United at the Foot of the Cross
During the Rwandan genocide in the mid 1990s, there was a school that had teenage students from both the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. One day, three men burst into the school with guns and a machete. The students were terrified. One of the men shouted: “I want you to separate yourselves between Hutu and Tutsi.”
One of the boys in the room, Phanuel, worried about what might take place. Catherine Claire Larson, author of As We Forgive described what happened next. Phanuel:
…felt like his heart would beat out of his chest. As a Hutu, he knew that he could say something and perhaps spare his life, but he couldn’t imagine betraying his own friends. He knew also that as a Christian he didn’t have that option. He prayed, “Lord, help us.” It couldn’t have been more than a few moments that the rebel waited for an answer, but to Phanuel it seemed like time had slowed. And then there was a voice. Phanuel winced.
“All of us are Rwandans here,” said Chantal from the front of the classroom. A shot rang out in reply. The students gasped – the bullet hit Chantal squarely in the forehead.
“Hutu here! Tutsi there!” yelled the man… ‘This is your last chance. You will separate or you will all die.”
Just then Emmanuel said in a steady, low voice, “We are all Rwandans.” Shots punctuated Emmanuel’s statement as the men moved their guns systematically across the room.
Many of the students perished. But none of them betrayed the others.
The solidarity of the Hutu and Tutsi students reflects the kind of solidarity that should be ours in the church. We are not black or white, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. We are one in Christ Jesus. Our gatherings should boldly proclaim, “All of us are Christians here!”
Our life together as a community should reflect the coming kingdom. As much as possible, we should seek to unite races and social classes, nationalities and ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds – all around the cross of Christ and our common desire to remain faithful to Him.
John Newton, the composer of “Amazing Grace,” held a high social status in his day. But the grace of God that changed him from a slave-trader to a pastor was the same grace that caused him to bridge class divisions in his church ministry. Chris Armstrong writes:
“Preferring his old blue captain’s jacket over ‘proper’ clerical garb, he hobknobbed with spiritually alive folks wherever he found them, regardless of their social status. He once wrote, ‘I get more warmth and light sometimes by a letter from a plain person who loves the Lord Jesus, though perhaps a servant maid, than from some whole volumes put forth by learned Doctors.’”
This kind of unity among Christians is one way that the church can reflect the centrality of the cross. By uniting around the death and resurrection of Jesus, we show the world the power of the gospel announcement displayed through the gospel community.
- This blog is an excerpt from Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope