On a Sunday morning in many cities across the United States, Christian churches are filled with like-minded believers worshipping as one, listening to an encouraging sermon from a personable pastor and likely praying fervently for each other. All good things. While the church is a place of solace for many including myself, there is something critical missing from many churches across the nation: The acknowledgement of a wave of racist ideologies and acts against minorities and the call to turn away from such things. If we are to believe that we are all made in the image of God, and we are all loved by God, why is it a rarity to hear a sermon from a Christian pastor where the pastor grapples with the evil stain of racism in its many layers?
Race based hate is a very difficult thing to discuss because it automatically puts a group of people on the defense and posits another group as perpetual victims. Neither position is beneficial. Many people see this topic as divisive and so they avoid it, but the reality is, this topic seeks to bring light to the divide that already exists. Racism is a very complex evil, manifesting in many forms including systemically (government structures),interpersonally (between individuals) and internally (self-hate). Many church leaders aren’t well educated on the different forms of racism and they fear upsetting their flock with such a loaded topic. Nevertheless, if we are committed to spreading the love of Christ to all, we can no longer ignore the trauma racism causes by preaching messages about love and turning from sin without specifically mentioning an insidious form of evil that is currently reigning in our society –race based hate and distrust.
It seems we cannot go a week without hearing of, yet another officer involved shooting of an unarmed, innocent black person. The black community mourns and protests with very little support from the church. There are calls from the White House to ban immigration from certain parts of the world as well as a general distrust and disdain for the “other”. While evil exists in many forms including black on black crime, degrading and dehumanizing song lyrics, domestic violence, child-abuse, pornography etc. The particular evil that is at the center of the church’s silence is racism.
Galatians 3:28-29 says: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
This demonstrates that regardless of our differences, we are one. There is no lesser race. As Christians we all belong equally to Christ.
In Acts 10, Peter is confronted of his bias against the Gentiles with a dream from the Lord. Soon after Peter says in verse 34-35:
Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
1 John 3:17 states: But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
What does this all mean for the church? I believe these scriptures should motivate us to use our voices, time and resources to work against racism. We are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
As one body in Christ, why not come alongside a hurting brother or sister, whether or not you can relate to their pain? Sit with them in it. Listen humbly without defense. Pray with them and commit to doing your part to speaking against racist ideologies in your circle of influence. That is how you communicate love to those dealing with the trauma of racism. This does not mean that you yourself are guilty of racial wrongdoing. It also does not mean that you yourself do not experience trauma or mistreatment in your daily life. Comforting a brother or sister in need takes nothing away from you but time and energy. Release your defensive attitude and open your heart to the pain your sister in Christ is walking through.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:17).
For those led to go even further, why not join Christian based empowerment groups in your community? If there are none --create your own. Meet and discuss what the Bible says about racism and other ills that effect members of your neighborhood. Plan a luncheon, invite community members to discuss the ways racism has personally affected them or their families. Brainstorm strategies to combat it. Bring diverse sets of people together regularly to break bread with one another and tear down walls. This is bold and uncomfortable work, but loving people the way Christ did always is.
With love and reflection,