With the arrival of COVID-19, the horrible killings of black people, and all the inequalities that the country suddenly saw— conversations about racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and systemic racism have increased dramatically.
Bias, stereotypes, discrimination, lack of privileges, fear, suffering, inequalities, hoping that someday things can change—this has been the drink people of color have been taking every single day. People of color in this country have gone through slavery, genocide, internment camps, death, mass incarceration, separations of families, and poverty. Yet, while they share their stories, they keep waiting and hoping for the day of justice to come.
If we think about the seasons of the year, we quickly recall what happens in each one. What comes to your mind when you think Winter is coming, for instance? Longer nights, colder temperatures, dormant plants, and animals? We know for sure what to expect when Winter comes. That’s how God created the seasons, for they arrive faithfully every year, and we get used to it.
Unfortunately, after sin entered the world, evil has always been present. We see sinful behaviors. We see injustices; we see abuse of power. We see it so often that we almost get used to it. Since it happens all the time, does that mean I should not be surprised anymore? Should I take it like the leaves of the trees falling every year? Sometimes it feels like that.
One thing that keeps surprising me about American culture is how strong and deep individualism is; and how it has penetrated the church. The Scripture talks about unity, the body of Christ. To explain unity, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12: 13-16, 26 uses an image of the body to make it clear [my paraphrasing included in italics]:
“...for we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether we are Asian, Latino, Native American, Black—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now, suppose one part of the body says that I am not part of the body because I am Chinese. And the Native American says because I am Native American, I am not part of the body. The Black says because I am Black, I am not part of the body, and the Latino says because I am Latino, I am not part of the body; what kind of body would this be? ... (v. 26) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it ...”
I wonder if the church would have felt the pain and suffering people of color live with every day if COVID-19, the killings, the inequalities, and injustices we have seen this past year had not happened. I would almost dare to say no.
If individualism had not corrupted the body of Christ, it would have fought all the time against racism, privilege, and racial injustices because it would have felt the pain and damage in its body.
Sadly, I believe the church needed COVID-19 to open their eyes to see and their ears to listen to the pain of parts of the body usually forgotten. I wonder if the Scripture is not talking loud enough for the church to hear. Or is it that the church is suffering from some kind of congenital insensitivity disease.
Individualism goes against the teaching of Jesus that tells me to consider my brothers and sisters. It does not teach me to think about myself alone, but it teaches me that I am connected to others. I'm not an isolated person.
Thinking that each of us is a member of this body should move us to tears. That sense of belonging we get by being part of the body of Christ. We grow and develop ourselves, and we owe each other to work in this unity, not as isolated individuals. It is in this unity when we become the true church. It is when we live in this unity that we become the true church.