By Bill Hybels
I post my final response for this exchange with a tinge of sadness. I have never met Paul, but I find him to be a kindred spirit—albeit a much smarter and more well-read one.
His recent point about sanctifying society while we attempt to sanctify ourselves reminds me of a personal, sobering realization I made seven years ago. At the time, I was reading a book on racial reconciliation and found myself feeling pretty self-satisfied: I harbored no ill will toward anyone of color; I had scores of friendships spanning all sorts of racial and ethnic divides; and I encouraged everyone in my sphere of influence to be the very first person in every social setting to reach out a hand of fellowship and friendship to those of a different race or ethnicity.
In the midst of my smugness, I read a section of the book that challenged all Christ-followers to commit themselves to confronting every remaining vestige of structural injustice that oppresses any person of diversity, be it unequal public education systems, housing discrimination, or racial profiling.
I was humbled to tears.
Not contributing to racial tension is a far cry from dedicating myself—proactively and with great passion—to eradicating injustice altogether.
I prayed a prayer of repentance for my ignorance and arrogance and vowed that day that, in my own small way, I would attempt to leverage my God-given platform in defense of the grander vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and others who have loyally and nobly lived out his legacy. It’s an example, I think, of what Paul is arguing for—as he so eloquently said, that we as Christians would be marked by the lifelong process of trying to bring God’s will more fully into our lives. And I find myself wanting to high-five him—and his grandfather—for possessing the courage and confidence to grapple with a more robust and Christlike faith than the one for which most of us evangelicals have been willing to contend.
I hope that when I reach the end of my short time here on earth, I will have more to show than merely a tidied-up life (although given how much I sin, that would be quite an achievement). I hope that in some small way, the community I live in will shine a little brighter and be a tad more “just” than before I moved into it decades ago.
Thanks, Paul. You have bolstered my commitment to holistic ministry, and your grandfather’s classic book is on my desk, waiting for me to break it open on my flight to Europe next week.