by Wayne Stapleton
NAB VP of Cross-Cultural Engagement
The Japanese have a process in which cracked pottery is repaired by inserting gold in the cracks. This process is called kintsugi and is built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections stronger and more beautiful pieces of art can be created.
February 14 of this year will be celebrated by many churches as Racial Reconciliation Sunday. The NAB has used the term cross-cultural engagement to refer to the work of seeking to overcome brokenness due to racial division. We believe that biblical righteousness includes positively declaring the inherent dignity of all people as made in the image of God.
Why can’t we face with honesty the cracks in the church across lines of ethnic division and work to mend them with the gold of sacrificial love, listening, and humility?
We know that sin has fractured human relationships; we see the results so clearly. But Christ came to restore and renew relationships. Just as we see evidence of sin in the biblical witness, we see evidence of the unity of diverse peoples in Christ as well. Revelation 7:9 informs us of people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” worshiping God.
We must not wait till then to pursue oneness.
When looking at the art that has been repaired by the process of kintsugi, the cracks are still apparent, but they are highlighted in gold. There is no reason that cannot also be the view of someone looking at a church, where there is love in place of tension, healing in the place of hurt, hope in the place of cynicism, all because of Jesus.
But the only way to get there is by applying the Word of God to racial and cultural division. By walking through tough conversations where we listen with love to one another. By acknowledging the hurt and pain and trauma of the oppressed and marginalized. By seeking brotherhood through Christ with people we otherwise would deem as “other.” This oneness is not achieved by assigning guilt to anyone but by assigning value to those historically not deemed as valuable. By weeping with those who weep. By investing ourselves in relationships that challenge us, for the cause of Christ.
And this is all for beauty, the beauty of the love of God and the gospel that binds His followers together. Nothing is more beautiful. May we pursue the beauty of the oneness that is worth the personal sacrifice on each of our part for something much greater, the glory of the Lord who died for our salvation and our oneness. Like kintsugi, the church can take what was broken and create something new, beautiful, and unique. And we are equipped for this.
No group of people are better equipped to navigate pain and trauma than those renewed by the Spirit of God and supplied with His resources. No group of people are more mentally and emotionally able to lament sin and repent from anger and hatred than those who have been transformed by the love of God into new creations.
There is no other group of people the world can look to in hope for how to navigate the tense waters of racial disunity than people who have become unified by the death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of the Son of God.
Scripture gives us countless reasons and commands in this regard. Let’s put them into practice. Here are just two applications from Scripture.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1–2).
How can we imitate God and walk in love regarding cross-cultural engagement? God is a God of grace. If you know a friend of a different ethnicity, ask if they are comfortable sharing their story. If so, extend grace to your friend by listening to their story without judgment. Wait until they are done to ask questions.
When you are on the receiving end of the story, give your friend the grace to ask awkward questions without judgment as well.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2).
Pray about what unity really looks like for the people of God. Consider how people of different backgrounds and experiences and perspectives, but who love Jesus, can come together.
Ask yourself: “Is there someone in the body of Christ who is of a different ethnicity than me who can say they know I love them as a brother or sister in Christ?” Answer honestly.
The church celebrates the character of Christ as beautiful. Because of the Gospel, let us reflect the beauty of God by mending cracks related to race and ethnicity. The love of God binds us together; let’s live into this love. The cracks won’t mend themselves; God calls His church to be His ministers of reconciliation. Let us fill those cracks with the precious gold of godly, sacrificial, loving character, for the glory of the Master Artist, our Lord.