Study Guide: Tearing Down The Tower

Sunday June 19, 2016 | Greg Boyd, Paul Eddy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this, the final part of the Flesh & Blood series, we examine how racial reconciliation is a vital part of the gospel message. To be a Jesus-follower is to be one who seeks peace-making and is always striving towards reconciliation. We discover that we are only able to achieve reconciliation to the degree that we are willing to learn about perspectives that differ from our own.

Extended Summary:

Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy team up for this powerful message on the vital importance of racial reconciliation. Striving towards one new humanity is not optional for Christ-followers, it is at the very heart of the gospel.

Greg begins by recalling the O.J. Simpson trial. At that time, over 80% of White Americans believed O.J. was guilty. By contrast, over 80% of African Americans, including one of Greg’s friends, believed there was good reason to doubt O.J.’s guilt. When Greg asked his friend how that was possible, his friend asked him several questions in response such as: “When you were growing up, how many times did you see your dad get pulled over and patted down for no good reason? How many times was your father told that he was being uppity and shouldn’t be driving in this neighborhood anyway?” Greg said, “Never.” His friend could recall 17 instances of watching this happen to his father. In addition, while Greg’s friend was learning how to drive, he was coached by his father on where to look, how to move, how softly to speak, etc. when he was pulled over by an officer to avoid anything bad happening. Greg then admitted, “It sounds like you live in a different world than I do.” His friend affirmed, “In some respects, I do.”

Greg learned in that moment that his “map” of reality was very different than his friend’s “map.” The experiences and circumstances that each navigated in day-to-day life were sometimes vastly different. Greg reminded each of us that “our map is not the territory.” And while racial reconciliation is vital and at the heart of the gospel, it is only possible to the degree in which we learn to read one another’s maps.

He reminded us that God created one humanity. There is one race of people. It was at the Tower of Babel, upon receiving God’s provisional judgment of different languages, that people first separated into tribes. Yet God’s goal has always been to reunite the human race. This was accomplished on the Cross, where the “dividing wall of hostility” was torn down and we were made into “one new humanity” (Eph. 2:14-16). In other words, the Cross reverses Babel.

When people endorse racial separation, they are “Babel-ing.” As Christians, our job is to stop babbling and to instead interact with others in a way that manifests the truth of the Cross. Jesus died so the Church would stop babbling and become one new human race. We are called to reverse Babel in a world that doesn’t manifest the truth.

WHC has been on a long journey towards this goal. Paul Eddy highlighted a few victories and mistakes made along the way during the 24-years that Woodland Hills has been a church. Throughout that time, various staff members, consultants, volunteers, and others have helped WHC follow it’s calling to “Face the City” and become a bridge between neighborhoods of affluence and neighborhoods that are struggling under the harmful effects of systemic racial and economic oppression. WHC now partners with multiple community initiatives and the church building is used to provide much needed space for these programs during the week.

While much has been accomplished, there is more to be done. Greg concludes the message by focusing on future steps towards furthering racial reconciliation. First, members are encouraged to individually seek out and welcome friendships with people who identify with a race or ethnicity than differs from their own. Through invested, personal relationships we are better able to understand each other’s “map.” In addition, WHC, which is a predominately white congregation, is engaging in a partnership with a church whose congregation is predominately comprised of persons of color, Sanctuary Covenant Church, to begin to learn from and engage in relationship with one another. Dr. Dennis Edwards is the Senior Pastor at Sanctuary Covenant Church, and he will be visiting WHC on Tuesday, June 21, at 7:00 p.m. He’ll be joined by Greg for a Q&A on racial reconciliation and everyone is invited. Following this event, the Pastors of both churches plan to occasionally swap pulpits and eventually move towards a joint church service.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the body of Christ and to engage in opportunities, both individually and collectively, to live out the gospel as we move towards one new humanity together.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Consider the phrase “my map is not the territory.” In what ways have you found this to be true in your life? When did your map look very different from someone else’s map? How did this lead to conflict and/or enhance understanding?
  2. Where do you see racial divisions in your school, church, and/or neighborhood? In what ways can you begin to build bridges?
  3. When it comes to reconciliation at the systemic level, who can you begin to partner with? Which organizations are you a part of, or are able to join, that strive towards racial reconciliation?