I Could Really Use Your Help, You Know!

I am presenting a paper on reconciliation at a conference in a few short weeks where I could use some personal stories and statistics. In the paper, I argue that racism, sexism and other forms of societal injustices have had an adverse impact of people’s faith. Specifically, I contend that a history of oppression, exploitation and injustice have kept people from trusting in God as a result of this deep, dark history being perpetrated by the church, or those who are supposed to be devoted followers of Christ.

Now I have done research for this, but what I would really like is some personal evidence to back this up. If you, or someone that you know, faith in God has been affected by certain injustices please take 1 minute to fill out this one question survey:

My faith in God has been affected as a result of different societal injustices perpetrated by the church and/or those who represent the church such that
– I am not affected by the decisions of others.
– I am hurt but I continue to follow Christ
– I have certain reservations about Christianity but am hanging in there
– I believe in Christ, but I don’t practice Christianity
– I believe in Christ, but I don’t any form of religion
– I am doubtful that God exists
– I believe that Christianity and all other religions were invented by people

Please visit my facebook page to answer these questions as there is not a way on this blog to collect all of the results!

I would also love to hear from you with more substantial stories. If you are willing to let your story be heard, either comment on this post or email me at ebanna22@gmail.com if you don’t want to put yourself out there like that. I promise to keep your names and other information you share with me such as email, etc, confidential.

Thanks for helping me out!

Exploring Communion as a Means of Reconciliation

Apartheid is a form of racial segregation that affected South Africa for decades. Most effective during the period of 1948 and 1982, the Nationalist party’s aim was to divide the country into separate states based on race. Undeniably, these actions led to many fiscal and economic disparities in the black parts of the country. Places of the country that white South Africans would have never considered taking over were seized and blacks were forced into poor townships that possessed little to no resources. The educational system for nonwhites during this time period was greatly inferior to that of the white students, and essentially prepared black and colored students to do nothing more than serve their white oppressors. Miscongenation was something that was strongly discouraged so as to achieve national purity and make apartheid most effective. Such efforts toward a complete and total apartheid, however, were never completely realized. Much of the lesser governing rules of social apartheid were abolished in the 1980s.

The core of the corrupt system, however, was political apartheid. Although South Africa’s approach to governing was democratic, democratic rights such as free franchise rights were only awarded to white citizens. By denying blacks, coloreds, and Indians the right to vote, such persons were not able to elect to overturn apartheid neither could such persons obtain a political office that would threaten apartheid’s ideology. This action was what allowed apartheid to persist as long as it did, and also encouraged the voice of liberation to occur outside of the ordained political arena.

However, this evil form of oppression and exploitation does not find its roots in the South African secular society, but in the Christian Church. At the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1857, leaders debated over whether or not white settlers had to partake in communion with the indigenous black people. The Synod decided that it was scriptural for the African people, referred to as Heathen, to be absorbed into the white congregations whenever possible. Yet, it was preferable for them to practice their faith in a separate building.

Resulting from this decision, the Dutch Reformed Mission Church for Colored People formed in 1881. Soon thereafter, the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa was established for black people, and the Reformed Church in Africa for Indian people. This theology of apartheid naturally began to create a racial caste system that greatly benefitted white people, at the expense of those who were Colored, Indian and Black. For decades, these non-whites were oppressed, impoverished, exploited, beaten, killed and completely wasted away, while whites increased in power and wealth, and failed to see a connection between their faith and their actions.

Unfortunately South Africa’s history is not unique. In America, the Church has also participated in a similar separationalist theology, forbidding those who do not represent the majority culture to come. Motivated by ethnocentrism and perhaps even fear, the Church or at least those who represent the Church has pushed away the poor, people of color, GLBT persons, immigrants, and Muslims. In some cases, communities who are excluded have formed their own congregations and faith communities. However, in many more instances, these communities and persons remain lost and unconnected.

In studying the model of communion as established by Christ and practiced in the early church, it appears evident that this was never God’s intent. In fact, it seems like the purpose of communion is to draw a united group of believers to Himself to corporately share in the sacrifice of Jesus for their sins. In this sharing, all who trust in Jesus for salvation are invited to participate as in Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for…all are one in Christ” (Galatians 3.28, NASB). And this is important, because if there exists no division of believers in Christ, those divisions have no place in the Church or in society at large. However, it is because the Church allows and even at times perpetuates these divisions and injustices, that it is missing entire classes of people coming to the table of the Lord for not only fellowship, but for the salvation of their souls.

Read the full article

And if you haven’t purchased your copy of Dancing on Hot Coals, make sure you do so before Christmas. Remember the Kindle edition is only $2.99!

Bread, Wine and Donuts

Before I came to know the Lord, I had a pretty vague understanding of who he was or for that matter who God was, but I knew that he was there. As a child, I had a friend who lived within walking distance of where I lived. We used to spend many weekends over each others houses, either I over her’s or vice versa. On many occasions, her family took me to church with them on Sunday mornings. There was this little Lutheran Church behind their house and we walked over there for both Sunday School and Sunday morning service, and I absolutely loved going.

It was not that the pastor at this church was that great, honestly I cannot a word that he ever said much less his name. I also did not especially enjoy it because of the people I met, or the games that we played in Sunday School, or even the lessons that were given although I am sure all of these things were fine as well. Instead it was the communion bread that did it for me and that kept me longing to come back for more. Every Sunday the Pastor or whoever was administering communion handed out these huge pieces of bread. I do not remember him ever giving us any wine or any representation of it, but the bread was sufficient for me, which by the way was huge- did I mention that already?

It was not just the communion bread though, it was also the donuts. After church most Sundays if not every Sunday, there were always free donuts and pastries available for whoever wanted them, and I always wanted them-it gave a little girl something to look forward to. It was for the bread and the donuts that even if I did not spend the night over my friend’s house, I still begged my mom to go to church and to my good fortune, she often let me go.

Maybe God knew that all it would take for me to come to him were some donuts and a piece of bread. I am not saying that this is what saved me, nor am I diluting the power of the cross. My only claim here is that the Lord knew that if I kept coming to His house, no matter what my motive was to begin with, that I would eventually hear, and he knew that if I heard, I would eventually make a decision to follow him.

The How

Nine months or so, I started a series called The Who, The What, The Why and the How. It is about inviting all persons, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, or religion even, to the communion table of the Lord, or rather into relationship with God. It is a three part series and was all written and ready to go. But then I went into labor, gave birth to our daughter (who is nine months old today), and got side tracked along the way. And so, I am here to finish what I started. I hope that the conclusion to this series will not only be intriguing and informative, but that it will inspire us all to remove the things that divide us and that perpetuate injustice, so that all can come to the table of the Lord. Enjoy!

The How

I realize that in saying that love is what is required that I must further explain myself. This is what I term The How and reflect on how we as believers are supposed to love one another as well as others in the way that Jesus did. I am not talking about the emotional, touchy feely type of love that is based more on how one feels at the moment. This emotional type of love is good and it is necessary, but it will not enable us to effectively love others who are unlike us. This emotional type of love will not cause us to invite people to the communion table of the Lord. In the slight chance that it does, it has more to do with whether or not the person conforms and assimilates to our own ideas and expectations of who they should be rather than who God already says they are. Instead, I am speaking of the sacrificial type of love, the type of love that motivates us to act on behalf of those who are despondent and hurting. This is the type of love that Jesus displayed throughout his ministry and Luke 4.18, 19 illustrates this perfectly saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

Jesus realized that it was going to take more than his preaching to bring people into the kingdom of God. He knew that the people that he would minister to had some serious needs and were need of repair. Without him touching those people with his actions, he knew that they would be lost. In my mind, this is why he spent time with those who were social outcasts such as prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, and sinners. This is why he ministered to and comforted those who were lepers, those who were blind, and those who could not walk. And this is why he ultimately went to the cross, to undo the profound impact of sin on humankind. In this sacrifice, He truly set free all who were held captive and oppressed!

In my opinion, this passage does not just apply to Jesus but it applies to everyone who names his name in that God has also called us to set the oppressed free. Yet what does this look like in our own time and in our own context? Once again, I turn to the Epistles to see what the Apostle Paul has to say in this regard.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27, 28, NASB).

“Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity
” (Ephesians 2.12-16, NASB).

As I examine both of these passages, I see that the blood of Christ has done something really profound. Not only has the shedding of his blood reconciled us to God, but it has also provided a means in which we can be reconciled to one another. No longer is there any distinction between Jew or Palestinian, Black or White, Hutu or Tutsi, slave or free, male or female and even Republican or Democrat. This means that God sees us all equally and responds to us in like manner, so that we should also treat one another in the same light. We do this by constantly tearing the walls of division and we do this by declaring to the world that we will no longer idly stand for the ill treatment of any one people group for the benefit of another.

When we do such, we proclaim that the communion table is an open invitation to all. I believe that Christ himself made such possible so that all would come. It is not His desire that anyone would perish on account of their sins but that all would enter into the abundance of eternal life with him. Yet once again, it bears repeating that the only way people can enjoy eternal life is through the blood of Christ. The blood that He shed must be applied to their hearts so that when the angel of death comes, and for every person this angel does come, they will not be swallowed up by the second death.

With this, I believe that it is also important to look at the totality of our actions and how we respond to people in general. In Ephesians 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul challenges the new believers to be careful of how they walk or how they live now that they are in Christ:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity…let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you…be imitators of God…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 4.25-27, 31-5.2, NASB).

We do not often realize how much our actions and words affect other people. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the fact that we do not care how others are affected just as long as our needs and wants are placated. Yet, this passage tells us that such a mindset is not only incorrect but gives the devil an opportunity to steal, kill and destroy our lives as well as the lives of those around us. We need to begin to conform our actions and our thoughts to a higher standard who is Christ. We need to desist from defrauding one another and when we are taken advantage ourselves, we have to let go of bitterness and hatred, and instead forgive. We ultimately need to begin to emulate God himself, becoming a people characterized by nothing less than love.

Next time you come to the communion table, I encourage you to remember these things. As you eat of the bread and drink of the cup, remember that this privilege is not for you and you alone but extends to all who are willing to call upon the name of Jesus and be saved. How might your actions be drawing people into the kingdom of God and of His Son Jesus or how might they be hindering people from coming near? Are you tearing down the calls of racism, classism, and sexism or are you building them up as a result of your own prejudice and misunderstanding of all that Christ has accomplished on your behalf? Are you divisive and bitter? Or are you loving and accepting, urging all to come, to eat, to be transformed, to be saved? As you reflect on these questions, it is my prayer that you, that we will begin to live in such a way that unbelievers are no longer discouraged by the misdeeds of the Church and will begin to come one by one, joining in with us as we together remember that it is because of Christ that we all have an opportunity to eat.

To read previous posts –
The Who, The What, The Why and the How
The What and the Why

An Invitation to All

When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.
Luke 22.14- 23 NASB

As I reflect on the passage above, I take note of a few things that are going on. For starters, Jesus is celebrating the Passover with his disciples. In the Old Testament, the Passover was something that the Israelites were supposed to partake in to commemorate God bringing them out of the land of the Egyptians and more specifically delivering them from slavery (Exodus 12.1-13). This was a celebration of sorts that was especially for the Israelites in that God had only done this for them, even though others were invited to participate in the subsequent festival, the feast of weeks or Pentecost (Deuteronomy 16.1-12).

What I also take note of in this passage is that Jesus is instituting a new covenant of sorts. He connects the Passover lamb to himself, saying that his body has been broken and his blood has been spilled on behalf of them. I am sure that at this point the disciples really did not understand his words but within the next 24 hours or so they will understand as Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies on behalf of the sins of the whole world.

The difference between the Passover lamb of the Old Testament and that of the New is the intended audience or receivers. In the Old Testament, the Passover lamb’s intended audience was the Israelites and in the New Testament it is the whole world. Jesus did not just die for a select few but he died for all, bringing all persons to the communion table of the Lord so that all could partake, so that all could benefit, so that all could be saved!

Yet, not all come! This bothers me. It bothers me because as I see it Jesus has made it possible for all to draw near so that when the angel of death came, or the second death, they would not be consumed. Looking at another communion text in I Corinthians 11, I see that people were often prevented from coming to the table because of divisions that existed among the Corinthian Church. Although the situation in Corinth is unique to them, I believe that we could contextualize this to churches over the world and see that people, the lost, are prevented from coming to Christ because of things that are going on in the lives of those who claim to have partaken of this blessing.
Understanding this reality, I remind myself that my salvation is not unto myself. Jesus did not die just to bring me and mine into a relationship with God but he compels me to invite others into that relationship as well! I must constantly check my actions, my attitudes, my thoughts to make sure that they are ones that invite others to the same table from which I have received instead of ones that cause them to refuse it. I remember this during this Lenten season, drawing on the significance of the Last Supper and its implications on how I should subsequently live my life.

The Who, The What, The Why and The How

As a Christian, there are just some things that I hate to admit about myself. One of those things is that I am not an avid fan of every book of the Bible. Oh sure, I read them anyhow because that is the good Christian thing to do, but many times I lack understanding so that if you asked me what I just read, I would not have the slightest clue. I used to feel this way about the book of Deuteronomy, although I am not quite sure why since it is very similar to Exodus and I have always liked Exodus. Yet after reading Deuteronomy enough times, it started to grow on me as I started to understand it. Now the words that I had always read were developing meaning, and for me this was great. Every time I read it, I understand it a little bit more and something that I did not know previously stands out to me in a way that transforms my life forever.

Such was the case this past fall of 2009. I remember that I was in our make-shift office at home during my devotional time reading Deuteronomy 16. As I read I had one of these ‘Ah hah’ moments where my mind started turning ferociously around this theme of the Passover that the text presented. I noticed that God was calling the Israelites to remember something that he had done for their people a generation ago. A generation ago, God delivered them from slavery in Egypt in such an unprecedented way that he wanted them to forever take note of it. So entrenched in slavery, the only way to deliver them was by taking the lives of all of the firstborn among the Egyptian people whether they were sons, daughters, cattle, or other animals. But it was not that God did not try to deliver his people in other ways; it was just that Pharaoh was so stubborn, so hard-hearted, that he would not listen to God as he tried to get his attention by other means. Even so, God was serious about having a people unto himself, a people that were free to worship him, a people that were free from the chains of slavery that he spoke through Moses saying:

About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. Morever, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again. But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11.4-7, NASB).

Although God was providing a way of escape for the Israelites, their salvation was not yet guaranteed. They were required to do something so that the lives of their firstborn sons and daughters would be preserved.

On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ household…You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Morever, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments- I am the LORD” (Exodus 12.3,4, 12, 13, NASB).

This was what God was calling the Israelites to remember, to celebrate every year. He wanted them to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt, kept in captivity until they were delivered by the mercy and sovereignty of God. He wanted them to remember that they belonged to him, that they were his people and that as a result of that he was determined to preserve and keep.


Yet what I find more intriguing are verses 43-49 of Exodus 12. One of the things that is clear from this passage is that the Passover was a celebration unto the Lord for the Israelites and only the Israelites. This is what I call THE WHO or where I note who this celebration was for. No foreigner, slave, or any other person is even allowed to partake of the Passover meal unless they first became like an Israelite and were circumcised. The passage in Deuteronomy only echoes what God has already prescribed in Exodus in that foreigners are not even invited to take part in this blessed event until the Feast of Booths or Pentecost. In prescribing such, God makes a clear distinction between those who are His people and those who are not His people.

Fast forward some thousand years and now Jesus is on the scene. The Israelites are still keeping the Passover meal quite religiously, but for God this is not enough. You see, the Passover was limited to the Israelites and only the Israelites, yet God has a bigger plan. He does not only want the Israelites for his people, but he wants and desires us all in that all of us have been so deeply enslaved to sin with no escape. This time, however, God does not take the lives of any other firstborn but that of his own Son, the firstborn of all creation, begotten not made, slain before the foundations of the world.

Understanding that his life was to be poured out for all of mankind, Jesus responds in a very unique way as he celebrates the Passover with his disciples in Luke:

“When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22.14-20, NASB).

In the sacrifice of Jesus, God opens up the Passover, or now communion, to include not only the Israelites but everyone who will name the name Jesus. Notice that The Who here changes in that not only are a select few called to partake of this commemoratory meal but all. Now all of humanity has the opportunity, the privilege to become the people of God regardless of who they are. Such is what Jesus declares after his resurrection:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24. 46, 47).

Check back for part II of The Who, The What, The Why and The How