Standing in No Man's Land

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New City Church believes that, as the Kingdom of God present in the world, the Church should be a reflection of the Kingdom's beautiful diversity. Therefore, we intentionally strive for diversity.  Pastor Lawrence Robinson is a New City elder and vital part of this effort toward a beautifully diverse church.  We've asked him to begin sharing with us his thoughts and experiences on life, race and the gospel.

Where Do I Stand Living In No Man’s Land? (What life is like for a gospel-centered evangelical African American Pastor)

Most people who know me would probably say that I am a pretty good guy and get along with everybody.  On my job I tend to be in some ways “the life” of the faculty, as it pertains to having a good attitude and work ethic.  In most arenas of my life I’ve been accepted by most people (as far as I can tell).  The reality of my life is that as much as I am involved with people I am often quite lonely and disconnected from practically everybody.  You see, I believe in Jesus Christ.  Not only do I believe in Jesus but I am deeply committed to God’s word.    So then what does a belief and commitment to Christ and His word do for an African American man like me?  It places me and others like me in no man’s land.  What do I mean?  No man’s land is that place where because of who I am (a gospel centered evangelical African American) and how I approach the issues of life (looking at everything through the lenses of God’s word and biblical principles) causes me to be out of sync with my own race in many ways and also out of sync with my white brothers and sisters in just as many ways.  Let me explain.

When it comes to social issues where African Americans are negatively affected, where do I stand and how do I view these issues?  If I look at things through the scripture, often times that biblical view places me out of step with the predominant view from the African American community where sentiments for solutions are exceptionally strong.  Also, if I look at things through the scripture, often times that biblical view can cause me to come down on the side of the prevailing view of the African American community recognizing some ills of the White community that may contribute to an ill in the African American community.  So then where do I stand?

I am an active member of a predominately White church where I know for certain that I am accepted and loved, but still somewhat lonely.  I pastored for almost twenty years a predominantly African American church where my heart’s desire is for my people.  I desire so much to try and rectify the many ills that plague our people through living out the gospel of Jesus.  On most of the issues that plague my folks, being gospel centered is the answer.  So then I see myself in the middle of a great dilemma.  Herein may be the reason for being lonely.  My loneliness can only be remedied through a true reconciliation of God’s people. How can I stand on the words of Jesus and faithfully honor Him and become a bridge of God’s people, uniting His family for His purposes?  I believe that the answer lies in fully trusting in God’s word and sticking to it for all solutions in life while encouraging people of both races to reconcile around a true unfolding of God’s word.  1 Corinthians 12:12-27 will help us to understand how badly we need each other and how badly we need to work together as a body and as a family in order to rectify some of our societal ills.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.  21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

So then what does any of this have to do with me feeling stuck in no man’s land?  I believe that true relationships are established as we rally around the things of Jesus, viewing and working through our societal issues not from a Black or White perspective but from what will best honor Jesus.  From this position we get to see each other as family and rally around the issues from both our races that displeases our Father, our Savior, and our Lord.  Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 1:10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. We become united in the same mind, intent on one purpose, the glorification of Jesus, while communicating to the world by our actions and heart what Jesus said. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35