2:39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
As we discussed yesterday there are many kinds of "afar off". We talked about time and distance and emotional separation. Then we keyed in on the "afar off" created by truth and error.
Today it's time to continue the discussion with a very different kind of "afar off " - prejudice.
This week I was perusing the Washington Post and came across an article I wish I hadn't read. I still find it equal parts disturbing and hard to believe. Apparently a white police officer pulled over two black individuals. The reason he gives for doing so was because she (the driver) had temporary tags on her car instead of a permanent license plate. However they were not expired so she was doing nothing wrong therefore he had no right to pull her over at all. In spite of these facts he continued to interrogate her and then also demanded identification from her passenger which he had no right to do since he had done nothing wrong either. He then stated he suspected they had drugs and was calling for a K9 unit to do a search. Long story short three more officers showed up, all white, one a woman. They strip searched the woman on the side of the road and more than one of the male officers did a cavity search of her male companion that lasted minutes right on the ground on the side of a busy road. Nothing was found by the dog or the officers and they were permitted to go.
Based on the location where this happened I would not be surprised at all if one or all of those officers was in church the weekend before this incident and the following one. Please don't misunderstand me. This is not about bashing police officers the vast majority of which I believe are good people. This is about "afar off". We are divided by so many things. We have classified humanity. We have invented words and terms to define and degrade each other.
I remember reading the manuscript of a sermon years ago in which the preacher described at length how black people can move their hips from side to side so well, proving that God created them from service jobs like waiters/waitresses and busboys etc...
The most shameful reality in my church is that in 2016 in the United States we are still organized into churches and conferences by colour. We all worship the same God yet remain divided by something as superficial as skin colour. We are indeed "afar off". Can you imagine if you took your chocolate Labrador Retriever to the vet in an emergency and were turned away because the vet only served yellow Labs or black Labs. That very thing happened at one of our hospitals. The young girl was light skinned but when they discovered she had "black blood" they shipped her to the "black" hospital in critical condition. She died on the way. Granted that tragedy occurred over one hundred years ago but given what has been happening recently I'm not convinced that in our hearts much has improved. When a candidate for president wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans and create a registry for Muslim Americans is leading in the polls it gives one cause to be alarmed. When the same candidate is endorsed by the National head of the KKK and refuses to denounce his support it is frankly shocking that his popularity went unchanged. When the same candidate is then endorsed by a prominent black man from my church I am just left scratching my head. In so many ways across this mass of humanity on this ball we call earth we are indeed "afar off".
I could write endlessly about the crazy and myriad ways we divide ourselves and unlike Jesus it all is. However that is not the point Peter was making. Peter was making are far point he himself did not yet know the depth of. He made a statement that stretched far beyond his own understanding. The Promise is for everyone from every generation including those who are "afar off".
If that isn't good news I'm not sure what is!!! The Promise extends to every nation, every kindred, every tongue, and every people. There is no place, no colour, no wall, no economic divide, no barrier of any kind where His Spirit has not worked on both sides. I still believe the best days and the worst days are yet to come. Those who surrender to the beautiful unifying heart melting influence of His Spirit will demonstrate a depth of love not yet seen while those who resist will become increasingly hateful.
I am thankful not only for the freedom of choice but that the freedom is extended to all no matter how 'afar off" we may be - even to those who do humiliating cavity searches on the side of the road or want to build walls to keep "them" out.