Moving towards racial justice should matter a great deal to the Church. But I think that too often, we are afraid. We are afraid of our differences because they shatter our comfortable, established notions about God.
The message of the reign of God tells us to love our neighbor, regardless of who they are. It’s not a matter of seeing the differences in another and determining how to keep those differences separate from us, in order to protect ourselves. Too often, those who are looking for differences are really looking to see what kind of threat someone is. And at an even deeper level, focusing on the differences through the lens of fear is really about being exposed to something that rocks many people – that we ourselves are not the full expression of creation or godliness. If we truly embrace the Imago Dei (being made in the image of God), then we should be looking at differences in others through a different lens – a lens that is capable of seeing God more fully unveiled in our midst and loving that person. We as individuals aren’t the full expression of God or God’s creativity. We are only a small variation. It is in the fullness of creation that we get a glimpse of the abundance and love of God.
It is in moving towards racial justice that we love our neighbor and love God, the creator of our neighbor and all of creation. Our neighbor carries the image of God, just in a different way than ourselves. So when we love our neighbor, we are loving God. How we treat our neighbor is essentially how we are treating God. When we move towards racial justice, we are carrying out the will of God.
We can start preparing ourselves to be a wider church by getting out of the building. When we encounter people, we should have a genuine interest in who they are and their story and not be worried about getting them into worship. Jesus focused on discipleship and community. Focus on that and worship will happen when there is a level of trust, when people know we aren’t trying to make them into someone else. Go and meet your neighbors in the world, especially those who give us a fuller expression of God.