In his latest book Oneness Embraced, Dr. Tony Evans, Dallas Theological Seminary alumnus (Th.M., 1976; Th.D., 1982) and board member, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship senior pastor, and president of The Urban Alternative, explores the continuing racial divide in America and responsibility of the church to promote oneness in light of God's coming kingdom.
Moody Publishers summarizes the book in this: "Black/white relations in the culture at large and in the church in particular continue to be a stain on America's respectable reputation. The church has clearly failed and must seek to function by God's kingdom perspective. In this legacy message, Tony Evans seeks to promote a biblical understanding of the kingdom foundation of oneness by detailing why we don't have it, what we need to do to get it, and what it will look like when we live it. Fully encompassing areas of unity, history, culture, the church and social justice, Evans looks to the scriptures for the balance between righteousness and justice that is crucial for applying in this generation and in training the next. A full section on black church history provides a background and understanding that has often been neglected. Recalling experiences in his own evangelical journey, Evans shares kingdom minded approaches for biblical justice and social restoration. To better glorify God and help heal the persistent."
Chapter One: Broken Liberty
The racial problem is an unresolved dilemma of America. Racial problems have gone on since America’s inception because their root has not been addressed by the people who are most qualified to address it: the church. When we can only bring people together in a limited way, without canceling who they have been created to be, under an umbrella that is bigger than the color that they claim, then how can we expect much more from the world?
The goal of the church should be to glorify God by reflecting the values of God among the people of God through letting the truth of God be the standard by which we measure right and wrong and the way we accept our skin color, class, and culture and relate to those from other ones. Until we can embrace how we were born and raised, we will never be able to manifest the values of God in history so that people can understand and fully see that God is a God of multi-coloredness. God loves the variety in His garden called earth, and each one of us has equal value; after all, He died for each one.
The Contradiction of Liberty
During my college summers, I lived and worked in Philadelphia as an associate evangelist with the Grand Old Gospel Fellowship. I regularly set up tent, church, or outdoor crusades. Frequently, I was able to participate in more than the logistics of the event, but also had the opportunity to do what I am passionate about doing, and that is to posit the truth of God through preaching.
I have always been drawn to the truth. Truth, at its core, is God’s view of a matter. It is a powerful entity able to transform lives both in history and for eternity. While truth includes information and facts, it also includes original intent, making it the absolute, objective standard by which reality is measured. The presence of truth brings clarity and understanding. Its absence leads to confusion and the presence of cognitive dissonance—holding contradictory ideas simultaneously.
Located in this same city of Philadelphia where I once preached as a young man is a perfect example of such a contradiction rising out of the abyss of the absence of truth. Hung in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love is the Liberty Bell. Originally cast to commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, the quotation, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” was especially suited to the circumstances surrounding the intent of the Charter and its anniversary. That quotation from Leviticus 25:10 came immediately after the command, “Consecrate the fiftieth year.” It was followed by the statement, “It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.”
At this time in biblical history, according to this passage, all Jews who had been sold into slavery were set free (Leviticus 25:40–41). Not only was liberty a possibility in light of the Jubilee, but it was guaranteed. Liberty and the end of slavery were simultaneous realities, mutually dependent upon each other in relationship to the call for jubilee.
Yet at the time in America when the jubilee was inscribed on the side of the great bell, the liberty it announced had been aborted for many. Slavery continued with no foreseeable end, sanctioned not only by society but also by the church. Fifty years after William Penn’s famous charter, our nation’s bell proclaimed its own contradictory fifty-year jubilee, ringing out the bittersweet sounds of an emasculated freedom across the hilltops and prairies of our vast land.