As I was putting my bags of groceries into the trunk of my car on Monday my cart started to roll away when a middle-aged African American woman stopped it for me. My smile was automatic as I thanked her for her caring act. She said to me, ‘We need some kindness in this dark world.’ I responded, ‘Yes, we sure do, and I so appreciate you helping me! Do you happen to know Jesus?’ ‘Yes!’ she replied with a big smile. That was the start of a sweet conversation my newly discovered ‘sister’ Pam and I had about the need for us to show Christ-like love to one another to make the world a better place and to point people to Jesus, the Source of our light. We both left that parking lot full of joy knowing that we were one in the Lord!
What is it going to take to bring about the unity in the Body of Christ that the Lord longs for, and that will be such a blessing to us who are His? There are some ‘big’ things we may need and wish to do, but I believe there are many ‘small’ things we can do that will make a big difference too. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it will provide some ideas for you as a starting point.
To bring about unity in the Body of Christ will require agape love, and love necessarily involves sacrifice. It likely will require you getting out of your comfort zone; speaking up when you might prefer to remain silent; perhaps traveling to a different part of the city than you ordinarily frequent; giving of time in what I am sure is an already full schedule. But we have been called by God to live in unity so that the world will know Him and His love for them; we can be assured that whatever the cost to us, the rewards will be more than worth it!
1. Pray! Pray that you will have the Lord’s eyes to see people, His ears to hear them, His heart of love to respond to them, and the courage and boldness to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and ‘die to your will’ and be consumed by doing the will of your Father in Heaven. Pray that you will be clothed in humility and prefer others over yourself; that all prejudice and pride will be rooted out of you; that you will have an ‘unoffendable’ heart; that you will forgive others and not allow a root of bitterness and resentment to arise in your heart when others misunderstand or treat you in a way that does not reflect the love of God for you. Pray for the Body of Christ to come into unity and ‘be one as Jesus and the Father are one’ and to open you eyes to opportunities where you can foster that unity.
2. Confront–in a spirit of love–acquaintances, friends, or family if they tell off-color, discriminatory ‘jokes’ or make derogatory comments about an ethnic group, people of another denomination, or say or do anything else that might divide the Body of Christ, breed animosity, or in any way harm the people that God loves, whom He has created, and whom He died to save!
3. Refrain from using ‘us’ and ‘them’ statements that stereotype and polarize people from different ethnic groups, cultures, and denominations. Be careful when you listen to the media that you do not make judgments about people groups; lift people up in prayer rather than labeling or criticizing those with whom you may disagree on issues. Remember, only God has the corner on truth! Seek to listen and understand those whose lifestyles and worldviews may be different from yours. Keep in mind you have FAR more in common with other people than you do differences! Look for ways to celebrate all that God’s people have in common—and also celebrate the differences that make us all wonderfully and uniquely created in the image of our Father in Heaven.
4. Stand up for righteousness and come alongside those people who experience discriminatory or unfair treatment, even if it costs you. For example, if a youth in your child’s school or on their sports team or a co-worker is called a racial slur and you are aware of it, go to the proper authority and make it clear that you consider such behavior and name-calling unacceptable and intolerable.
5. Smile at all people, and especially at people of a different ethnicity or culture from yours so they will sense the love of Christ in the warmth of your response to them. Look for ways to connect with them–such as with a sincere compliment or in other ways to assist or affirm them—so that you can brighten their day and extend to them the grace and love of God. You may receive the kind of blessing I did when I met my sister in Christ Pam who stopped my roll-away cart in the parking lot, or perhaps you will have the blessing of sharing the love of Jesus with someone who doesn’t yet know Him.
6. Seek out opportunities to get to know and better understand someone of a different ethnic group than yours. Invite a co-worker, a neighbor, a member of your church or bible study, someone from your gym, a family from your child’s sports team, etc. who is of a different ethnic group than you over for coffee, dinner, or other social occasion so you can dialog with them for the purpose of gaining increased understanding of one another and to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.
7. Host a home-based Bible study that intentionally includes women from other ethnicities and church denominations. Or start a service project with people from diverse backgrounds where you can interact and get to know one another while you serve other community residents together, perhaps a service project like Habitat for Humanity.
8. Attend community and religious events where you know there will be diversity of ethnicities and denominations. Look for opportunities there to fellowship with others who may not look, act, or think like you.
9. Invite international students (perhaps ones who attend a local university/college) to your home to get to know them and to build a relationship with them so that you can share the love of Christ with them. Take in an international student for a semester or a year to expand yours and your families’ understanding of people from other cultures.
10. Volunteer with a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters; the Fresh Air Fund or the Pittsburgh Project in Pittsburgh; the Dream Center in Atlanta or the Atlanta Youth Project or Atlanta Youth Adademy; or a similar community service organization in your city that mentors under-resourced youth and adults. Volunteer with a summer camp program—like Pine Valley Camp in Pittsburgh—that has as diverse group of attendees.
11. Volunteer to serve and feed the homeless and hungry. If you live in Pittsburgh you may wish to participate in the city-wide ‘Amen to Action’ event being held Friday, November 24 from 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence convention center where they need 2500 volunteers to pack one million ‘Meals of Hope’. In Atlanta, there are numerous opportunities to minister as well, including The Atlanta Mission and 7 Bridges to Recovery. Wherever you live, I am sure there are established ministries where you could volunteer and be a blessing to others in need.
12. Read books and watch programs/movies to help you better understand others’ cultures/situations. Suggested reading on the subject that may challenge as well as inform you include: One Race One Blood by Ken Ham and A. Charles Ware; What God Says about Race by Donald O. Clay Jr.; Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil; Same Kind of Different as Me (a book and a recently released movie) and What Difference Do It Make? both by Ron Hall and Denver Moore; Race Matters by Cornel West; Gracism by David A. Anderson; Divided by Faith by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith; Uncle Sam’s Plantation by Star Parker.
We are interested in hearing your suggestions as well, so please feel free go to True View Ministries’ Facebook page and under The One Movement Event give us your suggestions. Praying all of us will be committed to being about our Heavenly Father’s ‘business’ and seek to be one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one!
Written by Julie Van Gorp