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Unity is more important than ever

One thing that we have learned from the results of the EU referendum is that our country is divided. The working class, those living in rural communities, and the older generation voted overwhelmingly for Leave while graduates, city dwellers, and the young voted Remain. There were clearly many different reasons for voting Leave: taking back national sovereignty from an ineffective, unelected, bureaucratic EU elite; a desire to tighten control on immigration; a protest vote against an out-of-touch Westminster elite; the view that the EU is a broken institution and needs a ‘re-set’. However it has also become clear during the period leading up to the referendum that much of Britain (or more likely England) voted because they don’t like immigration.

Since the result came out we have seen increasing racist activity against people who don’t look White British. This is probably carried out by a small minority of nationalist bigots. However day after day during the campaign we saw journalists asking people why they were voting Leave. “Too many immigrants” was the all-too-frequent reply. A sizeable group of people want Britain to be less multicultural. Now it is not wrong to want to discuss immigration; neither it is wrong in itself to want levels of immigration that we can cope with. But I think we have seen frightening attitudes towards outsiders (or those who look like outsiders to us) from ordinary people, not just a few nationalist thugs.

I want to recognise the seed of racism in my own heart. I see in myself a pride in my own ethnicity and a judgemental attitude toward those from different cultures. This is not limited to ethnicity. I can look down on people who have a different accent to me or even dress differently to me. That is my natural sinful attitude. So before I call anyone a racist I want to acknowledge my own sin and pride. Yet we cannot get away from the fact that many Brits have displayed blatant racism these past few months.

So what do we do? We need good political leaders who can lead our country through the healing process it needs. Yet we recognise that the hope for our country is not political leadership but the gospel. Only the gospel of Christ crucified truly heals division. ‘For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility … his purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross’ (Eph 2:14-16). Only Jesus breaks down the dividing walls of hostility, not just between the two groups of Jew and Gentile, but also between the many different ethnicities that have come to British shores. As we come to trust in Jesus we are united to him, and so find ourselves united to all who are united to him.

If we have trusted in Jesus Christ, then we are one family, whether we are Jamaican, Pakistani or White Brit, whether we are working or middle class, whether we’ve voted Corbyn or Cameron. We need this gospel in Kensington as well as in our country. Like the UK we have changed dramatically in the past 50 years and become a multi-ethnic mix. Have we become ‘one people through the cross’? Yes and no. It is a gospel reality but we don’t yet live it out in our daily lives. And when we look into our hearts, how many of us see the roots of racism lurking? This referendum result has shown the division in our country but it has also warned us of the potential for division in our church. Will we put to death the racism in our hearts that we might be one people? By God’s Spirit we can. For the survival and the witness of the church we must.

Tom Martin