Summary: Blacks and whites must develop together and learn from one another; we will also be judged together. Together we must work on issues of justice and righteousness.
The world is full of divisions. Every sort of difference and distinction you can imagine has been magnified. Who of us knew anything a few years ago about six or more different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia!? About all I knew about Yugoslavia was that they made a little car called a Yugo, which should have been called a Nogo! We thought it was one people, one nation; but it turned out to be six peoples and six nations. Division.
Which of us thought about the Soviet Union being made up of scores of tribal and racial groups? Once they were given the chance, they split up into not less than fifteen different countries, most of which I, for one, have not even learned to locate on the map, and whose names I cannot pronounce once I find them. One people, one nation? Not on your life! Fifteen peoples, fifteen nations, and more on the way. Division. Division and discord.
You would have to have been deaf and blind and living on a desert island for the last thirty years not to have realized that we too live in a divided land. The people of this nation are divided in about as many ways as it is possible to imagine. Culturally, racially, socially, economically, religiously, politically ... choose any criterion you want and you will confess that in many ways we make a mockery of the name, "United States". We are not so much united as we are thrown together by the circumstances of history. We are not so much united as we are diverse personalities who must find ways to live and work together.
On this Martin Luther King Day, I am remembering the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to discern the causes behind the scores of disturbances in the late 1960’s. The Kerner Commission warned that America was fast becoming, "two societies, one black, one white -separate and unequal". Nearly thirty years ago, someone saw that we were two peoples attempting, very unsuccessfully, to live in one nation. "Two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal." The truth hurt then, and it still stings.
It still stings because we still have not solved the deeper issues related to race. It still stings because so much that has gone on has not penetrated to the spiritual issues. There are some very human attitudes that wreak havoc in our society.
Let me try to illustrate. Many of you, I know, live with the suspicion that beneath nearly every white skin there lurks a racist. He may be a subtle racist, but a racist nonetheless, who will not say what he thinks out loud because he knows it is not politically correct to do so. Many of you, I suspect, have experienced enough to feel that just beneath the surface of white society there are many who dismiss black life and black people. Just the other day my wife and I felt deep shock and disappointment, because someone we care about just dumped a small mountain of anti-black sentiment on us. We were shocked not only by what she felt, but also that she would think we would be willing to hear it. The assumption was that race is stronger than humanity, that ultimately everyone is loyal to his own kind of people. You see, the spiritual issues are not resolved.
I want to speak with you this morning about that spiritual struggle. The legal issues, the equal opportunity concerns, all of those things are important. Our society will continue to deal with them, and should. But the more difficult thing is the entrenched spiritual blindness and bitterness that keeps us from functioning as two peoples in one nation.
In the days of Hosea, prophet of Israel, things were much the same. In that eighth century before Christ, there were two peoples who had been one nation, but whose differences became so bitter that they split apart into two separate nations. God’s people had become the twin nations of Israel and Judah, and they were often bitter rivals.
The peoples of these two nations shared a great deal. They shared a common language, they worshipped the same Lord, their histories were intertwined. They had been brought together under the prophets; they had been held together under the kings Saul, David, and Solomon. But by Hosea’s time they had split apart. However, Hosea, I believe, gives us some clues about how these two peoples might come together again as one nation.
Let’s begin this morning with some possibility thinking. Let’s not talk first about what went wrong. Let’s think first about what ought to be, what could be. Can I ask you to see with me that when two peoples are divided, it is God’s will that they come together under His leadership? God is a reconciling God. And He wants His children to come together. In fact, when they do so, there is something for everybody. Everybody wins.