I grew up in the generation that was promised an end to racial differences and tensions. I attended a public school district that had mandatory busing so diversity would happen in the classrooms. I have been part of more than my share of conversations on a college campus about privilege and race. Today the discussions are not all that different and the issues still remain in our country. There seems to be little hope.
There is a place of hope however, and I was gently reminded of it this week at our young adult gathering.
We very intentionally do nothing but revel in the gospel when we gather as young adults each Thursday night. It was actually unsettling for a number of people when I arrived, that I thought ministry among young adults could be more than planned scavenger hunts and mixers full of “Christianese.” What young adults in the church need is not a social planner, it is Jesus. And that is what new leaders and attenders of our gathering determined to give.
And I think it has worked. We take over a coffee shop each week and we preach grace, sing about grace and challenge each other to live in grace more each week. The group is quite the mix of people from 18 to 30 and just about everybody is there is to hear about Jesus.
Then something beautiful happens. Not during a sermon I am preaching, or during a song set of worship. No this happened during discussion time. Matt and Derek, two guys with vastly different backgrounds, both talk about Jesus’ finished work for us and how that truth empowers us to endure in life and in their moment of agreement they shake hands. A black guy and a white guy. A master’s degree holding scientist and a college student with a story of being redeemed out of a gang lifestyle. They shake hands. In the most awkward way possible. It was supposed to have some level of urban flavor to it but both parties did not receive the memo! It made me laugh out loud it was so funny to watch.
In that moment it hit me. Nothing would bring these two guys together but Jesus did. You could not get two people from more opposite experience tracks in our community. From two more different family backgrounds. And here they are, preaching the gospel to each other and others. Then I looked around the room. A lot of white but mixed in with plenty of Asian, African-American, and Hispanic. This is what churches where gospel doctrine creates gospel culture look like.
As I reflect on the news of this summer and what the future might hold, I am very thankful for that awkward handshake.