“You are the first person who has ever said that to me.”
People have asked me
how I respond to ethnic questions and injustices of our day. 
My black brother was retelling a personal story of injustice perpetrated against him by a white man from his past. The awfulness of hurt fades slowly, if at all, leaving scars, warnings of the future. My brother is my friend. We esteem each other as Christian believers. Our differences are as obvious as our unity. Our friendship, our oneness in Christ, is our commitment.
But commitment is not always easy to come by. Racial arguments erupt all around us. I have read a multitude of writings, essays, articles, blogs, posts, tweets, and memes about ethnic issues. I have asked questions and had discussions and posited responses with my diverse brotherhood about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. I have carried on dozens of dialogues with my racially diverse students about justice, poverty, ethnicity, and economics.
Co-commitment must be based on mutual beliefs.
It pains me that it is necessary to make a list of beliefs to which we can agree; beliefs that should seem obvious to us all. Christian/non-Christian, black/white, Hispanic/Asian, rich/poor, male/female, here is a list of universal beliefs, commitments I think we need to follow:
We all believe in the future.
We all want to protect our children and grandchildren.
We all believe in our collective humanness.
We all believe in equality no matter one’s color, class, or code.
We believe that abortion kills our children and our future.
Another black student stood across from me at the counter.
He poured his coffee and asked about my future. He was surprised when I responded “YOU are my future.” He stopped the stirring in his cup. “YOU are my legacy,” I continued. “YOU are the reason I teach. Your influence in your community, your church, your state, your circles of influence are what I care deeply for.”
My black brother looked shocked, then smiled and said, “You are the first person who has said that to me.”
People wonder how I am involved in the ethnic questions and injustices of our day. My response is always the same, “I teach. I teach in a seminary graduate school where biblical-theological foundations are being erected. I teach to help believers own their beliefs. I teach the tools my students will use for a lifetime of thoughtful Christian thinking-writing-living. I teach to help build the next generation.”
My response to the first line in this essay is “long term”: to help mentor the next generation of ethnically diverse pastors and PhDs. Education takes a long time, but education lasts longer than my voice in the pulpit or my protest sign on the street.
Here is my commitment:
I will celebrate all my African, Hispanic, Asian, and European brothers & sisters.
I will continue to pursue, promote, & publicize my ethnically diverse brothers & sisters for public positions.
I will use my platform to search out my replacement, a man unified in belief, diverse in ethnicity.
I will encourage Charlie, Gerson, Brian, Ced, Dawn, David, Reginald, Harold, Rondell, & so many others toward the completion of their advanced degrees.
I will freely share eternal wisdom & permanent ideals for the 21st century.
Yet another black brother was retelling a personal story of justice, celebrating his service in the American Armed Forces. He concluded with these words, “I have traveled the world. I have seen how minorities are treated in other countries. Yes, I have lived through the hatred of some against me in the United States, but I would rather live here than those countries. I want to serve my Lord and The Church with the theological education I have received. And I want to contribute to the growing unity of black-white, African-Asian, rich & poor, powerful & powerless.”
People have asked me how I respond to ethnic questions and injustices of our day.
This essay is my answer.
Mark’s eyes fill with tears often, lamenting the awfulness of racial injustice, angered by the insensitivities within The Church, and promising a cure for bigotry through the shed blood of Christ which has broken down “the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Dr. Mark Eckel writes this essay in honor of all his students past, present, and future, now at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.