Transformed Nonconformists

Why Believing in Jesus and His Gospel bids us to continue the work of MLK

by: Rachel Joy, Sparrow Conference

 Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Transformed Nonconformists

For those of us who grew up in church, this prayer brings back images of stained wooden pews, thick crimson carpet, and of course the hose your momma made you wear that just wouldn’t quite stay up but instead hugged your ankles. In my early years, as I sat in “big church” the sound of the Pastor’s voice and the liturgical recitation of the congregation lulled me right off to sleep. I learned to recite this prayer when I was around five years old. I continued to recite it Sunday after Sunday, year after year without truly thinking about Jesus’ words and the implications or responsibility there in of what I was praying. For me, this prayer was filled with “good words” that landed on my soul as stagnant rhetoric. I remained numb to God’s heart for His people and the action that it might require of me.

I am now in my mid-thirties, a pastor’s wife, and a mom to four little ones that sit daydreaming in church like I once did. They hear stories of David fighting Goliath, Moses parting the Red Sea to set the Israelites free, and Jesus going consistently to the blind, oppressed and marginalized, healing both body and soul and immediately they know they are meant for more. As children of God they are called to more than just a comfortable, sleepy suburban life. They are called to more than being a player on a sports team or apart of the drama club. They are called to more than what the world tells them is best. They are called to more than sitting in church but are called to be the Church. You see the moment they meet Jesus is the moment eternal purpose defines their course. They are warriors and reconcilers for the King of all creation- they are caught up in a story far bigger than their own- the story of God reconciling His people to Himself and to one another (Ephesians 2).

As I study the Lord’s Prayer and recite it from time to time, I dream of a different world for my children. I long for them not only to pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” but to embody through their words and actions God’s heart for His children, ALL his children. The phrase Jesus taught us to pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” should ignite in us a longing for heaven and home but also a conviction over the grotesque discrepancy between our future home in heaven and our earthly home. The Bible clearly describes heaven as a reconciled people- free of division and sin worshipping God.  The worshippers, in unified praise, are not a homogeneous group but a colorful collection of people from every tribe, tongue and nation (Revelation 7:9). Jesus clearly taught us that this is the will of God for His people and we are to pray for and seek this reality on earth until the day Jesus comes back to make all things new or the day He takes us home.

The Bible begins with the creation of man and woman. This woman and man, Adam and Eve were created in the “imago dei”- the very image of God. Every man and woman came from this man and woman and thus bears the imago dei. The Bible ends with a picture of heaven in Revelation. A beautiful tapestry with cords of varying color each reflecting the Godhead as culture and ethnicity are carried into heaven. These worshippers worship God together with a diversified unified praise. The pages in between are nothing short of catastrophe- an adulterous people running from and often refusing to acknowledge God’s will.

“But God”, the sweetest two words a person’s ears will ever hear. God made a way for communion to be had and His will to be pursued. Jesus bore our sins so that we could become sons and daughters of God.  2 Corinthians 5 tells us, “God through Christ reconciled us to himself and we have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation”. Jesus came into the world to reconcile the world to Himself and to reconcile formerly hostile communities to one another. Believing in Jesus and His gospel calls us to our purpose- to be a Reconciler. To be a reconciler means two things: we must share His message of reconciliation to the lost and dying world around us and we must live His message of reconciliation to the world around us.

If you ask me, living the gospel, and not merely talking about it or sharing it is where the rubber meets the road. It is here that faith is not only put to the test but is given the opportunity to flourish. In Matthew chapters 7-10 we see that Jesus calls us to reflect his life not only in word but also in deed. Jesus took the form of a servant and poured himself out. In the gospels, we see him go to the oppressed, the marginalized, infiltrating and destroying division. He heads into the uncomfortable, not away from it and he communes with these people. This is the life we are supposed to reflect. We fight for reconciliation because we have been the recipients of reconciliation.

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Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. At the end of my street the city has put up an American flag, the kids have a school holiday, there are MLK sales and discount codes at local stores advertised in my inbox and my social media feed is full of quotes by the incredible Dr. King. The progress he made in this country is undeniable. He fought for social justice to a degree that many of us will never know. He was courageous and steadfast to see gospel realities lived out in the world. Dr. King knew that racial unity was not a social or political issue but first and foremost a gospel issue. The work of reconciliation is central to the gospel.

There is a fear I have to confess about holidays like today. My fear is that the majority of white Americans look at today as “doing their part” because they paused to honor MLK and the work that He did to change our nation. Lives and laws were changed because of the work of Dr. King however the work is not finished, especially for those of us who know Jesus. I believe King would agree with this. If you think this isn’t true, look at the news these past few years, it will tell you otherwise. Acts of blunt racism still occur today but what is worse are the undercurrents of micro aggressions and covert hate that run deep under the surface of our nation’s belly and in the hearts of many Americans. I personally have been on a journey of understanding the privilege I have been given due to my skin color and the responsibility I have to steward it now for the sake of my brothers and sisters of color. I am compelled by the love of Christ to use my voice so that their voices might be heard in spaces that they have not historically been heard. My fear is that most of us- Christ-loving men and women- have remained silent.

All too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows. -MLK

My prayer for our generation and the generations of my children and their children is that we would be serious about living out the gospel work of reconciliation. I pray that we would not conform to this world or the patterns even within our church walls that do not reflect the life of Christ with its comfort and ease but be Christians that are, “transformed nonconformists” a term King used.

By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists. Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.  –MLK

 Some of the above information is inflammatory. I know this because I used to be inflamed by portions of it, thinking to myself, “I’m not prejudice” or “Just because I am white doesn’t mean that I have been afforded privilege”. We all have been given different lenses through which we see the world as well as different experiences. We must be willing to acknowledge another person’s lens and listen to their story knowing God has called us to more, namely reconciliation.

I will leave you with the words of the apostle Paul, they have been an encouragement to me as I continue my part in the reconciliation work, “For he himself (Jesus) is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

About Rachel Joy:

Rachel Joy, Sparrow Conference

Rachel Joy is a mom of four, a pastor’s wife, and Founder and Director of Sparrow Conference- a catalytic gathering connecting young women to Jesus, the Bible, one another and the local church. She has lead and taught Bible studies for over fifteen years. Rachel’s passion is to see young women come to the powerful, saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and be on mission as reconcilers.  It is her joy to point to Jesus because in Him alone do we find truth, freedom, identity and purpose.

Rachel describes her life as busy, loud, crazy and she absolutely loves it! You will often find her drinking far too much coffee, having a dance party with her little ones, writing for fun and having a good, long dinner with folks from church or the neighborhood. Rachel calls The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas home. For more information visit sparrowconference.com.

Connect with Rachel & Sparrow Conference on Instagram at:

@rachelrjoy

@sparrowconference