Family trees exist to help us trace our origins and understand our lineage. As Jesus-followers, we’re born into a massive spiritual family. We have a long list of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters expanding beyond the space where we live. And our Christian origin, our family tree, can be traced back to Jesus, the author of our faith.
Just as we are united by our origin, we are united by our history. This month is Black History Month. As a nation, we honor and pay homage to Black culture and its leaders. In most Black communities, you’ll hear that “Black History” is also “American History.” You cannot tease the two apart. One simply specifies the subject of that particular section of time.
Jesus, at the time of his crucifixion, prayed that His people would be one. Not just one in idea, but one in spirit and in love. For oneness to be realized, we cannot live in two realities. We have to see our history as one history and let it form us into a grace-filled reality.
Jesus tore down the dividing wall of hostility, bringing together His church in His own body. “Black Church History” is “Church History.” Even though 11:00am on Sunday is the most segregated hour in the world, church history is not bound by our decisions. The Black church was birthed out of discrimination because Black brothers and sisters were not allowed to attend white churches. They were not allowed to be leaders and pastors in the formal sense of the word. But throughout history, they led. And despite that persecution, they flourished.
They wrote Negro spirituals that filled plantation fields with longing for our true home in heaven. They produced sound doctrine, birthed, not out of convenience, but out of suffering and marginalization. They relied on the Holy Spirit, knowing there was no advantage to relying on those in power.
Black church history reflects the history of Israel in Egypt. Minorities living in a foreign land, worshiping their God, all the while longing to be home. Black church history is church history. In it, we find lessons reminding us that the grace of God is sufficient in our weakness. From it, we see the reality of suffering in this world. From it, we also see a joy that surpasses circumstances. From it, we see a faith that is tested and refined. From it, we can capture the spirit of Black people. Resilient, hopeful, joyful, bold, and committed.
In our current cultural moment, we can learn from Black church history. We cannot put our faith in the government, but we can put our faith in the One who governs the governments. We cannot put our faith in power, but we can abide in the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot call America our home and our kingdom. But we can put our hope in the eternal inheritance that is coming. We cannot rely on being the dominant culture, but we can trust that Jesus will work through the remnant to bring about His plan.
So, this Black History Month, learn. Learn about the God who is faithful to the meek, humble, and powerless. Let that form you and bring depth to your history. And join me in rejoicing as we walk in the joy of God, who is making all things new.
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