Today marks the 60th anniversary of “Brown vs Board of Education,” the U.S. Supreme Court decision which struck down state-sanctioned segregation in U.S. public schools and marked a significant turning point in the Civil Rights movement. In many ways, the 60th anniversary of Brown highlights a curious contradiction in American society. It reveals both our knowledge of what we ought to be, and our consistent inability to become it. Although we need just laws to restrain the sin of racism, laws can’t heal the sin of racism. Although this ruling is so many years old, our public and private school systems are more segregated now than they have been in four decades.
But here’s the good news. The gospel heals the sin of racism. The gospel alone gives us power to see one another in a way that the world cannot, and to love one another in a way that the world cannot. Thousands of years before the supreme court ever decided that segregation was unconstitutional, the Church already knew that segregation was unbiblical. And thousands of years before our government ever attempted to unify diverse people by the letter of the law, the Lord had already unified diverse people in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Even the Civil Rights movement, which helped champion desegregation (at a time when it was unpopular do to so) found its fundamental root, support, and guiding orientation within the Church.
During this time, let’s remember that desegregation is not the U.S. Supreme Court’s idea, it is our God’s idea! So let’s thank our God for revealing his intention that people from every ethnicity should “dwell together in unity,” to the glory of His name. (Ps. 133) Let’s thank Him that in Christ He has “torn down the dividing wall of hostility” between the races (Eph. 2:14), uniquely making this unity a glorious reality. Let’s thank Him that we as the church have access to something that the world does not, a redemptive power that is not from this world.
Mika Edmondson serves as the pastor of New City Fellowship OPC, a cross-cultural church plant in inner city Grand Rapids.