A look back at what was experienced in 2020 would not be complete without an acknowledgment of the conversation about race in America. Candidly, writing about such a complicated topic feels somewhat like walking blindfolded through a minefield. My gut tells me it would be better to listen more to the conversation than to contribute. Nonetheless, remaining silent on this central theme would be to avoid the proverbial “elephant in the room.” It is not my purpose to weigh in on the sociopolitical arguments regarding the national conversation. Rather, my purpose is to consult the spiritual truths of the Scriptures as they pertain to race, to transcend the talking points and soundbites that pervade the media, and to find the ultimate hope of Christ for humanity. I humbly offer this article with the conviction that the Spirit of God is at work in every moment of history, often most poignantly in its most difficult seasons.

Its success was carried on the wings of a dream. It was August 28, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial with a quarter of a million people listening intently. During the afternoon heat of a sweltering D.C. summer, after a late night of speech writing, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the address now known as the “I Have a Dream…” speech. King began slowly and precisely, almost methodically. Then he stammered on a line he was unsure about and began to deviate from the script. As he was preaching extemporaneously, he drew from the well of the Scriptures he had long ago internalized, echoing portions of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 30. Then came the call. Seated near him was a gospel singer named Mahalia Jackson, who cried out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.” What followed are some of the most famous words of that speech—words not written in the original manuscript, which offer hope for our present struggles.

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” …I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.1

Fifty years to the day at approximately the same time of day, on August 28, 2013, our daughter Bella (whose mother is black) came into our home through the foster care system. I have often wondered why God chose this timing and what His purpose might be in aligning these two moments in history. Since then, what seems like scales, have fallen from my eyes.

Previously, I lived with a blind optimism that we were progressing toward a world without racism. The Civil Rights Movement seemed like ancient history — long ago established as having been successful. But then the scales fell off, feeling more like a gut punch, when my then six-year-old daughter began having experiences of overt racism in elementary school. These experiences and our love for her have deeply shaped how we listen to this conversation and the sorrow we feel with the tone it has taken. And yet our eyes are also opened to see God’s great hope for humanity found in His Word.

In the pages of our New Testament, inspired by the Spirit of God, we find the ultimate dream for humanity, a vision of the great hope to be consummated in Jesus Christ.

…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9).

The cosmic implications of the evangelist’s vision of God’s Kingdom portray a vast and diverse human multitude redeemed by Christ, who stand together in worship before the Lord Jesus. At the end of all things, God is going to create out of all the races of the earth a united people with a single purpose: to worship God and enjoy Him forever.

Philosophers have long upheld the importance of under-standing telos—the purpose or goal for which we are created; it reveals our God-given purpose in the present. The ultimate end of humanity is seen as a multi-ethnic choir worshiping Jesus harmoniously together. This vision, this dream, colors how we listen to the conversation today. In fact, if we will be dwelling with our brothers and sisters from every race for eternity, it may be wise for us to seek the Lord regarding how to dwell together in harmony now. This is the purpose which the Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

The church is the new creation of God bursting into the present, proclaiming, and embodying His dream for our future. The early church was committed to spreading this message to all people so that the earthly church would reflect, as a foretaste, what will be fully realized in heaven.

Since the Civil Rights movement, there has not been another time in our nation’s recent history when racial equality has been so front and center. I do not claim to have the answers to the conversations about policing or the verdicts of individual trials. I am grateful that my responsibility is not to make such determinations. I trust that the Righteous Judge will set all things right in the end with His perfect justice.

My hope is that despite “the difficulties of today and tomorrow” (to reference King), the Church will renew her strength and soar on eagle’s wings by recapturing the vision of God for humanity. To do so will require resisting the infectious nature of the anger, outrage, and anxiety that seems to permeate the conversation. We cannot be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies but must find our calling to work for God’s kingdom in Christ alone. If we can do this, I believe that the Church will have a role to play in inaugurating God’s future vision—where racism is eradicated once and for all, and where we worship the Lord in solidarity with all people groups.

If the future is a choir in worship, that image can help us understand our role in the present. Singing in harmony requires listening to various parts—alto, soprano, tenor, and bass. In this conversation, our role may be to listen for the song beneath the words with open hearts and minds to hear what God is working out. Then we can listen with a non-anxious presence beyond the media’s talking points for the heartbeat of the Lord within our fellow humanity. I invite you to pray with me for God’s restoration of humanity through the Church, even as it pertains to race.

by Pastor Brad Rogers

1 http://www.marshall.edu/onemarshallu/i-have-a-dream