Dr. Nathaniel Perez, Nyack College director of the Center for Racial Reconciliation, offers the following op-ed on the role the Church can model for the nation and the world, with a thought-provoking question: “Is the Bride Getting Ready?”
If there were a disagreement between family members, a married couple, or even friends, the church would call those individuals to work towards reconciliation. This would involve intentionally hearing each other out, an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, confession, repentance, offering forgiveness, justice and eventually, the reconciling of a relationship. When it comes to racial reconciliation, far too many churches have dismissed its necessity.
In America, a shortsighted, segmented, racially dividing version of the gospel has often been presented and adopted by Christians for centuries. This version of the gospel has been complicit with racism and led to dismembering the Body of Christ in America. This version of the gospel allows for the comfort of segregation, lacks accountability, and dismisses the pursuit of racial righteousness. As a result, the church in America is ultimately divided by race. Many churches in America visually display the power of what sin can do rather than what the power of God can do.
Over the years many have tried to answer the question “What is the purpose of the church?” Rick Warren sought to address this question in his book The Purpose Driven Life and suggested the purposes of the church rests on worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. These purposes are derived from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). What we often missed is that racial reconciliation is intertwined within the fabric of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. To see this, we are required that we must expand our view of the gospel and discipleship. The Bible clearly states that all believers have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and it is not some kind of elective for believers to take; it’s part of the core curriculum in discipleship.
Revelation 7:9 (NIV) provides us with a visual representation of what the Church is supposed to look like as people from every nation, tribe and tongue stands before the throne of God. It states, “After this 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.”
How one visualizes the Kingdom of God ultimately determines how one will view racial reconciliation. For a Christian to grow more passionate about racial reconciliation, one must see it as a part of their spiritual formation. As we deeply desire to see Jesus exalted in every way possible, racial reconciliation grows to become more than something we deeply desire, but a mission to fulfill. If all of creation’s ultimate purpose is to glorify God, we must pursue racial righteousness. In the Bible, the church is often referred to as the bride of Christ. Whether people choose to realize this truth or not, the Church is called to be the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural bride of Christ that exalts and glorifies Him. Our responsibility as the church is to make sure the bride is getting ready. The Church must embrace her multi-ethnic, multi-cultural identity.
At Nyack’s Center for Racial Reconciliation, Dr. Nathaniel Perez spearheads the initiative at Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary to educate, disciple and empower students and all members of the campus community to lead the charge for justice and reconciliation in the local community, our nation and around the world. He is responsible for collaborating with the faculty and administration to engage and expand the College’s involvement in the areas of reconciliation and justice. The Center will engage and develop leaders who are equipped for racial reconciliation, social justice, and community development.