“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133)
Community and fellowship are incredible gifts of the Gospel. In Psalm 133, the psalmist describes the beauty of true fellowship like anointing oil “running down the beard of Aaron.” It is a blessing that overflows, speaking to us about the essence of God’s heart and His desire for humanity.
And yet, so much of our flesh wars against this unity. We seek to divide and define others how we wish to see them. We reject the blessing so we can recreate community in the way we interpret God’s intentions.
The Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama, stands as a powerful symbol of the divisions we create as well as the bridges we can build. Up until the civil rights era, Selma stood as a stark reminder of racial inequalities in America, particularly in denying voting rights to African Americans. Selma provided the scene and backdrop for the “March to Montgomery” in 1965, as Dr. King and hundreds of followers eventually marched their way over that bridge en route to Montgomery, Alabama, a significant moment in the movement toward equality.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the OneRace Southern Justice Experience. Near the end of the first day of our trip, we retraced the steps of the civil rights group who walked across the Edmund Pettis bridge years ago. We sang songs and savored the experience of standing together in worshipful unity. I had the fortunate opportunity to walk side by side with my dear friend and African American brother, Devron. He and I have shared a friendship for nearly 10 years, and it was undoubtedly a Divine appointment that we got to walk together. As we walked, I looked intently upon the concrete, imagining the emotions and memories that legendary leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams and John Lewis had in this place. The bridge is such a sacred space. As Devron and I came to the crest of the bridge, I was overcome with emotion. Here I stood, fully undeserving of this opportunity to relive painful moments in our history, alongside such a dear brother who had every right to deny forgiveness to me and my ancestors. And yet, we embraced and relished in this moment. The Lord, in his unfathomable mercy and grace, gave us this moment and the opportunity to move forward in forgiveness and reconciliation.
As we wrestle with our current realities and distant memories, let us not forget the unbelievable grace that the Lord continues to offer us for racial reconciliation. Despite the incalculable hurt and pain, all of the misgivings and ways in which we’ve completely mishandled loving our neighbors well, the Lord in his rich and infinite mercy continues to surface opportunities for us to grow together. He is committed to true fellowship and the unity of the Body of Christ, and nothing will stop Him.
Christ has empowered the Church as His agents and representatives, and as a result, we have the power and responsibility to repair what is broken. Only the power of the Gospel can transform hearts and lives and to mend the broken parts of our history. We need to welcome the Lord’s invitation to know the story, to repent, and to receive His healing regarding our racial history and relations. Let us embrace His invitation today to step further into this beautiful community of brotherhood, a foretaste of the Kingdom to come!
John is the Executive Director at Eagle Ranch, a ministry in Flowery Branch, Georgia, that provides temporary residence and therapy for children that are in families in crisis.