10 February 2024
Racial Justice Sunday 2024: Making real contact with Christ
Captain Wan Gi Lee
Captain Wan Gi Lee reminds us that relationships are key to racial justice.
Imagine yourself in Abram’s shoes in our study passage. You are told to leave your country, your people and your father’s household. That’s pretty tough, isn’t it? It’s easy to listen to it as a story, but when the story is our reality it can be life-changing. Few people will take the idea of leaving everything they’ve ever known as an invitation to discover the land God will show them.
Abram was brave. He began a 2,200-mile journey from Ur of Chaldea to Canaan. Some years ago, I travelled 5,000 miles from South Korea to the UK by plane – not on foot or by camel as Abram and his family did.
Why did God initiate Abram’s long, dangerous journey? There must have been other, more comfortable options. God, however, specifically called him to leave the familiar behind and, in total trust, embrace a new world.
In Genesis 3 and 4, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden, and Cain is driven out to be a ‘restless wanderer’ (4:12). This is punishment for their sins. But in Genesis 12, we witness a different mode of exile: God launches his mission by choosing Abram and scattering him with his whole family.
The Bible records other stories of God’s exiles, such as Joseph and Daniel. In his incarnation, Jesus moved from the divine to the mundane. They all left their homes for the sake of God’s plan of reconciliation and renewal.
Abram passed through palaces, markets, high streets, wildernesses and deserts. Along the way, he met all sorts of people – kings and princes, traders and robbers, kind people and bad people. It was a risky business and not for the faint-hearted. To complete this journey safely, Abram had to use all he had – his skills, wealth and energy. It would have been a daunting task even for a young, healthy man, but Abram was already 75 years old.
Through this challenging, epic journey, God wanted to make Abram into a ‘great nation’ and a ‘blessing’ (v2). I believe God wanted Abram to come out of his comfort zone and broaden his perspective and understanding of God’s people from all nations by making real contact with them. Abram travelled through many nations and cities, including Egypt, Babylon, Negev, Sodom, Gomorrah, Nimrud, Nineveh and Canaan – the equivalent of modern-day Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.
As Abram met many people, he interacted with them. As he crossed boundaries, he deepened his understanding and learnt to respect cultural differences. This is a crucial part of reconciliatory mission. Without this crucial process, being a great nation and a blessing to all would have been impossible. I believe that was God’s purpose in training Abram through his journey.
As the Church recognises Racial Justice Sunday on 11 February, we still witness so many global issues – international wars and conflicts, migrant crises and populist movements, racial prejudices, and institutional and individual violence.
According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2022, the Covid-19 pandemic worsened racial inequality in the USA: ‘Black, Latinx, and Native communities have been disproportionately burdened by the negative impacts of Covid-19, which has deepened existing racial injustices in healthcare, housing, employment, education and wealth accumulation.’
On top of Covid-19 pandemic-related strains and sufferings, the effects of war in the Middle East and Ukraine are being felt worldwide, with ever-growing political tensions in many parts of the world, including Hong Kong and Africa. As a result, we witness so many displaced and scattered people. Voluntary or forced, they are modern-day exiles. Like Abram, they are embarking on long, hard journeys.
For us as the Church, it is vital to reflect upon today’s exilic movements across the world, because there are still stories of modern ‘Abrams’ taking to the road with full trust in God. As the Church, by opening ourselves up to all people, as Abram and Jesus did, we have new opportunities to welcome and embrace them.
Through his coming, dying and resurrection, Jesus’ ‘ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) made real contact with all humankind. Writing about Jews and Gentiles in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says that Christ, through his divine exile to us, ‘has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ (2:14).
Our study passage reminds us that the Church is the bearer of God’s promise of blessing through Abram and Christ, so that ‘all peoples on Earth will be blessed’ (v3). We are entrusted with this.
Racial justice starts with our simple day-to-day interactions with a diverse range of people. Church should be a place to practise Abram’s welcoming hospitality to all people, which culminates in Jesus’ sacrificial love for the whole world.
How many racial injustices are knowingly or unknowingly committed through lack of relationship with – and understanding of – others? Our racial justice journey is to get connected again with God and with one another by making real contact. As theologian Muthuraj Swamy points out in Reconciliation: ‘Reconciliation as it should be lived and practised in Christian life is to do not only with broken relationships, but also with a lack of relationship.
Pause and reflect
- How can you relate your journey to that of Abram? Where do you identify yourself in Abram’s journey?
- Is your church welcoming and embracing ‘all peoples’?
- Have you made real contact with people from other cultures to be a blessing?
- What can you do to practise racial justice in your church and community?
Bible study by
Captain Wan Gi Lee
Corps Officer, St Albans
A call for all Christians to engage in the righteous struggle for racial justice
As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues, Captain Ben Cotterill highlights the need for non-polarised thinking in our interactions.
In the lead-up to Racial Justice Sunday, Territorial Ecumenical Officer Lieut-Colonel Jonathan Roberts reviews Race for Justice.
Reflections, prayers and Bible studies to help you go deeper with God.