In 2013, Christiopher Muther wrote on the connection between instant gratification and impatience in American culture saying, “The demand for instant results is seeping into every corner of our lives, and not just virtually….But experts caution that instant gratification comes at a price: It’s making us less patient.” This is not only true of American culture, but sadly true of many of our local churches.
Preaching at Together for the Gospel this year, Mark Dever, in his sermon Endurance for a Slow Reformation, stated, “In many of our churches, applause is loud and long and common and sought-after. We present edited lives on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter—fictions of only success to create real success in fact. We crave instant significance.”
I could not agree more. I also have to ask is it possible that we have settled for instant significance or gratification in the context of racial reconciliation? If so, how can we be informed and encouraged to have a more robust view of reconciliation that actually endures? I believe that we must see the dangers of speed and the joys of endurance—if we are to have endurance for a slow reconciliation.
Dangers of Speed
In our zeal for racial reconciliation, there is a danger in wanting results immediately. This can create apathy towards how God works, as well as superficiality in our pursuits.
To this end, Dever notes, “If you’re tempted to think that if something is slow, it must not be urgent, or even important, consider the Biblical pattern.” Dever calls our attention to Noah’s work for years, God’s promise to Abram that took decades to come to fruition, Simeon’s wait in the Temple (Luke 2:25), and even the Lord Jesus’s ministry. This is not to say that God does not cause our fruit to grow quickly, but generally, as Dever notes, it’s not like that.
Do we think reconciliation is outside of this pattern? When Christ tore down the wall of hostility fully and finally (Eph. 2:15), it’s not as if the Jews and Gentiles didn’t need to go through the messy work of sanctification. The same is true of our local churches.
Racial reconciliation will have considerable implications on our lives. It will call us to face our sin and our bias in the context of corporate worship, community, and personal life. Not only will this journey confront all of this, but it will be extremely hard. It will take time, forgiveness, humility, and patience.
Our haste in this journey can also lead to superficiality in our pursuits. Racial reconciliation will be seen as a project rather than a life-long process of changing the narrative and culture. In our zeal for immediate results, we may miss what God has done in the past, and is doing in the present for the goals of the future.
Of course, we want more than books written, sermons preached, relationships built, and progress made, but in our lack of patience, we fail to see God’s sovereignty! This can lead to burnt-out and discouraged Christians, churches, and pastors because the goal was built on superficiality. And any reconciliation that’s built on superficiality is no reconciliation at all.
Joys of Endurance
In light of these dangers, let us consider three joys that would strengthen us and help us persevere in this glorious work. First, the joy of knowing reconciliation is at the heart of God and he will complete his work. Before any book was ever written, any sermon ever preached, or any conferences ever attended, reconciliation was on the heart of God from all eternity.
Paul, desiring to encourage Timothy, noted that God granted us grace “in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (1 Timothy 2:10). Out of this grace came the plan of redemption in which Christ would come to reconcile His people to God and to one another. Not only is this a present reality, this is a hope of future glory.
The glory of heaven is that God will one day be with His redeemed from all tribes, people and languages who will be singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” This is good news, my friends, because this means reconciliation, present or future, is not dependent upon you or me ! Do you feel that the weight of reconciliation on your shoulders? Remember God is in control.
Second, the joy of seeing people coming a part of that plan. The great news of this is not only that this is at the heart of God, but also we get to see others live this plan. You as a redeemed sinner, along with your brothers and sisters, are a part of the most glorious story ever: the story of the glory of God among all peoples. And like any good story, it takes time.
I’m currently leading a home group through “Bloodlines” by John Piper. As I reflect, I take joy in an older white sister who grew up in the racist South who desires to see reconciliation in the local church. I take joy in seeing the leadership of my church be intentional about working toward diversity in the leadership, corporate worship, and corporate community. I take joy in hearing of my white brother who is attending the Korean church in hopes of bridging.
As I was talking to Pastor Mark, I take joy in hearing that he has brothers from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia in the internship program and leadership in his church. He shared with me, “this is reconciliation happening, and praise God for that.” God, in his reconciling work, is moving people from proximity to intimacy, from ethnic representation to ethnic celebration, and from seeing reconciliation as a burden, to seeing it as a gift. Brothers and sisters, what evidences of grace in reconciliation do you see in your lives and churches? Take a moment, reflect and thank God for them, and move forward intentionally, knowing that God is bringing people together.
In conclusion, the joy of trusting the sovereign faithfulness of God not apart, but together. Dever notes, “Bible Christianity has always been marked, not by celebrity and ease and immediacy, but by suffering and hard-work and waiting.” This is no less true of our longing for racial reconciliation.
But the great consolation while we are working and waiting is that we get the joy of trusting the sovereign faithfulness of God and we get to do it together. There will be ups and downs. We will get this wrong many times. Some will think we are too fast. Some will think we are too slow. Some are excited. Some are in despair. In the midst of all these things, let us hear the words of God, “Behold, I am making all things new…these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5) Let us remind each other of this. Let us forgive. Let us listen. Let us celebrate each other. Let us invest in one another. Let us move forward.
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.