stand on the front row, awkwardly embrace, pretend they have something to talk about afterwards, and the praise then Lord as they walk away that neither one of them has to endure such an event but once a year.
Maybe that sounds harsh. Some truth is harsh.
Then there was yesterday. Yesterday I spent a few hours with a friend of mine who happens to be the leader of a large, fruitful denomination of African American churches. In Ron Burgundy speak, he's kind of a big deal. Ever since I arrived to plant Aletheia, this man has gone out of his way to make me feel welcome. He's invited me to address gatherings of largely black pastors. He's sent me texts encouraging me. He's bought me lunch, prayed for me, given me advice. He's even sent me and my wife cards on our anniversary. We're totally different. We come from very different Christian traditions, different parts of the world, and different upbringings. But, as I sat in his office yesterday, I was struck with the realization, "This is what unity looks like. It's when I love this man, and he loves me."
Our country is beleaguered with racial brokenness. In the church, it's not much better. Sure, we've tried to make it better. We've tried unity services. We've tried ecumenical counsels. We've sworn to be more diverse. But here's the deal — it's just hard. Real love is always hard. Real love is always costly. It certainly was for God, wasn't it?
But therein lies the difference between ethnic unity and wishful thinking. Wishful thinking looks to events. Real love looks to the cross. Wishful thinking thinks programmatically. Real love thinks sacrificially. Wishful thinking doesn't work. But real love ... well I think it does. It's working really well for this man and me.
Maybe that's a start.