I was at a new school looking for friends on the playground. A little group of girls was playing double-dutch, singing in rhythm to the slap of rope on the concrete. I walked over and asked if I could play. One of the girls swiveled to face me, her hands on her hips and her pigtails bouncing.
“No,” she said. “This is a black girl game. White girls can’t play.”
At eight I didn’t understand the way race could divide us. My mother tried to explain it to me, but I didn’t see what a war two centuries ago had to do with jumping rope on the playground. I fully acknowledge that my childhood memory pales in comparison to the racism that is still a present reality for many ethic and minority groups. But when I think about exclusion, that’s the moment that pops up in my mind–that moment when I first realized that skin color could separate and divide.
As I got older, I learned other ways of dividing, like the grades you got, the clothes you wore, the sports you played, the purse you carried, and that invisible nebulous barrier that separated the A-crowd from everyone else. You’d think we left that behind with high school, but we still find ways to divide ourselves. Homeschool versus public school; breastfeeding versus formula; couponing versus whole foods; conservative versus liberal–and that’s just getting started. Even in church we find ways to separate: ages, worship styles; denominations; income brackets; those who speak our church language and those that don’t. And Sunday mornings still remain the most segregated hour of the week.
But Christ is our peace. In Christ we are both reconciled to God and to one another. He broke down the dividing wall and made us one. One kingdom. One citizenship. One family. His death put the hatred to death and purchased peace by his blood. And through him we–we–all have access to God by the Spirit. Together, we are not divided. We are one church, built by the Spirit as a dwelling for the Spirit. We proclaim Him together.
Thankfully, that playground memory isn’t my only one. I remember standing together with believers as three languages mingled in one song of praise. I’ve seen eighty-year old women welcome tattooed teens. I’ve seen people of every color gathered together in what looks like a slice of heaven. This is what Jesus does for us. He doesn’t just make peace; he became peace for us. Together we are no longer male or female, black or white, slave or free–we are one in Christ Jesus.