The Third Race
Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. 1 Corinthians 10:32
This little passage contains a monumental truth. Before Jesus Christ entered the pages of human history, there were only two races: Jew and Gentile.
But with His resurrection, three races appeared on the planet: Jew, Gentile, and the ekklesia of God.
For this reason, the second-century Christians called themselves the "third race" as well as the "new race."
The body of Christ, then, is the restoration of God's original image that creation was designed to bear. An image where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.
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 3:28
Within this new non-ethnic community, the dividing lines of gender, race, class, and social status are wiped away. And new distinctions of spiritual gifting are bestowed.
Watch how Paul opens his discussion on the functioning of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12—14.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12
This passage is perhaps the most mind-bending text in all the New Testament. It destroys all our natural assumptions about the church. If you read the passage quickly, you'll most certainly skip over its explosive meaning.
Paul tells the Corinthians that, just as the physical body is one unit having many members, so also is Christ. Notice that he doesn't say, "So also is the body of Christ."
He says, "So also is Christ."
In other words, Christ is a body who has many members. Or to put it another way, the church is Christ. While that sounds heretical to traditional ears, this is exactly what Paul wrote.
From God's perspective, Christ is no longer a single person. He is a corporate person. Christ and the church are a single reality. The church is the bottom half of Jesus Christ.
Paul's idea is not that the Head is somehow screwed onto the body. His idea is that Christ embodies the church. The risen Christ is a living, inclusive, "more-than-individual" personality.
Put another way, the church is the visible image of the invisible Lord. It is the corporate Christ. It is Christ in collective human expression.
What Does This Mean for Us Today?
Mark it down: JESUS CHRIST IS THE MOST UNIFYING PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE!
If Jesus can bring Jew and Gentile together to form a new humanity, He can bring any group of races together.
But here's a very important question for churches and pastors: Church, if we are racially divided (87% of churches in America are homogenous), how can we heal a racially divided country?
A multi-ethnic local church, fueled by the grace of Jesus, is the ultimate public testimony against racism (Galatians 2:11-21). In reality, a multi-ethnic local church is the future church in the present (Revelation 5:9). Only in close proximity to one another does grace replace racism.
So from God's standpoint, you, dear Christian, are part of a new race of humanity. You are part of a "new species"—a new humanity (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Ephesians 2:15).
In the eyes of God, the church is nothing more and nothing less than Jesus Christ on earth. It's a new species that's kin to divinity; a body to the Son and a family to the Father. Kind of His own kind.
It's no wonder that the dominating image of the church throughout the New Testament is the family. "Brothers," "sisters," "mothers," "fathers," "new birth," etc. populate the Epistles when speaking about the ekklesia of God.
In this hour of clenched fists, God is looking for local communities of His people . . . ekklesias of God . . . made up of Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gentile, living out of their true identities as members of the new creation.
A people who will know one another, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
A microcosm of the kingdom of God, where all racial and ethnic divides are erased and Jesus Christ becomes our identity.
A model for this world to see what God's image looks like in visible form.
A people who will provoke the universe to look with amazement and say, "Behold how they love one another."
Political solutions will only go so far. Adjustments to our laws will always be limited. Nuances to the justice system won't do enough.
While all of these things are good and we applaud them, they cannot remove racism from the hearts of fallen mortals.
Only Christ can. And His ekklesia can show it forth . . . visible, tangible, touchable, experiential.
This is the "race card" that the early Christians held in their hands. And it is the heritage of all of God's people today.
The earth awaits such . . .
Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply so they can experience real transformation and make a lasting impact. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth, From Eternity to Here, and Jesus Manifesto (with Leonard Sweet). His blog, frankviola.org, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.