Our theme for 2019 is “The Body.” Today we are exploring that theme with the blog…..
The Body of Christ is….Unity
Zeke Stephenson is the Minister of Youth and Missions at Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia. He as served at Heritage since August of 2016. Zeke recieved his Masters of Divinity from the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia where his concentration was in Community Development. Zeke is married to Anna Kate, a fellow minister, and they have a cat named Louie and a dog named Scout.
All during the week leading up to the deadline that was given to have these blogs submitted, I thought to myself, “of course Zeke, you are going to wait until the last minute to write your blog,” and got flashbacks from my days in seminary of waiting until the last minute to write something, often staying up late on the night before, typing until my hands hurt.
The body of Christ is the theme of our blogs, and while often time a cliché phrase in our Christian circles, after the events in our country over the last week (October 21-28), “the body of Christ” took on a whole new meaning for me. In a one week time frame, bombs were mailed to political opponents, people of color were killed in a grocery store parking lot after the gunman failed to enter an African American church, and 11 Jewish people were gunned down in their place of worship during their weekly Shabbat service. It was a dark week in our country, and a sad week for communities of faith.
When events happen, like the ones that happened last week, I always have to process them in two ways. What is my personal reaction to this, and then, how am I going to communicate these events to my students who look to me to help make sense of the things that seem so senseless. What am I going to say to students who are looking at adults doing really cruel acts of violence towards each other? How am I going to answer their “why” questions? What do I say to teenagers, who I am always telling to “love God, and love their neighbor,” when grown up adults can’t even seem to treat each other with respect and dignity? How do I convince a group of teenagers that church and the youth group are “safe” places for them when they have seen example after example of the violation of the safety of a place of worship?
For me, communicating these tragedies goes far beyond unity in the body of Christ. It really speaks to unity in an ecumenical and an interfaith setting. In a world where anti-Semitism is on the rise, it is pointless for us to run to the corners of our faith traditions, vilifying the “other,” but instead educating, talking about and understanding better those who are different than we are, learning from each other and growing in unity. It is when we stand up together that our voice becomes magnified, drowning out the hatred that we hear on a regular basis. These conversations can be holy, and they can be sacred, but we must let them happen. Allowing youth to ask questions and have honest conversations about the difficult topics are how change happens. Encouraging youth to stand up for people and against the hatred that they experience in their schools and in their communities is a holy task. We must move beyond unity in the body of Christ, and move towards an inter-faith unity because it is then when the change that we wish to see will come to be.