Recently I was on a flight next to a fine Christian man. When people find out at 30,000 feet that I am a minister they usually have one of two reactions – they are either really glad they are sitting next to me or really wish they weren’t! My new friend kept me engaged in conversation almost the entire flight and we had great discussion on a whole range of topics.
At some point in our time together, this black gentleman asked me about dealing with racial issues in churches. He had a sweet spirit about his question and sincerely wanted to know how it should be addressed among believers. I am grateful that my parents taught me as a boy that the color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with their heart and as we talked I did not see a black man. I saw a brother in Christ and a man with genuine interest in making a difference in the world.
Racial issues have dominated the headlines for generations and too often have hindered the work of the gospel in our world. I do not have all of the answers to the complexities in our culture, but the Scripture does bring simplicity and clarity to every question. Here are three things I said to my friend that I believe all of us must do…
- Major on the gospel. The most equal thing in the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ! We are all sinners. We all deserve hell. We all need a Savior. We are all saved the same way, through faith in the finished work of Christ. Jesus was not a white man or a black man; He was a Savior for all people. As one old preacher used to say, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”
- Remember Genesis and Revelation. We all have Adam as our first father and Eve as our first mother! From the beginning, the Creator made us all of one blood (Acts 17:26). In the end, we will all stand before the Judge of the earth. To the glory of God we are told that around the throne there will be “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). We will spend eternity together!
- Be thoughtful of people of all races, but do not think first of race. Let that sink in. Be considerate. Be respectful. And, at the same time, do not make race the main thing. God didn’t. The divine emphasis is on the spirit and soul of a man – that part which will last forever. One way to keep racial issues from being in the forefront of our thinking is to stop talking about them all of the time. What we speak about constantly is the emphasis of our life! Speak of the love of God and the Christ who is accessible to all.
Racism is real, and it is sin – regardless of whose heart it is found in. The dirty secret is that every man has some prejudice. It may not be racial, but we all have areas where our thinking is not in line with the mind of Christ. This is because our minds have been both tainted by our own sin nature and polluted by the corruption around us. The word God uses for this iniquity (crookedness) is not prejudice; it is partial. James 2:1 says, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” He goes on to address those who judge men by their economic standing. “Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:4).
Our God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). He does not judge by appearances and neither should His children. Only one thing can cut through the ignorance, selfishness, and hatred of racial prejudice: the love of God. Live in 1 Corinthians 13 and let the love of God live in you. God’s Word and God’s love is the only cure for the sin of racism.