Spiritual “Corporate Solidarity in Christ” as Model for Pure Practical Human Solidarity and Racial Justice and Unity in Christian Churches in America

Spiritual “Corporate Solidarity in Christ” as Model for Pure Practical Human Solidarity and Racial Justice and Unity in Christian Churches in America

I’m thinking about a few theological imaginaries and their repercussions for the possibility to construct a robust Christian ethic of unity and human interdependence. In the theological sense, Apostle Paul has argued relatively in most of his letters, which he sent to newly-established (Jewish-) Gentile Churches in the Roman Empire, by the virtue of their trust in and allegiance to Christ, that followers of Jesus the Messiah now share a “corporate identity in Christ.” This Pauline mysticism is associated with the symbolic interplays of baptism, burial, death, and resurrection, and that both Jewish and Gentile believers have died with the Messiah through baptism and are resurrected with him so they could enter in the new life and enjoy the new eschatological age (Paul’s idea of the new creation).  Paul establishes some important points of connection and parallel between the believer and Christ through past, present, and future events. The believer is united with Christ in every intersection of life, and this union in relationship with Christ is the basis of the believer’s corporate identity and the new hope and life in Christ; this spiritual affiliation is also significant for the believer’s present sanctification and future glory with the Messiah-Christ.

For example, in Romans chapter six, Paul employs slavery as a metaphor to describe the dialectics of the (believer’s) life before Christ and the (believer’s) life in Christ. Paul also utilizes slavery to represent dominion under sin and dominion under Christ (For example, read Rom. 6:11-12, 14, 17-18, 19-20, 22-23). In Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification (1998), theologian Sinclair Ferguson articulates a few propositions about this important unity between Christ and his followers; thus, the believer shares

  1. “in his death (we were baptized into his death),
  2. in his resurrection (we are resurrected with Christ),
  3. in his ascension (we have been raised with him),
  4. in his heavenly session (we sit with him in heavenly places, so that our life is hidden with Christ in God), and we will share in his promised return (when Christ, who is our life, appears, we also will appear with him in glory) (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:11-12; 3:1-3).” (page 58)

For Paul, the notion of “corporate identity in Christ” is not just a state of mind or state of being, but an existential reality which should radically transform the identity of the Christian in the world and radically shape the Christian experience in the faith community; the concept is not just a theoretical framework to think spiritually and metaphysically about the Christ-believer relationship and intimacy. It bears moral and ethical implications how should Christians relate precisely to people outside the Christian community. For specific textual references on the doctrine of union with Christ and corporate identity in Christ, see the following Pauline passages: 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17, 12:2, 13:5; Gal. 2:20, 3:28; Eph. 1:4, 2:10, 3:17; Phil. 3:9; 1 Thess. 4:16; Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10).

It is evident in our analysis that Paul establishes a strong connection between two natures and two beings: one is divine and spiritual (Christ); the other is material and fleshly (humanity=man and woman), and the corporeal (man and woman) and the spiritual (Christ) in one life; the rapport between the body and the soul is firmly established in Paul’s theology of the believer’s union with Christ.  How should we then imagine or think about the repercussions of this “union with Christ” to foster collective solidarity and nurture collective unity in (Evangelical) Christian churches and among Christians of all races and ethnic groups? In other words, how should this Pauline theological imagination may assist us to reason more rigorously and act more responsibly and compassionately, yet in a practical way, about the effective practicality of racial justice and unity in (Evangelical) Christian circles and congregations? Should we not be concerned about the possible effects of genuine Christian love as justice and peace in public: in the general American society.

Furthermore, I would like to frame this same question differently: why does it appear to be a convincing matter for American cultural Evangelicals and American Christians to embrace this difficult and theoretical doctrine of corporate identity with a spiritual being, who is the Christ-Messiah, and hold to the notion to the “collective union in/with Him,” then to imagine the prospect for Americans of different skin tones, cultural dynamics, and linguistic difference to be united in one mind and spirit in matters of race and ethnic relations, as Paul has urged us to do, and to be protagonists of Christian love and reconciliation in the churches and in our society?

Moreover, the Pauline notion of “corporate identity in Christ” does not heighten the individual integration into the sphere of the Christ, but of the collective incorporation into the realm and life of the Messiah. The collective experience is what is prized in Paul, not the Western libertarian preference nor the individualistic option. If that is the case, Paul then presupposes a lot of things among the members of Jewish-Christian Churches and communities in the Roman Empire, including the following:

  1. in Christ’s death, all” Gentile and Jewish believers give their complete allegiance to the Messiah (Rom. 1:1-6;3:25-6);
  2. in Christ’s resurrection, “all” believers were baptized into the Messiah’s death (Rom. 6:4-5);
  3. in Christ’s burial and resurrection, “all” Gentile and Jewish Christians were buried and resurrected with the Messiah (Rom. 6:6-10);
  4. In Christ’s ascension, “all” Jewish and Gentile followers were raised with the Messiah;
  5. In Christ’s heavenly session, “all” Jewish and Gentile believers sit with the Messiah in heavenly, and their collective life is hidden in Christ (Rom. 5:15-20).
  6. Finally, in the age to come, “all” will share the promises and glories of the Messiah.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue to be silent on racial, justice, and reconciliation issues so the grace of God in the Messiah may abound?  How can we who share a collective identity in Christ and exist corporately in him and with him are reluctant to empathize with those who are victims of racial injustice, human denigration, and racial discrimination? May it never be!

What shall we say then? How can we whose destiny—black, brown, white, red, mixed-race followers of Christ—in Christ has been sealed and our common future is assured remain indifferent to the predicament of racial and ethnic segregation in our churches and churches? By no means!

Undoubtedly, the doctrine of Christian corporate solidarity in Christ should serve as a model for Christians of all races and ethnic groups to exercise pure practical Christian solidarity and love, and to be forerunners of racial justice and unity in our churches and the greater American culture. We must be an alternative community to which we are called to be in Christ and with each other. We must embody the message, attitude, and ethic of the Gospel of Christ!

What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

Allow me to reiterate this thesis statement: Violence or retaliation is not the answer to the racial crisis we’re now facing in this country.As Apostle Paul commands us Christians,”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

We have to learn to sit together, listen to each other, and find a solution to heal this national wound and transcend this national crisis.Simutaneously, we should continue praying for peace, understanding, and reconciliation in this country.

While we should sympathize with the people of France and Turkey at the moment, let’s not turn away from this predicament of human life, and the culture of violence and death in our country. If we remain silent, as we have always been and some of us still are, we will lose more lives and ultimately destroy this country. To destroy this country is to bring destruction upon ourselves. We must tackle the root of America’s culture of violence and death before we can have a genuine conversation about the value of (human) life and racial justice in this country.

The Christian Church in America has a tremendous role to play in the transformation of this culture of death and violence that dishonors God’s image in man and the sanctity of life to a culture that values human life and promotes human dignity. In the same line of thought, we need to cultivate a culture of positive values and be virtuous in our practical dealings with each other. Evangelical Christians  must engage the realm of the human intellect and the sphere of human reason to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God. Correspondingly, we must also challenge the disastrous and unhealthy practices of American Evangelical Christianity in both civil and political societies that slander God’s reputation and his glorious name, as well as hinder the public witness of the Gospel.  American Christianity is a bourgeois faith. Bourgois Christianity is a dangerous religion that produces a culture of isolation and alienation. Bourgeois Christianity is selfish, arrogant, and not salvific. Bourgeois Christianity must die and be replaced by the Christianity of the cross and self-giving. Until we learn to foster a robust and consistent theology of life that is sourced in the doctrine of God and God’s majestic holiness and unconditional love for all people, Christian engagement with culture and in the public sphere will be unproductive and futile.

As we have mentioned in our previous writings, Christianity has the adequate resources to help heal the national wound, improve conversations on race relations and racial injustice,  and contribute to a more promising and constructive American life and humanism in this society. The Christianity we need in America is a transformative evangelical faith that is not afraid to affirm its past sins, its contribution to human suffering and pain, and the destruction of many individuals and families, in our culture. Evangelical Christianity must produce a new kind of species and a transformed community of faith that is  capable of sympathizing with the pain and wound of the victims of racism, racial injustice and inequality, and any type of human-inflicted oppression. Toward the process of racial reconciliation and harmony, American Evangelicals must be intentional in their doings and be ready to mourn and lament, and turn toward God for repentance and cultural renewal.

We have to allow the Word of God penetrate our hearts and pierce through our deepest cultural prejudices , our hidden sins, and human insensibilities–toward a holistic transformation of our hearts and minds, and daily living. It is only through the power of the Gospel of grace that produces sustaining life and hope we can have a change of conscience that honors Christ in our practical living and everday dealing with people.One of the greatest sins of American Evangelicalism today is that many of us know God with our hearts and not with our minds. God wants to be known both with the heart and the mind, and has willed that our knowledge of him should inform our Christian living and relationship with people.

Postcript

In the opening words of a recent sermon entitled, ” A Biblical Response to Race,” Pastor Tony Evans explains why abortion is wrong and correspondingly why racial injustice is unbiblical. His thesis is grounded on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of creation.  Here’s one of the most balanced, powerful, and articulate statements that I have ever heard on the justification of the sanctify of life, and the thesis that all life matters and therefore, black lives matter, rooted in a deep biblical theology that all people are created in the Image of God:

“All life is created in the image of God; therefore, all lives matter. however, underneath the banner that God is created all people in his image, there are equities that must be addressed. For example, the life of the unborn matters; and so, there’s the emphasis on injustice in the womb. But that injustice in the womb must be under the umbrella that is life and because all lives matter that life matters. Black lives matter as a subset of all lives matter, so any injustices to a particular group must be addressed specific to that group but under the banner that all life is created in the image of God.” Pastor Tony Evans