Can our country find peace?
The last two years have been marked by tension, violence, protest, mistrust and strife. We’ve witnessed repeated deaths caught on camera and protests spreading through our cities. “Justice” is now a ubiquitous word. “Peace” and “reconciliation” not so much. We urgently need substantive theological reflection on the nature and path to peace and reconciliation.
In our previous posts, we interacted with The Ferguson Declaration’s statements on the doctrines of God and man. Section 2.1 focuses on peace and reconciliation.
Section 2 shifts from more typical creedal summaries of key doctrines to an affirmations and denials format. With that turn, the creed focuses not so much on merely summarizing scriptural teaching but on making statements to clarify what is and is not agreed to by the authors. In some sense, the statement grows more ethical than theological.
2.1 “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:11-22). We receive the Word through the Apostle Paul that the LORD Jesus was sent to bring peace (Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:14) to the nations. Our goal is for a social and spiritual renewal of our cities, our towns, our states, our country, and our planet, and the Gospel stories tell us that such restoration requires a confession of our sins. We reject the false doctrine as though Racial Reconciliation could happen apart from collective Repentance of White Supremacy (Acts 17:30, Luke 19:8-10).
Each of the paragraphs in section 2 begins with a quotation of scripture. In this case, the authors quote Ephesians 2:15-19 while citing verses 11-22 as the basis of their affirmations and denials.
The creed first emphasizes peace. It asserts that “peace to the nations” was the goal of Christ’s coming into the world. It further asserts the authors’ goal of “social and spiritual renewal” in every setting. Since that restoration requires a confession of sins, the authors reject any racial reconciliation apart from “collective Repentance of White Supremacy.”
Who could oppose peace and reconciliation? Who would not want it in every social setting imagined, including the entire globe? And who, calling themselves a “Christian,” could resist the pursuit of such peace and reconciliation?
Though the statement frames a worthwhile goal for all humanity—peace and reconciliation, it does not offer sufficient definitions to guide the pursuit.
For example, in context, Ephesians 2 focuses primarily on peace with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Ephesians 2 teaches us that “He himself”—that is, Jesus Christ—is our peace. It is in His body that he reconciles sinners to God and reconciles sinners to one another. So, peace and reconciliation with God and with man are consequences of union with Christ—only those in Christ share the peace that Ephesians 2 declares. The creed’s commentary removes Paul’s words from their context and calls the Church to a pursuit not clearly supported by the text. The references to Isaiah 9:6-7 and Luke 2:14 do prophesy the peace of Christ’s kingdom, but that peace waits final fulfillment in the coming of His kingdom in full. In the meantime, the scripture gives us a more dire projection for human society (see Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:12-13).
Or, consider the call for “collective repentance from white supremacy.” What should that entail? How would we identify it? The authors make such repentance a prerequisite to reconciliation. They are correct in doing so. But the creed might be strengthened to clarify that such repentance is more fundamentally a prerequisite to conversion itself. One cannot be a Christian while committed to white supremacy. The biblical passages teaching this are too numerous to list. For example, in Christ we are one and there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gal. 3:28). Christ makes us “one new man” in himself (Eph. 2:15). We do not regard one another according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16). In short, Christians are members of a new spiritual ethnicity. The old ethnic identity is not obliterated or made irrelevant (Rev. 5:9), but it is made secondary and subordinate to our new natures in Christ. It’s doubtful any peace and reconciliation can be achieved in the world apart from this transformation. It’s even doubtful it can happen in the Church apart from deep confession and repentance leading to renewal.
At the broadest level, I find myself longing for what The Ferguson Declaration affirms—peace and reconciliation. But to be practically useful and instructive for the Church, the creed must set forth more definitions and reunite it’s call to repentance with the transformation the gospel produces at the core of our identity. “Collective repentance of white supremacy” cannot be less than mass individual repentance of the same. That’s not likely without the grace of our Lord and the power of His Spirit.