The Apostle Paul reminds the confused and bickering Ephesians that “they are no longer to be divided and separated into ethnic and social groups. Now that they are in Christ, they are one.”
I grew up in a segregated community of Native Americans, African-Americans and Anglos. The community’s racial make-up was about equal among these three groups.
From the beginning of my education through high school, I stood by the road every morning and watched as two school buses passed me by. One bus carried children with faces darker than mine, while the second bus carried students with faces brighter than mine. I didn’t know where they were going, and what they would encounter when they arrived at their destination. I just knew they were not going to the same place I was going.
Then, a third bus would stop, open the door and I would step inside and be met by children with brown faces the color of mine. I never questioned this aloud, but deep inside, I knew that this was wrong. Were they better than me? Worse than me? Who was I?
Our farm was surrounded by several families that were Anglo, African-American and other Indians. The oneness played out in many ways. After school and all summer long, we worked in the fields and all three races would, at times, meet at the ends of the rows. We would talk and share stories. Often times, we would share the jar of ice water our mothers had prepared and placed in a large brown bag to keep it as cool as possible. (I would place this jar under a bush or stalk of tobacco away from the direct sunlight to keep it as cool as possible for as long as possible.)
During those hot summer days, we would take long breaks during the middle of the day or late afternoon. I remember seeing my old dad, along with the fathers of the other boys, sit under the large oak trees in our front yard, talking and laughing as they told their stories. I listened in as much as possible as they shared about politics, farming methods and a whole lot about the Bible. They would go on and on with these stories until their chair legs would grind deep in the ground. They would move their chairs and talk some more. Color was not an issue for these old men and passersby would see this and pull in and join the conversation.
Noel was one of my African-American friends from that era. I saw him again just this week. He always embraces me there on his job at Wal-Mart. He pulled me close to him and said, “Give me some of that. Give me a little of that Jesus love.”
I think this is what Paul meant when he said, “We are one in Jesus.”