The mood in the church was heavy as believers in my city gathered to mourn the horror of a racist demonstration in America and its deadly aftermath. As we united to grieve and pray, a question seemed to hang in the air: What does it mean to hope during days like this—when evil is on full display and when the justice of God’s kingdom seems far away?
Sadly, in the five decades I’ve been a believer in Jesus, I’ve known of several local churches that have split due to infighting. Leaders fight, and congregation members rally behind their chosen side. Then the feuding leaders prompt their supporters to form splinter congregations.
“Sometimes, going to church just seems irrelevant. After all, we listen to sermons via podcasts and can live- stream a church service . . . in our pajamas. Personally, I enjoy having access to so many Christian resources at the swipe of my finger on my iPhone. . . . I also meet in Christian community on Wednesday nights for small group Bible study. That’s good enough, right?” Those words, from a thoughtful post by Lindsay Blackburn, reflect the ambivalence many people feel about being part of a local church.
I enjoy looking around my local London church on a Sunday morning, taking in the array of faces. Along with British people, I see those from Nigeria, Uganda, Romania, Macedonia, Brazil, and many other places. I’m reminded of the vision John saw of a “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). In a small way, my multiethnic church reflects that picture—reminding me that, although believers have differences, we belong together.
Author Sarah Wells, in her blog post “Church, Why Bother?” writes, “On Sunday mornings, I have the keen sense of worshiping God with other believers in my community while other believers around my community, my state, the country, and the world also worship. All of those believers are strangely and mysteriously and powerfully connected to us by the Holy Spirit, and we are all together worshiping one God in a dedicated space at a dedicated time.”
When I was fourteen, with the help of a friend’s dad, my friends and I started a worship band. Before practice each week, we would gather in a circle and read a chapter of the Bible, then go around the circle sharing prayer requests and praises. We each took time to pray out loud for the person sitting next to us. This not only helped us get to know one another better, but allowed us to support and encourage one other through difficult times. It also helped us celebrate in praise together.
“The Unity Dance” is a beautiful poem written more than a century ago by Romanian Vasile Alecsandri. The verses evoke a desire of unity for all Romanians and freedom from oppression. To this day, the call to “join hands, those with Romanian hearts, to go round the dance of brotherhood on Romania’s land” awakens a longing for unity and peace.
Few boxing rivalries are as legendary as the one between Joe Louis, an African-American boxer, and Max Schmeling, a German fighter who was a favorite of Hitler’s (although Schmeling personally had no love for the Nazi regime). The two men were promoted as bitter rivals, but the truth is that the two later became close friends. Schmeling even helped pay for Louis’ funeral in 1981. Very different from one another, they shared a friendship that went beyond the bounds of sameness.
Watch a video of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, and you’ll be struck by the charm and grace with which they performed. It’s easy to assume that the four musicians were simply born with the skills they displayed. But in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that what made the Beatles a hit with fans was lots of hard work. Before that celebrated performance, the band had done nearly 1,200 shows—practice that prepared them for greatness.
When World War II began, thousands of African-Americans volunteered to fight for the United States. But discrimination was in full force. Black soldiers were at times placed in more dangerous jobs than white soldiers. Black troops were denied entry into army specialist schools. They were served lower-quality food and forced to ride separate military buses.
But on December 26, 1944,…