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people of praise

With God’s grace, we must come together

Ware

Some are dancing and some are clearing their desks, but in the wake of this month’s election, we all have much to be thankful for.

On one hand, we have survived and even thrived through one more election in our distinguished and blessed history. A quick review of elections around the world prompts us to thank God for how good we have it; while elections by their very nature have the potential to prompt turmoil and even violence, our elections are still peaceful.

Yet, there is a palpable divide. The United States seemed optimistic in 2008 when 70 percent of Americans believed that the election of an African-American president would improve racial relations. One year into President Obama’s term, Gallup reported that only 41 percent of Americans believed that racial relations had improved. Only seven weeks ago, a Rasmussen poll suggested that 19 percent of Americans believed that racial relations have improved in the past four years.

Defining terms like “improvement” and “racial relations” is tough enough between just two people, and it’s even tougher when you’re trying to get a statistically significant sampling of 1,000 people.

Yet, we really don’t have an alternative; we must come together. We must “improve.” The 2012 election may rank among the most polarizing contests in recent memory, and our land is in need of an extra measure of God’s grace and capacity for interpersonal reconciliation.

This is not only my prayer and that of my team at Crossroads Bible College, but it has always been central to our academic mission of training Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world with the love of Jesus Christ, and I believe that the degree of electoral divide and rhetorical shrill over the past 18 months has demonstrated that the need for a ministry of reconciliation has arguably never been greater.

One might be surprised to hear me say that I firmly believe such reconciliation is impossible. Why? Because this black man is too hard-headed, and my black, white, Hispanic, Burmese and other comrades are hardly any better off. We are sinners with agendas, convictions, fears, insecurities and turf to defend.

But, enter the Gospel. We petition the Lord of the “impossible” on a regular basis, and he supernaturally accomplishes this reconciliation each and every day, every week and every year at Crossroads. But for the grace of God, this is our strategic contribution to the advancement of his kingdom.

That is why Crossroads Bible College is in the middle of what we call a “Listening Tour” around the northeastern Indiana region. In August we started by hosting a luncheon at our new Fort Wayne office at The Summit (the former Taylor property on Rudisill Boulevard) to bring together Christian leaders from all ethnic backgrounds. More gatherings are planned for 2013 at small churches and large churches, black churches and white churches, Hispanic churches and other churches.

Why? Because if we do not intentionally prompt it, it will not happen.

There is a significant divide in the Summit City, and the white, black and Hispanic Fort Wayne pastors – whose only “boast” is that they were fortunate to have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – must come together with a very intentional and andragogical approach to teaching its citizenry the spiritual and social graces of biblical community love, which is dynamic, vibrant, intentional and engaging.

I am not talking about minimal things like tolerance and respect. The world champions these things, and they are important, but they are so entry-level, and barely begin to satisfy the higher and supreme commandments by Christ to love one another, like Christ has love for his church.

More elections will come and go, and I personally welcome them as instruments that can make our country and even our churches stronger. But they can also tear us apart if we fail to intentionally cultivate the spiritual and social graces of biblical love.

I hope that more and more leaders from the church of Jesus Christ in northeastern Indiana will join us continuing this work. For my part, I might propose this as a starting point for how to define “improving” racial relations: when a future election ends up splitting as 50-50 as Nov. 6’s, yet polls show that 100 percent of the Americans agree that racial relations have “improved.”

Regardless of who wins or loses such an election, that’s a definition of improvement we can all embrace.

A. Charles Ware is president and chief executive officer of Crossroads Bible College, located at The Summit, 1027 W. Rudisill Blvd. If you are interested in submitting a column (750 words or less), send it to Terri Richardson, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802; fax 461-8893 or email trich@jg.net. Include your name, religious organization and a phone number where you can be reached. For more information, call 461-8304.

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