Robert E. Lee was born in 1807 in Virginia and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1829, second in his class. Robert E. Lee was born in 1807 in Virginia and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1829, second in his class. He was a hero in the Mexican War of 1845. His father, Lighthorse Harry Lee, was a hero of the American Revolutionary War. Lee’s wife, Mary Custis, was the grand-daughter of George Washington. Lee, a Confederate general, did not own slaves and was an outspoken abolitionist. In 1856, before The Civil War, Lee called slavery “a moral evil.”
A few weeks after the war had ended Lee was in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia preparing to take Communion. A freed black slave came to the altar and knelt, preparing to receive the body and blood of Christ. Traditionally, the white congregants, who sat on the main floor of the sanctuary, would first come to the altar while the black slaves sitting in the balcony sang hymns. After the white folks finished, they sang while the slaves would come to receive Communion. So the present situation provoked a great deal of tension in the congregation. After a few seconds, Lee got up out of his pew, went to the altar, and knelt beside the former slave, put his arm around him, and took the Lord’s Supper with his black brother in Christ.
Since Genesis 3, black, white, red, and brown live in a world of disharmony and division. Diversity divides but unity unites. A biblical view of redemption tears down the walls of separation building bridges of commonality. Cultural sensitivity begins in unity because in Christ, we are all one. Immediately after 9-11, a political cartoon appeared on opinion pages around the U.S. On September 10th we are hyphenated Americans—African-American, Euro-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American; in the second cartoon frame, after September 11th all the hyphenations were dropped. After 9-11 we were referred to simply as “Americans.” “United We Stand” bumper stickers were everywhere.
“United we stand” was the concern of Jesus as He prayed in The Garden before His crucifixion. After His resurrection, solidarity between Christians was paramount in the early Church. Christian communities were marked by repetitious words like “one,” “body,” “others,” “one another,” and “members.” The English word itself makes the point: there is no community without unity. A famous hymn from the early Church was repeated to show this unity: “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” The oneness between Confederate General Robert E. Lee and a freed black slave is the ultimate example of “united we stand.” For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.
Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, German, Haitian, Canadian as well as African-American and Euro-American students attend Crossroads Bible College where Mark teaches. This essay is an edited version of a brief address Mark gave at Cultural Sensitivity Day in April, 2011. It will air in the summer of 2011 on Moody Radio.