“…and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.…” (Revelation 5:9 ESV)
In these challenging times, I think most of us would like to be in community with others—except my wife, who is very happy to be at home doing her art and talking on the phone with family and friends. By community I’m referring, of course, to Creekside, our friends of faith, and to gatherings with people of our same culture and world view. These are good and needed, but participation in these is easy and reinforces our feel-good emotions.
Community where everyone agrees on everything, speaks the same language, uses the same words, and thinks exactly alike… could be called a cult. These days TV and press news is yelling at us every day that many of our fellow citizens don’t see or experience community at all in our society. They are or feel left out, or worse, sometimes killed.
What is real community intended to be in God’s eyes? The first recorded community was created by Jesus’ followers shortly after his death and resurrection. It was made up of Jews who thought the Greeks were unclean, Greeks who felt superior to Jews, people of all sorts, rich and poor, young and old, and from many different regions and nations. So different, yet united in a single goal of love for one another and their Lord, they cared for one another and for others. When one of them hurt, they all hurt. If one was hungry, he or she was fed. They loved each other in spite of their differences.
An example this kind of community, although in the secular sense, could be the Seahawks. There are black players and white. Some may have supported Colin Kaepernick, the player who first knelt for the anthem, others not. But they all wear the same uniform and are united with one another in one goal: to get the ball over their opponent’s goal line as often as possible.
Another example came from a book I just read called Bridges Over an Impossible Divide. (If you have any interest in interfaith activity, I highly recommend it.) The Jewish American author wanted to go to Israel as a young man to experience his heritage and ended up becoming a rabbi. Very disturbed by the division between Jews and Arabs, he founded an international peace nonprofit comprising Jews, Muslims and Christians. After some twenty years of work, he reports that scores of faith leaders and others are working in the Middle East toward peace. However, they are not united under one religious flag. They work together under a higher banner of love for each other, a basic tenet of each group’s faith.
A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to participate with some 700 others of the Covenant, with my mask on, in a march and rally in Renton (pictured above). It was in support of our Jesus-based values of mercy and justice for all, led by Mike Thomas, the black pastor of Radiant Covenant Church. It was inspiring to me to witness our united determination to stand by our neighbors of color in the ongoing struggle for social change on all levels.
In Revelation 5:9 (above), John was referring to the new Jerusalem: a diverse group, all bought by the blood of Jesus. A new type of inclusive community in our present divided society seems like an impossible dream, doesn’t it? A well-known black leader spoke about such a dream in one of his final speeches in the early ’60s. Isn’t this dream worth striving for?