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5.6 | Kingdom heart transformation
V | CRITICAL RACE THEORY
What constitutes a Kingdom approach to race? If CT has CRT, Kingdom has KHT. The toolbox of the Kingdom is what I will call Kingdom heart transformation.
Jeremiah 17 tells us that our heart is the most wicked and deceitful thing, so we must start with our hearts.
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In Ezekiel 36:26, God says He "will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” In Psalm 51:10, David asks of God “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Our hearts are wicked. God wants to change them. But he isn’t going to change them unless we want him to. Kingdom heart transformation is about allowing the way of the Kingdom to invade every part of our lives, including our approach to race and any system or form of oppression we come across.
God works much more organically and relationally than CT or CRT. So KHT is about what we purpose in our hearts to do, much more than “proving” to people that we are going to do the work of the Kingdom through our doctrine. We must start with wanting God to transform our hearts and the hearts of others.
Within the toolbox of CRT is the set of tools we discussed earlier, DEI.
KHT has instead a set of tools called UHR, with which we can practically implement KHT: Unity, Honor and Reconciliation.
Unity: The objective truth of Jesus and Scripture is the primary shaper of our identity. Everything else is secondary.
As citizens of the Kingdom, we must decide and then remind ourselves that the primary shaper of our identity is God himself and the truth of Scripture. Our unity must also be around the objective truth of the life of Jesus, which we should strive to emulate. Jesus’ life is the standard for a good life.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. // Galatians 3:26-29
Once we come into the Kingdom, we put on a new image, new descriptors of ourselves as his children. Paul says that our primary identifier is not race, not socioeconomic status, not gender, but Christ. If we are allowing God to transform our heart, our focus must be on making our identity in Christ our primary identifier, not our groups. I may have this or that group I belong to, like a T-shirt that I wear, but when I put a sweater on, it covers that T-shirt. When we “put on” Christ, we don’t stop being in our groups. But when we put on Christ, our groups are not and cannot be our identity. Groups help shape us, but Christ defines us.
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. // Ephesians 2:19-22
We are not immigrants to the Kingdom. We have the rights and privileges of citizenship. We are all in God’s family, and therefore we must keep our focus on him. Regardless of our culture, background, or group identity, Christ is the foundation. This does not mean that our earthly culture doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t mean that we don’t vote our values or hold political beliefs. It doesn’t mean that we are all now genderless. Unity simply means that we see all of that as secondary to who we are in Christ according to Scripture. Our primary filter is not conservative or liberal, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, southerner or northerner. Our primary filter is who God says we are in his word.
Honor: We respect, celebrate and benefit from the uniqueness of each person’s fingerprint and the experiences and groups that shape them.
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. // 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
I’ve heard my dad, Keith Craft, teach all over the world that each one of us has a unique fingerprint that makes a unique imprint. In his book Your Divine Fingerprint, he gives a correlation. We know that biologically our fingerprint is unique from everyone who ever has been born or will be born. It leaves a unique imprint on everything we touch. This is how God has created us. Our fingerprint is the physical proof of a spiritual truth. We are all unique and special in who we are. And we are meant to leave a special imprint on the world.
Unique and special don’t mean “better than.” Differences are important and amazing. No one ever wants to go into a restaurant with only one thing on the menu. No one wants to go to an ice cream shop to find out they only have one flavor. Some of us grew up filling our cup with every flavor from the soda fountain. Some of us still do. Differences are what make life exciting. Differences are worthy of respect.
The Kingdom’s goal is not to create a homogenous, monoethnic, monocentric society. The goal in the Kingdom is to honor and benefit from all forms of difference. To honor someone or something is to treat them with respect. Another thing my dad has always taught me is that “we don’t honor because they are honorable; we honor because we are honorable.”
Regardless of someone else’s lack of respect or honor towards us, we always have the power to extend the gift of honor and respect to others and their personal greatness.
In the Kingdom, colorblindness is not the aim. When we become citizens of the Kingdom, it is true that we unify around Jesus, but we don’t lose the good things about our gender, race, culture, ethnicity or other qualifiers. Those just become secondary to who we are in Jesus.
Kingdom worldview tells us that we are all created in God’s image. This includes our skin. No one gets to choose their skin color at birth. We didn’t order off the melanin menu. We cannot be colorblind. All of us see color. God created the rainbow in the sky. He created all 18 decillion colors that our eyes can detect. He made us to see color. Our skin represents another kind of rainbow. So do our culture, heritage and the groups we belong to. We’re supposed to see differences in each other, because those are the things we can celebrate and benefit from.
The Kingdom doesn’t deny the existence of groups. Unity says that those groups don’t define us. Honor says that those groups help shape us and are worthy of respect. To honor another person means that we honor the greatness in someone’s melanin, culture, background and experiences. All of them, not just those of the oppressed and not just those of the oppressor. All parts of this body are deserving of honor and value, not just certain ones.
I love Tony Evans’s take on honor as an orchestra. Think of the Kingdom as a massive orchestra. All of us have completely different experiences, abilities and instruments. No instrument in an orchestra is more important than another. When we hear orchestras warming up, everyone is playing their own tune on their instrument. They are playing the way they want to play. This represents the cultures and groups that we can belong to. They all have unique expressions.
When the conductor steps up to the podium, everyone gets quiet and waits to follow his lead. This is God with us. We all have different instruments, but we don’t get to play our own songs. We must play along with the orchestra. We must respect and honor the different gifts that each instrument brings. But we must also not make our instrument the most important one. Every instrument in the orchestra is meant to come together to produce a symphony – something that no instrument could produce on its own.
That’s how honor works. When we honor each other’s uniqueness, we learn to come together to create things that we could never create if we operate by ourselves.
When we honor, we learn to love each other. At the end of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that there is a “most excellent way.” That is the setup for 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, of which verse 1 reads, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Perhaps I’m a saxophone, you’re a violin. We don’t sound like each other. But when the conductor steps up and we play his music, we find ourselves in harmony with each other.
When we play our own music, we make noise; when we play God’s music with others, we make a masterpiece. This is honor. This is different than DEI. It’s not about celebrating and encouraging each other’s humanity. This is about laying down our human way and choosing God’s way together.
Reconciliation: We exchange hate for love and evil for good. We fight to be in right relationship with God and others and help other people do the same. Read these words from Paul.
Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” // 2 Corinthians 5:14-20
First, we must be unified around Christ and die to our own ways. Then, we can stop evaluating others through our human filters. Bias, prejudice, discrimination, oppressors and oppressed. Finally, we get to help other people become the same. We become ambassadors for the Kingdom. We are sent out as model citizens to help people become citizens themselves.
Being an ambassador from a country is a special honor. A United States ambassador is the president’s top representative to another nation. Ambassadors have a high level of prestige and respect. For many people, becoming an ambassador is a lifelong dream. An ambassador moves to the country they are assigned and speaks to the host nation as the voice of the United States government. An ambassador also has a direct line to the White House, and their personal opinions on everything relating to their host country shape the president’s – and America’s – relationship with that country.
Benjamin Franklin was the first American ambassador. He was sent to France from 1776 to 1778, tasked with the critical mission of gaining French support for the Revolutionary War. Franklin became well known and was highly respected and admired by the French. He was a celebrity whose likeness appeared on rings, watches and all kinds of items. He was able to convince the nation of France to recognize American independence and become an ally. Historians frequently mention that without France, America would not have won the war for independence. When Franklin was succeeded by Thomas Jefferson in 1785, Jefferson was asked if he was the replacement for Benjamin Franklin. He replied, “No one can replace him, I am only his successor.”
Ambassadors of nations can turn the tide of human history. Ambassadors are tasked with keeping two countries in good standing with each other. The Kingdom needs the same kind of people. God has given us an assignment as ambassadors: reconciliation. Unlike Critical Theory, the goal of the Kingdom is not destroying and dismantling; it’s restoring and rebuilding.
Again, the tools of Kingdom Heart Transformation are: Unity. Honor. Reconciliation.
No matter what we have experienced, we know that Jesus wants us to find our identity in him. No matter how we have been mistreated or dishonored, the Kingdom gives us the tools to continue to honor the greatness in others. And we get the opportunity to fight like Heaven for reconciliation and restoration. These are some of the hardest things we can ever do, but that’s what the Kingdom asks of us.
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