Chicago. Now known around the world for its high murder rate, Chicago was, during the summer of 1967, home to Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King commented that the racism he felt in Chicago was more intense than anything he’d felt in the South. At one time, Chicago was the most segregated city in America, and it’s still a serious contender for that unenviable distinction even today.
The question was asked about Jesus, can anything good come out of Nazareth (John 1:44-46). One could, with similar rhetorical flare, ask if it’s possible that Chicago could hold the antidote to America’s racial hatred. The answer about Chicago, is the same answer Phillip gave to Nathaniel in John 1:46--“Come and see”.
In 1993 two Christians in Chicago Raleigh Washington (a Black man) and Glen Kehrein (a White man), joined forces to write a book about racial reconciliation. Motivated by the racial riots that gripped Los Angeles after white police officers were acquitted of beating an unarmed Black man (Rodney King), a book called, “Breaking Down Walls”. The book is a blueprint for racial reconciliation in a world that needs it now more than ever. Breaking Down Walls details 8 specific principles of racial reconciliation. The Rock Of Our Salvation Church, in Chicago’s Austin community, uses Breaking Down Walls as a roadmap for racial reconciliation (Washington is the founder of Rock and one of its former Pastors).
This article is the first of an eight-part series of articles that will explain each of the 8 principles of racial reconciliation individually. If the Body Of Christ is to be the salt and light of the world, we must first begin by taking the beam out of our own eye.
“21 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ…The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy. 27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.”
1 Cor 12:21-27
Sometimes our human pride causes us to have delusions of grandeur. There appears to be a human tendency to view our differences as excuses to mistreat each other. How do we do this? By claiming that our way is the right way, or the better way, and that anything different from us must be inferior to us. We see ourselves as better than others, and we see our “tribe” as better than other tribes. As Americans we often think we’re superior to those of different nations. As Protestants, we often think of ourselves as superior to Catholics. And, unfortunately, we often think of our “race” as superior to other races. But that’s not how God feels about us. Notice that God has children, but no step-children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. God sees us all equally as his children. God doesn’t play favorites with us, and he doesn’t want us playing favorites with each other.
“1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"
As Paul noted in 1 Cor 12:12-27, the human race is comparable to the parts of the body. Just as the human body has many parts of different shapes, sizes and purposes, so as people, God has made us all different. And just as all of our body parts are equally important, so too, all of us are equally important to God, and so we should be equally important to each other. Finally, just as our most vital organs are invisible to the naked eye, so too do some of our vital talents and contributions go unseen. But unseen doesn’t mean unimportant. You can’t see someone’s heart beat with your naked eye, but without a beating heart, we would die. We all know intellectually that we all need each other, but most of us don’t know it in our gut, deep down in our soul. So here are some concrete examples of how we all have benefited from the talents and contributions of people from different races, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Consider what your life would be like without these inventions that we take for granted..
Remember some of these contributions the next time you think that your “tribe” is better than others:
- The French: invented the process of pasteurization for milk, the hair dryer, the stethoscope, and the pencil sharpener;
- The Italians: invented blue jeans, newspapers, the jacuzzi, radio, batteries, the piano, and modern banking;
- The Indians: invented buttons, chess, the ruler, shampoo, flushable toilets and pajamas;
- The Chinese: invented noodles, gun powder, paper, the compass, the mechanical clock, the kite, the umbrella, the toothbrush and paper money;
- Jews: a Jewish doctor—Jonas Salk-invented the vaccine that cured polio, and two of our most popular modern inventions were made by Jews—Google and Facebook;
- The Arabs : gave us higher complex mathematics. Do you remember learning about Roman Numerals in school, where 5 is “V”, “10” is “X” and 50 is “L”? Well, if V, X and L are called Roman Numerals, then what are 5, 10 and 50 called? They’re called “Arabic Numerals”. Our current numbering system was invented by the Hindus of India, but made more popular by Arabs as they travelled west to Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe. Try doing algebra, trigonometry or calculus using Roman Numerals, and you will see it’s impossible. Thus, we owe many of our advances in all areas of science to the contribution of Arabic Numerals;
- African-Americans: invented the gas mask, traffic light, carbon filament for light bulbs, the original IBM computer, the first home security system, dry cleaning, blood banks, and automatic elevator doors;
- Women: invented the first computer software, caller ID & call waiting, automatic windshield wipers for cars, the dishwasher, and Kevlar (material used to make bullet-proof vests).
- People of Color: people of color originated all of today’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism). None of the world’s major religions were developed in Europe. Not a single one. People Of Color have brought us our current understanding of God!
And the above list is not complete—it’s just a sample. Look how God made us all different, but yet all equally talented and gifted. He also made us to help each other. That’s what interdependency is all about. It’s acknowledging that different does not mean superior or inferior. If someone is different, that means that God has blessed them with a gift He hasn’t given to you. Yet, God wants us all to share our gifts with each other, so that through our gifts, we are all blessed.
“ For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”
2 Cor 8:12-14