It’s been said that the Sunday morning service is the most racially segregated hour of the week. Last Sunday, I went to the least segregated hour.
I parked my car in one of the last spaces available and took a deep breath. I had been inside this building before but that still didn’t make it any easier. I always feel like I need to prepare myself before I go into this place.
Inside, I walked quietly through the hallway with my head down. I finally noticed the man that I came to see. He’s white and he was in the middle of a conversation with a black lady. When he saw me, he stopped talking and introduced me to the lady.
He told me that they were helping each other.
They couldn’t have been more different. Their genders, their race and their background where opposites. But that didn’t matter. One thing brought them together.
I was in a hospice. My friend’s father had just passed away. He was holding it together as good as you might expect. The lady I had just met was helping him. And he was helping her as she coped with the loss of her loved one. Although they were strangers, they were there for each other.
My friend walked me down the hallway to see his dad. Other family members were in there. They were grieving too. But not as those who have no hope. They knew that the man who had been sick for so many years was with Jesus now. Stories of the man’s life and legacy came out with ease.
The family told stories of fatherly discipline.
There were stories of hunting trips, school and playing in the band.
And there was one last story.
Just before death came to that room, one of the hospice nurses came in. She sang a hymn. She was black. The man she was singing over was white. The Savior who was about to receive the man created and loved them both.
We can go to churches and even school based on our racial preferences. Death doesn’t work that way. It comes to us all. And in a weird way, it brings us together.
In that hospice, there was no talk of confederate flags or white privilege or Louis Farrakhan or #blacklivesmatter. None of that mattered. There was only pain. Shared pain. And a hope that was shared too.
A while back I asked a man who has been alive for a few decades longer than me what he thought about the racial tension in our country today. How does it compare to the 1950s and 1960s?
“It doesn’t,” he told me. “It’s much worse today.”
A lot has been done in the name of stopping it. New words have been added to our culture’s non-written Do Not Use List. People are getting angry. The government is spending money. But none of it is helping.
Last Sunday, sitting in that hospice and surrounded by death, it hit me. Maybe we could all get along better if we started living like we do when we’re in the hospice. Maybe if we remembered that in life, just like in the hospice, no one gets out alive, we would stop letting our differences separate us.
For all of our differences, whites and blacks have one thing in common.
There is no amount of privilege, pride or resistance that will help us to escape it. For all of the pain that it brings us, death brings us something better. It brings us together. That’s how Jesus works. He is the Master of redeeming even the most painful of situations.
When I finally walked out of that hospice building last Sunday, I prayed a prayer. It’s the same prayer that I always pray when I leave those places.
“Lord, send Jesus back quickly.”
There’s nothing quite like a trip to the hospice to remind you of what we will not have once Jesus returns.
But there was more to this particular trip. This time, I got to see just a glimpse of what we will have after Jesus comes back.
The One who will one day forever remove death’s sting is the same one who will One day forever remove society’s segregation. In eternity, the worship services will not be segregated. All followers of Christ will offer up our praise to Jesus. Together.
And they sang a new song, saying,“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)