Why did Jesus die on the cross? The common response—to reconcile us to God—is only half of the answer. The other half, which is usually not preached in the white church, is to reconcile us to one another and creation.
In this sermon, Greg asks and addresses the question: Why did Jesus have to die? In most Protestant circles, the answer is some variation of “to reconcile people to God.” While this is true, it only tells half of the story. Jesus died to reconcile us to God, but also to one another and to all creation. Colossians 1:19-20 says that God is working to reconcile all things in heaven, earth, under the earth.
The white American church has always been big on reconciling people to God, but not so much on reconciling people groups together or reconciling with creation. The failure to preach and live out the entire reconciling message has greatly contributed to race conflict in America today.
In Ephesians 2, we read that we are brought near by the self-sacrificial love of God on the cross. Among humans, this looks like Jews and Gentiles coming together. It is the formation of “one new humanity in Christ.” The cross has torn down ALL walls dividing humanity, making a new start with a new humanity.
This is best understood within the context of the sweep of the entire Scriptures. If we go back to Genesis, we see that alienation from God brings conflict between humans. In Genesis, the violence of humans brings destruction on themselves and nature, to the point that God starts over. This leads to the call of Abraham, out of whom God would raise up Israel as his chosen people. They were chosen to be the means by which God reached the entire world and reconciled the entire world. Israel is called to be a blessing to the nations, reuniting humanity, a point that is reiterated throughout the Old Testament.
Jesus is the embodiment of Israel. The people-versus-people hostility, the walls of judgment and the centuries of conflict come to an end through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Reconciliation is central to the biblical narrative. It is part of the atonement, which means that it is on same level as Jesus dying to reconcile us to God. To fail to preach and live out reconciliation is as heretical as not preaching or practicing forgiveness of sins.
Why have so many white Christians never heard this truth? In America, it was predominately white Christians who conquered and wiped out the indigenous population, enslaved millions of Africans, and promoted strategies to keep black and brown people out of power. It has been missed for the same reason that white leaders thought it was self-evident that all “men” are created equal. To them that meant “all white men.” It was self-evident that non-whites and non-males were not equal. Their Gospel was held captive to an assumed ideology of white supremacy.
It is time for the white church to repent. We must confess the failure of white church to proclaim and live out one of the central things for which Jesus died. This failure has fed the principality and power of white supremacy for 450 years in this land. It’s time for every predominantly white church to explicitly renounce this racist past and commit to moving in the opposite direction. This is not a liberal thing, a politically correct thing, or a trendy thing. It’s a Bible 101 thing!
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