As I begin this CoffeeBreak this morning, I know I am venturing into a place where it is likely that I will offend. A person cannot mention race in America in 2021 without quickly awakening myriad responses. Last year our country was torn apart, once again, by arguments over equal justice for all. The horrific video of a black man death under the knee of a white man on a street corner in Minneapolis sparked a national awareness and created an opportunity for politicians to use the issue to stoke the passions of voters. No one, regardless of political alliance, can realistically argue that America has yet met the challenge of racial equality successfully.
The politics aside, my concern is how Christians grapple with this challenge. Tony Evans, a black pastor from Dallas, TX, in his new book, Oneness Embraced, contends that ‘the fundamental cause of racial problems in America lies squarely with the Church’s failure to come to grips with the issue from a Biblical perspective. … The Church of Jesus Christ has, on a large scale, with some exceptions, missed our calling to… promote a Biblical understanding of the Kingdom foundation of oneness.’ Oneness, Dr Evans says, do not require us to erase our cultural uniqueness in some bland uniformity acceptable to all but rather to choose to live in spiritual UNITY.
Let me make a statement that has no wiggle room by intent. If a Christian refuses fellowship with a person or sees another human being as being of lesser worth because of race or sex, he sins. It is not merely regrettable. It cannot be passed off as ‘the way things are.’ Discrimination is an offense to God who made us one and who loves us equally.
Jesus repeatedly challenged the accepted discrimination of His day. Jews despised Samaritans and justified their attitude by using the history of Israel’s divide. But, in John 4 we read the story of how He shocked His disciples by challenging 3 social norms in one encounter! At a well in Samaria, He engaged in a real conversation with –
1. a woman;
2. one was a social outcast because of her moral failures; and
3. a Samaritan by birth.
For Jesus the Kingdom of God was the first allegiance. In order to meet the spiritual need of a person that social norms would have kept Him from addressing, one who many would have insisted had ‘no right’ to God’s grace, Jesus took a drink from the hand of the Samaritan woman at the well and led her to know God’s love.
His summation of the encounter is revealing. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, NIV) Don’t miss what He says. God’s grace is not limited by who you are, where you come from, or what you have done. When we know this foundational Kingdom principle, we are prepared to deal with the sin of discrimination.
The Kingdom calling is solidified as the Church comes into being. Those bodies of Christians were remarkable in their time for the refusal to observe social norms. Rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Gentile and Jew worshiped together, the gifts of the Spirit operating through everyone. In the Kingdom of God, entered through the grace of Christ Jesus, they fervently believed that every person stood on level ground. Paul unmistakably states the principle – “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NIV)
In the Church of Jesus Christ we cannot excuse, tolerate, or encourage any divisions based on social class, or racial heritage, or gender. The sin of discrimination has been acceptable for too long. Yes, is a subtle one that hides itself behind all kinds of words, that is excused with many rationalizations. But, God’s truth is clear: In Christ there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The Word says that ‘our citizenship is in Heaven.’ (Philippians 3.20)
Friend, when you pray, “Your Kingdom come,” does that include those whose skin is a different color? Do you desire to live under God’s rule with ALL of the human race? I hope that those of us who are ‘in Christ,’ will pray earnestly to be people of the Kingdom – not Republicans, not Democrat, not black, nor white; but Christians who love God.
Today as America notes the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. for national reconciliation and equal rights. Dr. King was a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama who lived with the evil of segregation and racism, naming it for what it was – sin. His vision of non-violent resistance spared many lives as the civil rights movement gained momentum.
Ever the preacher, Dr. King drew inspiration from the Scripture, using the picture words of the Old Testament prophets to move the nation. We hear the voice of the Spirit when he quotes Amos, “let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24, KJV) His most memorable speech given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963 is as clear a vision of equality as we can find. The world he ‘saw’ by faith has yet to come fully to be, but let us, for Christ’s sake, commit ourselves to making it a reality.
I leave this word from the Word with you today. As you ponder it, let God use it to shape your heart and mind.
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:6-8, NIV)
If you unfamiliar with the “Dream” speech of Dr. King take 15 minutes and listen to his words. They are powerful, challenging, and visionary.(https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm)