I’m a Black pastor in a multiracial church in North Carolina. Here’s what I know about unity.
Is it me or does this election feel like Groundhog Day? If you grew up in a church like mine, it kind of feels like an extended Revival Service that you didn’t ask for but that the preacher swore he heard the Lord ask him to extend for one more night. And it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on: Every American’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok feeds are full of memes either screaming fraud and praying for President Trump — or popping Champagne in the name of President-Elect Joe Biden.
But some of our feeds have both. Welcome to the world of a Black pastor in a multi-racial church in North Carolina.
People ask me a lot how a Black man pastoring to a multi-racial, multi-ethnic church with so many different views represented in the pews stays in a healthy community. Especially at times like this, with tensions and emotions running high, people ask me a lot how I pastor to those who I may disagree with.
This is no longer just my personal challenge. It’s the biggest question of the day: How to unite a divided America? Is it possible to have a difference in opinions and political views and still walk in unity?
For us in the church, we have a bit of a shortcut. It’s easier to find common cause with those whose politics you don’t share when you have Christ as the center. The Gospel will always be there to unite us, and to lose sight of that because of politics is to hijack the will of God.
Being a pastor to both Democrats and Republicans, I have to be careful not to lead from a place of emotion but from biblical truth. We have to refuse to not allow the media to divide us as believers, and we have to cover our nation, current and future, administration in prayer.
Still, let me make it perfectly clear: This does not mean it is easy. I would be lying if I told you that there was never any tension. Sometimes you can cut it with a knife. There have been many uncomfortable conversations over the past four years among Christians. Especially in a multi-racial church like ours, the political divide runs deep.
And yet, one thing has kept us together: the belief that a divided America should never divide the Bride of Christ.
For Americans who aren’t Christian or believers, I believe a similar principle applies: If you believe in this country more than in what divides us, we will prevail as one. It may not be easy, but it is simple. Cleave to the principles we all believe in and we will overcome our divisions. We all want a better America, a healed America, an America free of hatred, racism and prejudice. This alone can be enough to overcome political divisions.
There’s a long history to rely on, too. Throughout Scripture, we see believers with disagreements negotiating those differences in good faith. It’s a strong reminder for Democrats and Republicans that people have been overcoming their differences for a higher cause for a long, long time.
We as the church have to ensure we lead these efforts for a more equal, unified America from a place of prayer and the word of God. But our mission of unity in the church is bigger than us. We have an opportunity as the church to set the example of how we should love, respect and even honor those who may disagree with us. That’s what the Gospel is all about.
And for those of you who may say, but what about the issues? What about the challenges ahead? I still have hope that we can unite together for the cause of humanity and be the change the world so desperately needs.
America has showed us that this is possible. We have seen it with tragic events like 9/11. Back then, it wasn’t about our disagreements. It wasn’t about black or white. It was about banding together to see hurting people restored.
That is the true soul of America! I refuse to allow an election, a political party or any church division stop me from believing that this can happen again.
So keep the faith and the focus and let’s do what we know we can do. Love always wins. I’m sure God has at times been devastated and heartbroken at the decisions and choices we have made. He also has shown us extreme compassion and mercy.
My prayer is that we would extend the same mercy we have received from God to others — especially those who don’t look like us.
Pastor Derrick Hawkins is a pastor at The Refuge, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic evangelical church in North Carolina. Together with Pastor Jay Stewart, he is the author of “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last, which will be out November 17.”