Derwin Gray Says a Blood-Soaked Solution Is the Way to Heal America’s Racial Divide

Derwin L. Gray
Derwin L. Gray

Since the late 1990s, when I first became a follower of Jesus, it has concerned me that the church in America really doesn’t talk about how the New Testament church was comprised of multi-ethnic, multi-class local congregations throughout the first century Greco-Roman world (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:10; Eph. 2:14–16; 3:5-11). But with the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases, the church is talking about how these types of congregations can be agents of reconciliation and unity, just as the early church was.

Currently, in the United States nearly 90 percent of local churches are homogeneous. Local churches are ten times more segregated than the schools they are near and 20 times more segregated than the neighborhoods they are in.[1] As a result of homogenous local churches, God’s people find themselves ill-equipped to cope with the challenges of situations such as those in our nation now. The Church is at a crossroads: Will we continue to remain trapped in our silos of tribalism that keep us imprisoned in cycles of ethnocentrism, prejudice, classism, ignorance, and disunity? The closer we are to people relationally, the more understanding we become. When people of different ethnic backgrounds and classes are participating in small groups together, serving each other communion, and praying for one another, we grow in our oneness (John 17:21-23). My desire for local churches to be multi-ethnic is rooted in the blood of Jesus, in His Gospel, and in His desire for His church (Eph. 2:14-22; 3:6–7; Rev. 7:9-12).

The first century Greco-Roman world where the Apostle Paul lived was filled with racism, social injustice, classism, sexism, and oppression as well. When an upper class Greek man would wake up in the morning, he would pray to his Greek gods a prayer similar to this, “I’m thankful that I’m not a barbarian (anyone not a Greek), slave, or woman.”[2] Similarly, Jews of that time would pray, “God, thank you that I am not a Gentile, a slave, or woman.” It was in this world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His blood began to break down these barriers. Note what Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, ESV, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The blood of Jesus obliterates the demonic barriers that divide people: ethnicity, class, and gender.

The bloody cross of Jesus breaks down these three barriers. If we ever hope to unify ourselves across these barriers, it can only happen because of the blood-soaked solution. As Evangelicals, we love Ephesians 2:8–10. This passage speaks of the grace of God that saves us and that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good work that he planned beforehand. But the problem is that we have missed the thrust of Paul’s exegetical argument that continues in verses 11–22. It’s not just about our individual lives and goals. Paul explains the reason why God gives people grace in Christ: it is so that earth could become the home of a heavenly new colony of love, reconciliation, and unity reflecting the eschatological reality for God’s people as seen in Revelation 7:9––” a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.”

The Apostle Paul, a Jewish man, tied the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the covenant that God made with Abraham (Eph. 2:11–13; Gen. 12:1–3; Gal. 3:8–9). In this covenant, God promised Abraham a multi-ethnic family (Gen. 12:1-3). The Apostle Paul went on mission throughout the Greco-Roman world heaven-bent on proclaiming a Gospel that would destroy the barriers that divide people so that God would get glory from a new people who are who indwelt by His Son and Spirit. These people would be God’s temple on earth, different colored blocks displaying the glory of God (Eph. 2:17–22).

Ephesians 2:14–16, NIV, says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

In an act of amazing grace, Jesus accomplished four Gospel realities to unify people of different ethnic backgrounds and classes:

1. Jesus made peace between God and man and Jews and Gentiles;
2. Jesus, through his death on the cross, broke down the dividing wall that separates people;
3. Jesus created a new species of humanity out of Jews and Gentiles, called the body of Christ, His church (Eph. 3:5–12); and
4. Through his body on the cross, Jesus killed hostility between ethnic groups and classes.

These are four Gospel realities Jesus accomplished! We don’t have to work for them. We work from them to create, as Dr. King said, “The Beloved Community.” This new blood-soaked community becomes hope to the world as the Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ. Jesus has created a new humanity of people who are now defined, not by the color of their skin, but by the color of Jesus’ blood. We don’t stop being our individual ethnicities, but we start embracing and celebrating in the ethnicities of all God’s people. We don’t become color-blind, we become color-blessed.

As an African-American pastor of a church that is 60 percent Anglo and 40 percent everything else, I must lead with the Gospel of grace that produces forgiveness, reconciliation, love, unity, and peace. My blackness no longer defines me, my identity and allegiance to Christ does. I am soaked in His blood and made a member of His new multi-ethnic family called The Church.

Church, this our moment to show our nation what love, reconciliation, and unity look like. The answer to race, class, and gender problems is a blood-soaked solution. The blood of Jesus has called us to put down our preferences and to pick up our crosses. America is watching.

[1] Cited on Dec. 18, 2014; http://www.exponential.org/exponential/multi-ethnic-ministry-takes-center-stage/
[2] J. Daniel Hayes. From Every People and Nation (Inter Varsity Press, Downer Grove, 2003), 186.

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to his role at Transformation Church, Pastor Derwin speaks at conferences nationwide and is recognized by many as the “Evangelism Linebacker.” He is the author of Hero: “Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart,” and “Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future.” On the Web: DerwinLGray.com

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