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The radical gap

Mary Ella and I have, for a number of years, spent time in Charleston. We stay in the historic district and spend our days reading and using walking tours to see and learn about this fascinating and historical city. Our days are filled with stories, some we’ve already heard and others we’ve never heard, but we are always certain to learn new stories about Charleston’s rich history.

And once, a couple of years ago, we were there a few days after the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME Church (we almost didn’t go) and became a part of the story. We’d seen the church a number of times, but when we see it now, there is a much different story to remember. And we learned something about the people of Charleston; they didn’t allow that one incident to damage or destroy their city. In fact, Mary Ella and I both noticed the friendliest week we’d ever spent there.

Our black waitress every morning at breakfast explained that Charleston would handle the crisis differently and they did. There were no riots and no protests; there was a prayer line of 20,000 across the Arthur J. Ravenel Jr. Bridge. We were there again a couple of weeks ago, and last weekend, 20 young black and white Christian leaders were there for a conference on race, dialogue and reconciliation hosted by Passages Israel and the Philos Project. One of the moderators said, “I love the city of Charleston. But how can it be so beautiful, yet so painful, this place is a microcosm of America.”

The theme of Galatians is, “Don’t submit again to the slave’s yoke;” it beautifully declares that in Christ all are free and all are one in him, that the Savior is for all people, not only Jewish people. It’s also a reminder to move forward to freedom and not back to slavery. Do we have problems? Certainly we do, in Charleston and in every other town and city in America and in our world. The key question is, “Are we doing something to heal the problems or to aggravate them?” Violent protests and riots and pulling down statues aggravates the problems and makes them worse. Is there anyone who believes things are better now that all that angst has been released into the conversation?

We are much too prone to take sides rather than seeing both sides. And we’re also tempted to assume what the other side is thinking and then reacte to it. Will Ford, Founder of Hilkiah Ministries in Dallas, said in a Sunday worship service at the conference in Charleston, “God is not looking for people to stand on the radical right or the radical left. He’s looking for someone to stand in the radical gap.” Amen.

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