“Can’t we just preach the gospel?’ I saw it again the other day on a Facebook feed where some Christians had been commenting on issues of race that are again at the forefront of the world’s media’s news cycle at the moment, until the next thing. And I get it.
It’s hard to speak about racism. With all that’s going on in the world.
But it’s good to speak about racism. With all that’s going on in the world.
Rather than be silent. Even if you feel like you’ll say the wrong thing, or in the wrong way, it’s right to speak for justice.
This week I’ve seen my black brothers and sisters rejoice, and hurt, and not know what to do or say. Some have said something, online or out loud. Others haven’t. Maybe some were wondering what I thought, and until I say it, they won’t know.
As a church leader, some people expect you to say something or post something and at the same time I know there are those – that’s by no means the only times I see it on forums like Twitter and Facebook and I have heard it said a many times verbally;
And in many ways I wish it was that simple, then I could just get on with talking about the gospel.
Except – and here’s the problem;
From the beginning because of our Creation
In the middle because of our salvation
And through to the end and forever because of our eternal destiny.
So when people say ‘Can’t we stop talking about race and just talk about the gospel?’ my problem is I have read the Bible. And know what the gospel is. And it goes way beyond saying a prayer for my own salvation.
As I’ve read my Bible and thought and prayed again this week, as a former police officer I thought, “Thank God Derek Chauvin doesn’t represent me.” But then I see that as a white former police officer he does represent me more closely than George Floyd.
Because I’d be far more likely to be afforded the protection of the law, than to need to be protected from the law.
Because of my epidermis.
The difference really is only skin deep. The Bible said it all along, and science caught up a few decades ago.
In Genesis when the first human being is created he’s simply named adam, Hebrew for “humankind.”
Adam and Eve are not created as Hebrews; the Bible doesn’t say they’re White, Black or even Semitic. The place of origin, the cradle of life, is geographically located as Africa but their ethnicity is not even mentioned, the Bible says instead that they’re made as our common ancestor, the mother and father of all peoples, all ethnicities, and eventually – all nations.
“Both the dignity and the equality of human beings are traced in Scripture to our creation.”John Stott
So to believe the lie of racism that says one’s own race superior to another denies the gospel, the biblical truth of Creation – that all people are created
The origin and spread of nations is traced and detailed through the pages of the Old Testament as God’s story unfolds, but then when Jesus comes – because God so loved THE WORLD that he sent his Son to save it- everything changes because of that love and sacrifice on the cross for all of us.
That’s why the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:28, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Again, there’s no place for racism. Not the slightest notion of ethnic superiority – because racism is a denial of the work of Jesus Christ.
People demand equality and that’s okay as far as it goes but the Bible goes way further when Paul’s writes about what Jesus wants which is unity. In Colossians 3:11 he talks about a new creation and a new way to live like heaven on the earth now where, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”
Elsewhere Paul lists groups that were formerly hostile (like the Jews and Gentiles where there was great separation and hostility both ways) now being brought together in one body. How is it possible? Because of the gospel! Through Christ!
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[c] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,Ephesians 2
People’s best aim is toleration, but God wants love, God wants a family. One family. Paul says now are all in the same family, parts of the same body. How can we not share unity?
Once we’ve been saved by faith in the gospel and brought into new life in Christ, our self-identity has to change, who we are and whose we are brings a radical shift in thinking about other people or groups. Our primary identity now lies in the fact that we are children of God, one family.
If we can’t work this out in the church because we’re Christians, part of Christ and his kingdom, how can the world do it? But if we can, if we don’t stop talking and praying about race – couldn’t we lead the way for the world in love, because who we are in Christ overshadows and overrides all other identities?
When racism denies or works against that, we lose the purpose of the church.
The Bible said it all along theologically but science has now caught up to tell us that humans are biologically the same. Thinking about what part of the world people’s ancestors might have come from is fine, but to go further and say somehow that different races are different types of humans is incorrect, because biology proves that all humans are of the same type, species, and kind – the variation of traits we see are pretty much just skin deep.
Relative to other species, we’re genetically incredibly similar even if how we look externally in terms of height, weight, skin, hair or eye colour is very diverse. That multi coloured beauty our Creator rejoiced in has been twisted throughout history by pride and hate and greed and underlined by faulty science – which led to categorisations and social distinctions to justify greedy exploitation and land grabs, ethnic cleansing and colonialism, because hierarchical ranking of different races led to oppression, eugenics and slavery, with the legacy ongoing through the discrimination and injustices we still see, and some suffer the consequence of today.
I watched the news as it played out in the George Floyd case and I prayed for the USA, that he’d deal with racism in the world – but God said “Let’s start with you.” He wanted to deal with any part that’s still racist in me. And he did not just put it in prison, he wanted that old man to be executed, to be put on a cross and die daily.
Then I watched the Panorama programme about the racism in the Church of England, and I asked God to deal with every part that’s racist in the church. In Ivy.
And God said ‘Okay let’s start again – with you.’
So because racism denies the gospel from beginning to middle to end, because of our Creation and Salvation and ultimate Destination together, would you join me as we get ready for the future God has for us as his family – by taking a few moments to pray and invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart.
“Search me and know me…:
See if there’s any wicked way in me Lord as it says in Psalm 51.
Lord may we not just demand tolerance, but demonstrate love. Help us go beyond accepting each other; by the realisation that we belong to each other, because we belong to you – and we’re connected together now into one entity because of the cross as blood brothers and sisters; each of us lovable, valuable, capable of being united by you Jesus.
Thank you Lord you don’t want to obliterate the differences, but celebrate them as we honour your image in everyone we lock eyes with today. Thank you that your plan is that one day we will stand before you in these same bodies, redeemed and resplendent but recognisably who you made us, to worship you forever and that is our shared Destiny.
Change my heart Lord as we make knowing you our primary self-identity, to become that family where ethnic distinctions shrink into insignificance in the light of our new identity of being “All One – in Christ Jesus!”
Lord we look forward with faith, and may we work every day, to denounce the evil lies of racism which deny the gospel, the only gospel that is good news for everyone always, so this world more closely resembles and reflects our shared destiny, our glorious inheritance, our future heavenly reality as we worship you now ahead of that time when every knee shall bow as every tongue will sing a new song, saying
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Let us live and love today as those who one day will find ourselves standing amazed by your grace as part of that great multitude no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice;