One of the primary reasons to address the issue of the movement of critical race theory (CRT) into the believing church focuses on the inherent division that CRT introduces. Of course, this is by design: CRT is by definition divisional, as it introduces barriers and distinctions based upon ethnicity, power, oppression, etc. It is meant not to unify but to divide and engender distrust and envy.
The unity of the Body of Christ is found not in our commitment to some kind of over-arching principle. It is not found in any actions we may or may not undertake. It is found in the reality that the Body is formed by her Savior, by His life, by His flesh, by His blood, His atoning death. Since all believers stand upon the exact same ground, and have peace with God through the exact same means, there is no basis whatsoever for divisions based upon ethnicity or any other man-derived source. The supernatural unity of the body transcends anything that happened to my ancestors or any long-standing political realities. It requires us to recognize the radical break that has taken place with our sinful past, and, as a result, the radical nature of the unity of the redeemed.
In the Revelation we are given an insight into the heavenly courts, and in that vision we hear the words of a heavenly song.
And they sang a new song saying,
“Worthy are you to receive the book and to open its seals!
For you were slain and purchased for God by means of your blood
People from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And made them a kingdom and priests to our God
And they will reign upon the earth.”
The lamb that was slain is the focal point of the heavenly vision, but even as the focus is upon Him, the words of the celestial hymn communicate divine truth. The self-giving of the Lamb has made Him worthy to open the book. His blood has redeemed to God a specific people, one drawn from out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These He makes a kingdom and priests to God by the exercise of His divine power. In all of this, the Lamb is pre-eminent, the Lamb has all power. But out of the wide range of human cultures and experiences, a single kingdom is created by the blood of the Lamb, a single priesthood of the redeemed. This becomes the bedrock, the foundation, of the unity of believers with one another. Their citizenship is now in the heavenly realms, and that reality overwhelms any earthly connection which might bring division or disharmony.
The heavenly song reflects a divine truth laid out clearly by the Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus. He addresses the great divide in the early church: the Jew/Gentile chasm, and shows how in fact God has made one body where everyone, on both sides, could only have seen a permanent schism. And surely, if that great division could be overcome by the power of the work of Christ, any other divide, political, cultural, ethnic, can be overcome as well! In chapter 2 the Apostle speaks of how those who were formerly “far off” have been brought near. How? By the continued efforts of Jewish believers? No, this unification requires divine will, divine power. They have been brought near “by the blood of Christ.” Just as in the heavenly song it is the self-giving of Christ, His sacrificial death that has power to unify for only by it can sin’s power be broken. Christ is described as our “peace,” and given the enmity and animosity that existed between these groups in the past, “peace” is the only true remedy. The enmity is abolished “in His flesh,” that is, through His self-sacrifice, and since that death is purposeful and powerful it brings “the two into one new man, making peace.”
Why should we pay close attention to what for most are “givens”? Because though the issue today is not Jews and Gentiles, we can still learn from the foundations that were laid in those early days. The divide represented there is greater than any of those that could be proposed today, so upon the same basis we must insist that Christians recognize the primacy of their identity in Christ in relationship to one another over and above any and all other human relationships. This was a necessary reality in the primitive church in the Roman Empire where ethnicities and tribes and tongues were forced into close proximity by Roman power. The early church had a common table, a single focus, and this brought the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor, the slave and the free, yes, even masters and slaves, to the same table to adore the same Savior and partake of the same salvation.
There is much to consider when we ask how Christians are to interact with the complexities of modern society. We may well disagree on principles of application in difficult circumstances. But much of the “social justice” discussion is taking place without first having in place the absolutely necessary theological conviction that the unity of believers in Christ is a function of the awesome power and purpose of the Son’s atoning work. The One to whom we have been united unites us in His sovereign glory. Anything that tends to break up that awesome unity must be rejected for the dangerous error it is.