My aim is not to give a political commentary on the events that transpired this week in Charlottesville, Va. This issue is not one of political ideology or party affiliation. It is, above all, a theological issue. As a pastor, I am not called to be a political activist and I refuse to do so because political involvement will not really change anything. As I read the Bible, I see that the problem with humanity is the problem of sin. It's a spiritual one, not a political one. My aim is simply to point out that as Christians, we cannot be silent about the issue of racism. Put simply, there is no room for racism within the family of God. If you are claiming the name of Christ and harbor animosity, bigotry, or hatred for another person on the basis of the color of their skin or their ethnicity, you are in sin. If you claim the name of Christ and believe that one race is superior to another, you are in sin. Thankfully Jesus redeems us from sin and gives us new hearts. When we look at the root of racism, we see hatred and hatred is not compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, here are 12 reflections on racism that I think all believers need to embrace.
1. All people are created in the image of God and therefore deserve dignity and respect.
This should go without saying but apparently it still needs to be said. I'm amazed at how Christians will affirm this on the issue of abortion, but be silent on it when it comes to race. God created every single person to have the honor of bearing His image. No matter what else is said, that alone means that everyone, every single human being, deserves dignity and respect. Racism seeks to strip image bearers of God of their dignity on the basis of their skin color. Racism withholds respect from people and belittles them, and their humanity by treating them with disrespect.
2. Christ redeems people from all races and ethnicities.
If you are a racist, heaven would be hell. Read the descriptions of heaven in the Bible. There are people from every tribe, nation, and tongue (Rev. 7:9). Every ethnicity will be represented. In fact, in the great commission, Christ commands us to go make disciples of every nation. The word is ethne. We get the word ethnicity from it. We are told repeatedly in Scripture that the gospel is to go to all the nations (again, the term ethne or ethnos is used). Psalm 67:4 calls for the nations to be glad in God. We can take from this that God cares about people of every ethnicity. He wants people from every ethnicity. He has redeemed people from every ethnicity. His family is a multi-ethnic family. So if God cares about people from every race He is not a racist... in fact, He hates racism because He loves people of every race. Therefore, we should hate the evil of racism and stand against it.
3. Christ forgives racism and heals the stain of racism.
Racism is sin. Christ came for sinners and He came to heal them of the power of sin. In other words, God redeems racists. He saves them and makes them new. He gives them new hearts that seek to honor Him and love as He calls us to. This is really good news for people who hate others on the basis of race or think their race is superior. Christ came into the world to save everyone who believes, for there is no distinction, meaning all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Nothing God-honoring or God-glorifying happened in Charlottesville. And yet, in the midst of that vile, evil, hate filled display of depravity, there may be some who God will save. There may be some who bear swastika tattoos who will be born again. There may be some who hate white people and tear down statues that will be convicted of their need for God and be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ. Racism is sin, but the gospel deals with sin and makes a person new and whole.
4. The Christian community is characterized by love.
Racism is hatred. Hatred is antithetical to what the gospel produces. The gospel gives us new hearts that are free to radically love God and others. Love seeks the interest of others. Love is not puffed up. Love doesn't insist on it's own. Love sacrifices for the good of others. Love does no wrong (for more see 1 Cor 13). Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). Love overcomes fear (1 John 4:18). In fact, if anyone says the love God and they hate their brother, they are liars (1 John 4:20). The gospel frees us to count others as more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3) and forgive one another (Col 3:13). We are commanded to love others as Christ loved us (Mark 12:31). Was there racism in Christ when He spoke with the woman at the well or the Roman official? The Christian community should be characterized by love as a community of born again believers and love is incompatible with racism of any kind.
5. The gospel makes one new man and so our primary identity is not found in the color of our skin but in the person and work of Christ.
Racism breeds division. Racism says one race is superior to another. Racism makes our identity an issue of skin color. We begin to identify people as primarily black or white. This is not a new issue. People have divided others into groups to make themselves feel special or superior for ages. The gospel addresses this though. Paul says that the dividing wall of hostility is broken down in Christ and in the place of two people, He is making one new man (Eph 2:14-16). The issue was, there was one ethnicity that thought they were better than another and Paul says Christ died for both so that instead of two hostile parties, there would be one new man found in Christ. This is why Paul can say radical things like he does in Galatians 3:26-29. The point is not that you stop being black or white, or male or female, or ethnically Jewish or ethnically gentile. The point is that those things are no longer your primary identity anymore. Your identity is now found in Christ. You are a redeemed child of God and heir to His Kingdom. Race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, and any other way we seek to identify ourselves becomes secondary to the fact that we are united with Christ.
6. Racism is a result of the fall, but the gospel makes things new.
In the fall, sin damaged all of humanity. Sin caused us to hate others, to lie, to steal, to kill, and to think that because of something about us, we are somehow superior to another. Racism is a result of the fall. I know this because (as noted above) there will be no racism or racial tension in heaven. Perfect peace and harmony because we will not have the blinders of sin and our sinful flesh to fight against. We will see things as they really are without the impact of sin. In Christ, God is making all things new. One day, racism will be a footnote in the history of humanity. It will be a forgotten relic of the fall because of what Christ did to redeem us and cleanse us. One of my favorite lines from The Return of the King is when Sam says "It is like everything that was sad came untrue". We will one day receive perfect bodies and enjoy Christ for eternity in heaven if we have repented and trusted in Him, and on that day, it will be as if everything that was sad came untrue. In the meantime, as we wait for that day, as we focus on Christ, we are being changed into His image (2 Cor 3). We are being transformed to better reflect Him. The gospel is making us new. We renew our minds and have changed affections and begin to see the world more and more as God sees it. The gospel makes us new and gives us new eyes through which we see others.
7. To hate other image bearers is to hate the image of God.
If racism is hating an image bearer of God, then racism hates the image of God. When we hate those who bear God's image, we are hating God. We are called to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Hatred of others leads to us acting on that hatred. A young woman is dead because sinful hatred of an image bearer of God caused a man to drive his car into a crowd and kill a woman. The reason God ordained for murder to be punished is because of the image of God in man (Gen 9:6). James even picks up on this when addressing how we talk about other people. Hate speech is wrong because it is directed at those who bear God's image (James 3:8-10). To hate others is to be a murderer (1 John 3:15). Hating others is directly opposed to the command to love others. The reason we can love others, even those who hate us, slander us, or treat us poorly, is because we love God. Therefore, hatred of other people has no place in the Christian life. It is a cancer that will eat your soul.
8. The diversity of humanity displays the creativity of God.
Because God created every person, and we believe that God doesn't make mistakes but knits each person together in the womb (Ps. 139:13), each person is made just as God intended for them to be made. This means that the ethnic and racial diversity we see in the world is an expression of God's perfect creativity. He made us to be different colors and heights. He made us to have unique finger prints and combinations of features. His creativity and glory is displayed in the diverse canvas of humanity. Therefore, racism is a hatred of God's expression of His glory and creativity and perfection in the way He created each person. To say one color is superior is to miss the beauty and glory of God in the way He created us so uniquely different.
9. God shows no partiality... we shouldn't either.
Perhaps the ultimate test of whether or not racism has a place in the church is by answering the question: does God show partiality toward any person because of race. The answer is unequivocally no! In Acts 10:34, a gentile and his family came to faith and God saved them. Peter exclaimed "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." The Jews thought that the gospel was just for them and they had a free pass because of their ethnicity. God says otherwise. He does not show partiality toward any race or person, therefore, neither should we. Romans 2:11 says the same thing. In fact there is no favoritism in Him (Col 3:25). None! As a result, we are to reflect that (James 2:1). God does not say because you are this color you are better off or superior. Racism is evil because it says the opposite of what God says.
10. We should seek justice for victims of racism
We should actively pursue justice for all people, meaning that we should desire justice for the woman who was run over and murdered by a car. It was murder. We should not be making excuses, but should be praying that justice be done. The same goes for people of every race. We should actively be pursuing justice for all people because our God is a God of justice.
11. We should share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ with racists as we stand against racism
We are called to speak the truth in love. That means that we call racism sin and call racists to repent of their sin and turn in faith to Christ for the forgiveness of that sin so that they might be new creations and empowered by the Holy Spirit to glorify God and turn from their evil ideology. We don't merely condemn racism, we actively seek to take the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to them. We don't merely condemn their actions, but we seek to see the wickedness of their hearts healed through the blood of Jesus Christ.
12. Jesus saves and redeems the brokenness in our lives to be a living testimony to His grace and power
Paul was a murderer. God redeemed him and used the brokenness in his life as a tremendous testimony of the transforming power of the gospel. While racism is evil and vile, God saves racists and redeems their lives to display His grace and power. No one is beyond the reach of God's grace. No one's sin is so bad that it cannot be cleansed by the blood of Christ and replaced with His righteousness. Therefore, we should pray for those who are enslaved to the sin of racism that God would display His glory by powerfully saving them to be agents of light and ambassadors for Christ.
A pastor friend of mine shared this post on Facebook and added a 13th point which I wholeheartedly agree with. Thanks for the addition Louis Lyons
13. Racism has existed for thousands of years in absolutely every part of the world in ever time period. It will continue to exist.
There is not a president that can be elected who can stop it. There's not an educational program that can end it. There's not a person, place, or thing, that will ever end racism. Racism is sin, and sin lives in the hearts of every person alive. There are only two times in a person's life that can end it. It can come to an end in any person's life when he/she bows their knee to Jesus and believes the gospel that Jesus taught, and it will ultimately end when Jesus returns and sovereignly declares that every knee bow in subjection to his Kingship. Until that time, racism will exist in every culture, in every nation. Only Jesus can (and will) end it.
Husband to Carlee, Papa to Fin and Ainsley, Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne., and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast.