Friday September 6, 2013 was a good day to see love at work. At the McGee Center, forty-five men and women from diverse backgrounds and age groups gathered to discuss ethnic relationships. I must say, I was thoroughly impressed and moved by the depth of communication, personal stories, and perspectives that were brought to the table. The men and women who came from Conway and Little Rock demonstrated that such discussions can occur without vitriol and dehumanizing language.
I have three observations that I would like to share from that night.
1. The Gospel is limitless. Consistently from every part of the room and on every question, there were men and women who sought to apply the Gospel. It was beautiful to hear the relevance and implications of the Gospel on such a difficult topic. It causes me to wonder why we do not hear more of it. Obviously, men and women representing a small sample want to discuss it.
2. Regardless of ethnicity, everyone wants to be acknowledged as a person. Beyond our labels and socially constructed categories, I sensed the men and women wanted to be known as a person. What implications does this have beyond race and other issues we currently wrestle with in the twenty-first century?
3. Multiple generations need to talk. There was a wealth of wisdom that was spoken from men and women who grew up in a time more ethnically divided than ours. They offered perspectives that I need to consider. On the other side, the forty and under age group offered me hope. I heard from them a desire for change and a willingness to listen and learn.
So where do we go from here?
We left with questions still unanswered but no one left feeling as if nothing had been accomplished. As with any discussion, it must follow with action. Therefore, on January 31, 2014 we will gather again at the McGee Center for what I call Celebrate 127. Celebrate 127 will simply be a night in which men and women from different ethnic backgrounds will gather around a food representative of their ethnic heritage. We will eat, strengthen relationships and celebrate God’s unique and creative work in his image bearers (Genesis 1:27).
Finally, I continue to receive very encouraging messages asking to continue these discussions. People have requested these discussions be hosted more frequently not just on race, but other tough topics that are rarely talked about openly, especially in the Church. So that is where we are headed.
I love the city in which I live and the people who give Conway its character. Love, an agape type love, compels men and women to engage in tough discussions at various moments so that the giver and receiver are blessed. Love compels men and women to see beyond our various barriers and distinctions to support or to rescue the soul of person. This type of love is the fruit of God’s demonstrative love described by the apostle.
Let's get to work!