They walk into the brand new “state of the art” gymnasium. Urban Christianity meets Conservative Christianity. I sit in the bleachers and observe and listen. I hear some comments. (“Here comes that team from D.C. They are so weird!”) I see the looks.
“Hmmmmm…” I think “Let the judgement begin!”
Half of the gym is filled with polished, conservative young people. Brought up in families who are mostly intact. They sit there in their khaki pants and white polo shirts. Not much cultural diversity. They play the “right” music, wear the “right” clothes. Their professors consider them to be the “cream of the crop”. They are beginning to believe they are the “cream of the crop”. They have had the benefit of training, education, and parents who stay together.
The other half of the gym is scattered with those from Urban America. Not as polished. Much diversity. Brought up in families who are mostly torn apart. Some have done time in jail. There are tattoos. Funky hair styles. Their professors consider them to be amazing trophies of God’s grace. They are learning to see themselves as amazing trophies of God’s grace. They have not had the benefit of much training, education, or parents who stay together. They are just thankful to be here.
Conservative Christianity meets Urban Christianity on the court. They play the game. They run. They cheer. They have time-outs. While on the court they are on level ground. They play the same game, wear similar uniforms, follow the same rules, and have the same goals in mind – They want to win.
Off the court it is a different story. A mom who is sitting nearby exclaims, “LOOK at the boy from D.C.! Look at how he is dressed! OH! BROTHER!”
“IGNORANT!” I think to myself. My heart response is just as judgmental as her comment. She is a precious sister, but she only knows what she knows. She is only thinking the way she has always thought. She is only believing the way she has been taught.
The level ground has disappeared.
Two teams. Opponents. Sitting back and observing each other and making judgements. Conservative Christianity assumes that since what they see externally isn’t what they think it should be, Urban Christianity isn’t “godly”. Urban Christianity looks at Conservative Christianity and can’t comprehend the life they have lived. Parents who stay together? Are these people for real?
Both sides need to see each other in light of the cross.
If you took away the khaki pants, white polo shirts, and conservative hair cuts. If you took away the tattoos, funky hair cuts, and inner-city diversity. If you took away all the external, cultural differences and labels that have been given, there would be 6 things that they have in common:
- level ground.
- All in the same game.
- All with the same goals in mind.
- All in need of the same thing.
- All in need of a Savior.
- Helpless to change themselves.
If they are truly children of God, they would see only the miracle of God’s amazing grace in their lives. There would be no “cream of the crop” – only gratefulness that they are HIS. They would be cheering each other on.
If we could see each other as God sees us, there would be no judgement. Only a welcoming of a brother or sister who may be different than us, but who is part of the same family. We would embrace. We would rejoice in the miracle of each conversion. We would see that the conversion of the Conservative Christian is just as big a miracle as the conversion of the Urban Christian.
The sin of pride and judgement in the heart of the conservative, polished, educated student is no different than the sin that landed the inner-city, tattooed student in jail. Both made it necessary for Jesus to be nailed to a cross.
If we are HIS, we are on the same team. We should not be standing on opposite sides, staring each other down. When externals and upbringing are set aside, we are left with hearts, minds, emotions, thoughts, and spirits that are needful of being transformed.
I have been living life with Urban Christianity for several years. I see the Holy Spirit at work. I love that with most of these people there is no pretense. They are who they are. They don’t hide it. It’s all out there. It’s easier to get to the root of sin when they haven’t been taught to cover it up with the right words and dress. I have learned so much from them, and I am saddened that they are often judged without people really taking the time to get to know them.
One day we will stand on level ground, before the Savior of our souls. Side by side. And we will see that we weren’t really that different after all!