Racism: Part 3, 26 June 2022

Series Big Idea: Racism is a thoroughly biblical subject which continues to plague our world.
Big Idea: Racism is sin which requires repentance and lament.
I have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news. Although First Alliance is an imperfect church led by imperfect people under the authority of a perfect LORD and Savior, our topic of racism today is not a reaction to things I have seen and heard around here. Rather, I’ve been thrilled to not only watch this congregation diversify, many of various backgrounds and ethnicities have told me they feel loved, respected, and accepted here. Praise God! I love what God is doing here!
The bad news, as you might expect, is racism is not dead. Pastor Derwin Gray is often asked why he talks about race frequently. He replies, “Because the Bible does.” He writes in his book
How to Heal Our Racial Divide, “Racial reconciliation in Christ is not peripheral to the gospel, an optional ‘nice to have’ or a fad issue, but central to Christ’s mission and God’s plan.” I wholeheartedly agree.
When most people today in our nation think of racism, they think of black versus white, slavery generations ago, George Floyd, and maybe the names of those who died because of the color of their skin. But the Bible shows us throughout its 66 books people have been prejudice from nearly its first pages. Our enemy knows how to divide and conquer. Jesus himself said,
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. (Luke 11:17b)
We see this virtually every day in our political system, to say nothing of the other things that cause people to
cancel one another. Perhaps the most glaring biblical example of division is the distinction between Jew and Gentile, something we hardly think about, but it was every bit as daunting—if not more co—than any ethnic conflicts in our nation’s history. Yet Paul wrote to the church in Galatia,
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Pastor Donald is a tough act to follow! He asked me to give this message, part three of a series he began last fall and continued last Sunday. While I have no stories of being the victim of ethnic prejudice, I feel qualified to challenge us to view every person as a masterpiece created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth. The first chapter in the Bible makes this clear.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, NLT)
We already saw…
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
But consider these words of Paul to another church:
But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. (Colossians 3:25)
Dr. N.T. Wright notes,
“The theology and praxis of a church united across the traditional boundaries of ethnic, class, and gender distinctions was never for Paul a secondary matter; it was at the very heart. Otherwise, one would in effect be saying that the Messiah did not after all defeat (through his death) the powers of darkness that divide and corrupt the human race.”
Peter had the same message:
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. (Acts 10:34)
The book of Romans says,
For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)
Back in the Old Testament Moses declares,
For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
I could go on and on with examples. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of a new community, a multi-ethnic family formed around King Jesus.
My guess is most—hopefully all—of you believe “we are all one in Christ Jesus” as Paul said. You reject the satanic belief that one’s skin color makes them superior or inferior to another. To all of my lighter hue brothers and sisters, I hope you’ve discovered racism didn’t end with Abraham Lincoln or Juneteenth or the election of President Obama or George Floyd. None of my African-American friends want to go back in history. Progress has been made. But there’s much work to do in the arena of reconciliation among all peoples and ethnicities. We’re all members of one race, the human race.
Pew Research Center data shows a full three-quarters of Black Americans say opposing racism is essential to their faith or sense of morality. My guess—and hope—is you all recognize the evil of racism…and probably wonder what to do about it. What can I possibly do about “those racists?”
I’m so glad you asked! Regardless of your skin color or background, I want to offer several next steps that I believe will help us become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We’re not going to eliminate racism in our nation this week, but there are proactive things we can all do. I’m borrowing this outline from Derwin Gray’s book mentioned earlier, How to Heal Our Racial Divide. Derwin is a pastor in Carolina who worked on his Doctorate at Northern Seminary the same time I did (in a different cohort).

1.    Trust the supremacy of Christ
We’ve heard a lot about white supremacy in the news. Dr. Martin Luther King once said,
“[W]e must never substitute a doctrine of black supremacy for white supremacy. For the doctrine of black supremacy is as dangerous as white supremacy. God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men but God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race, the creation of a society where all. Men will live together as brothers.”
King Jesus is supreme. He is the greatest. He is above all. Jesus is LORD! Satan loves to tempt each of us into pride, seeing ourselves somehow better than another, whether it’s our skin color, education, wealth, appearance, or abilities.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
It doesn’t say anything about Jews or Gentiles, black or white or brown. This is love. This is what Christians do. This is who we are. Why? It’s who Jesus is, and following Jesus means loving like Jesus loved. When we say Jesus is LORD, we mean He is our Master. He’s the boss. We trust and obey, not matter the cost.
Following Jesus is not the American dream. You have no rights. It’s not your body. We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. It’s not your wealth. Everything we have belongs to God. It’s not about you and your comfort and your convenience or even your safety. It’s all about Jesus! Jesus is LORD!
One of the most disturbing books I’ve read is
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. The subtitle is The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. It’s a thoroughly researched book about the evil acts of so-called Christians.
Jesus is LORD! Not whites. Not blacks. Not browns. Not Republicans. Not Democrats. Not Independents. Not Americans. Not Buckeyes. Not even Wolverines!
Jesus is LORD, and every person you meet this week is a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) created in the image of God with dignity, value, and worth.

2.    Engage in Difficult Conversations
First, engage in conversations. Someone said once you’ve heard someone’s story, they can never be your enemy. I desperately want to hear Putin’s story!
But seriously, empathy is formed when we listen. Last month I was on jury duty on a case that ended up in the conviction of a woman for murder, animal cruelty, and arson. As I watched this woman during three days of testimony, I couldn’t help but think years ago I would’ve judged her for her evil acts. Technically, I did judge her along with my jury mates, but as we were seeking justice, I began to imagine the life she has lived, her childhood, her friends, the circumstances that led to her abominable actions. It would not excuse her behavior, but it would surely help explain it.
Similarly, we need to listen to others…people of other ethnicities, other faiths, other political perspectives, and other generations. We can learn so much by seeking to understand rather than only trying to be understood.
Last year, Bishop Culp from First Church of God down the street invited me and several other black and white pastors to read The Color of Compromise together. We’ve been meeting consistently and my favorite part of the experience has been hearing the stories of my brothers of a darker hue. We are related by blood—the blood of Jesus—yet they’ve had countless experiences I can only imagine as a person in the majority culture. As we’ve begun to discuss how we collectively can attack racism, it has led to some clearly different viewpoints, yet we’ve learned to trust and love one another after dozens of conversations.
One thing that makes these conversations difficult is language. Do I call you black or African-American? What do you mean by racism? What about our Hispanic brothers and sisters? And Asians? Should we say Black Lives Matter when the organization was started with non-biblical principles…or do you mean the message of the slogan, not the organization? Am I really white, or some shade of peach? Why can blacks use the N-word but nobody else? Is that word ever appropriate? Why do most rappers cuss in all of their songs? Should I feel bad for being born in the majority culture? What can I do to make this world a better place?
Relationships move at the speed of trust. Love is spelled t-i-m-e. I encourage you to get to know someone different from you, listen, learn, and extend grace when you have awkward or difficult moments. We don’t know what we don’t know and we all need help understanding one another. We are family. Family can be messy, but it can also be so good!

3.    Collectively Mourn Injustice
Most Christians I know like happy songs, happy sermons, happy, happy, happy. To be honest, I’m a pretty optimistic person, but although we are told to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), it doesn’t mean we never pause to mourn, to lament, to acknowledge the injustice and seek ways to change ourselves, our culture, our world. I’ve been involved in powerful moments of recognizing injustice, times of confession and repentance, reconciliation exercises, and sessions of sorrow and grief. I’ve done it around the unborn. I’ve done it around issues of racism. It’s not fun, but it can be powerful. The Psalms are filled with lament.

4.    Display Gospel Character
Moments ago, I used the word “grace.” It means unmerited favor. It’s undeserved. We all seek God’s amazing grace, and we need to be generous in extending it to others. This is where we need to look at the culture and do the exact opposite. We don’t hate. We don’t cancel. We don’t hold a grudge. We don’t gossip or tell inappropriate jokes or pre-judge people, not matter what we see on the surface. We love. That’s the Jesus way.

5.    Affirm the Reconciler’s Creed
Derwin Gray created this five-part creed:
1. Worship: We will relentlessly worship God by loving our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities in Christ (Matthew 22:37-40). According to Jesus, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments, and they go together.
2. Justification: We will relentlessly see our brothers and sisters of other ethnicities as the righteousness of God in Christ (Romans 3:22). We are all covered in the same justifying blood.
3. Holiness: We will relentlessly ask God the Holy Spirit to purge us of any prejudices that we have in our hearts (Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 4:19). Honest self-examination is vital to healing and maturity.
4. Unity: We will relentlessly pursue and live in the unity Jesus secured through the bloody cross (Ephesians 2:14-16). We do not work for unity; we live from unity in Christ.
5. Guard: We will relentlessly guard our unity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). Our unity in Christ is, gift and treasure that must be guarded. Demonic powers and those under the power of the evil one want to divide God's people. Our unity displays the beauty of our risen Redeemer; our disunity is a poor witness.
Listen to these beautiful words from Paul to the church in Corinth:
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, NLT)
One thing I’ve heard people say is they are colorblind. We need to see color. Derwin Gray calls it being color blessed! We need to see our differences…and celebrate them, learn from them, use them as opportunities to grow, to listen, to demonstrate patience and humility. Our differences are not an accident. As one of our core values states,

We are a mosaic of people loving God and doing life together.
I love it!

“Diversity is inviting people to the party, inclusion is asking them to dance” – Verna Myers

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
Blessed King of the universe,
in your eternal Son, Messiah Jesus,
the King of kings,
the one who is grace upon grace and
who created a new race, made of all of the human race,
through his life, death, and resurrection—
in his name, by the Holy Spirit's power,
we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, dwelling places of God
King Jesus, we affirm that you purchased a richly diverse
people for your Father,
a people declared righteous by your blood,
a people who are one, yet many.
Your blood binds us to you and to each other as
a beautiful mosaic.
We worship you by loving one another.
We are the family of the redeemed.
We belong to the King.
We pledge our allegiance to King Jesus, the Lamb of God
who sits on the throne.
May we live from and guard the unity Jesus secured on
the cross.
As we grow in holiness, Spirit, empower us to reflect Jesus
more and more.
Way the world see we love Jesus by the way we love each other.
May we treasure our brothers and sisters more than we treasure economic interests, political affiliations, fears, or cultural customs.
In your name, King Jesus, we pray.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library