April 10, 2015

Racism: Enemy of the Gospel

When I hear the word racism, I immediately think black & white. Most of my life, growing up in the South, I saw bursts and pockets of this racism rear it's head. At the same time, I never understood it. 

Some of my closest friends had skin that was not the same color as mine. My heart and my mind never told me this was a problem. My history book did, though. 

As an American, apparently racism is just something you get to inherit, like your mom's eyes or your grandfather's hairline. As if we don't get to choose it; it's chosen us. Like we're just born with it or something.

I think that's a big load of crap!

My 12 year old daughter and my 10 year old son will not inherit racism. I won't allow it. I can't. You can't either. We somehow have to figure out how this disease gets cured. Sooner rather than later. And we can't keep treating the symptoms. It's like we're trying to cure cancer with a Benadryl. Many of us sit in our homes and think, "I'm sure glad that's not going on in my neighborhood. My city. My whatever." Please hear me: If you are not actively working to cure this disease, then you are feeding it. And it's coming to your neighborhood, if it's not there already. This goes deep. So we all better roll up our sleeves and start digging. All the way down to the root. Allow me to push my shovel into the earth.

In 2 Kings, when the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria (whose capital was Samaria), many Jews were deported. Assyria then sent in many of their own people - Samaritans - to settle and help keep the peace. They intermarried with many of the Jews and became a mixed race, "impure in the opinion of Jews who lived in the southern kingdom." The result of all of this: Jews hated Samaritans. So much so that they would go miles - even days - out of their way to keep from traveling through or near Samaria. And then...Jesus came along.

Jesus got near Samaria. He went through Samaria. He talked to a Samaritan woman. He asked her for a drink of water. The whole town came running to Jesus - all the Samaritans. And Jesus loved them and saved them. But what Jesus also did was, He took a sledgehammer to the man-made wall of prejudice that had been erected hundreds of years beforehand...and He started knocking it down. The Apostle Paul came after Jesus and picked the sledgehammer back up and started swinging some more. He told the Galatians (who were being seduced away from the truth of the Gospel): "There is no Jew or Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (italics mine) In other words, what Paul was so boldly proclaiming to these new believers was: "If you're coming to Jesus, you can't bring your racism with you!"

A mistake we make is thinking that the Jew-Gentile or Jew-Samaritan thing going on in Jerusalem in Jesus' day is different from the Black-White thing going on in Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas or Detroit today. We are sadly mistaken.

Prejudice (n.) - Preconceived opinion not based on actual experience or reason

Stereotype (n.) - A widely held but fixed & oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person

So the question looms large and has to be answered: WHY does racism still exist? Why does it swell and shrink, and then swell some more? Why does it show up in places and in people where it's least expected and supposedly not accepted? Why are we still fighting this battle and not winning? Why does it seem like we're once again back on the treadmill, giving the appearance that we're moving...but really just creating a lot of sweat and hot air? Why is it that someone would even be tempted to think that Black Lives Matter is something anyone should even need to be told? 

Is it because of prejudice? Most certainly that plays a role in it. 

And what about stereotypes? Absolutely. I'm not sure that in this day and time prejudice and stereotype can exist without one another. 

But all that said, I am still a believer that they are symptoms of a much greater issue. You can't change someone's prejudice or erase their stereotypes without a transformation of the heart. 

There is only one thing in all heaven and earth that will ever cure, defeat, and overcome racism: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the reason racism is still alive and kicking today is because we simply refuse to yield our lives to the life-changing truth of the Gospel.

The ERLC (Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission) held a Leadership Summit recently on "The Gospel & Racial Reconciliation". (You can read more about it HEREHERE, and HERE.) I'd like to share some of the incredibly powerful and moving statements made by some of the speakers and contributors to the Summit.

"Once you've been reconciled to God you have no problem being reconciled to others." Fred Luter

"Our lack of unity and oneness is a direct contradiction of our missiological goal: disciples of all nations." Kevin Smith

"God is not asking blacks to be white or whites to be black, but both to be biblical." Tony Evans

"Our goal is not just to get black people and white people in the same room. Jay-Z can do that. We want blacks and whites in the same family." Trip Lee

"Racial reconciliation isn't just a good idea because it's politically correct. The message of the Gospel is at stake." Afshin Ziafat

If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, I encourage you today to do just that: follow Him. Follow His lead. Stop pretending the wall isn't there. Stop thinking if you ignore it, it will just go away. Go near Samaria. Go through Samaria. Drink the water. Love the people. Pick up the sledgehammer and start knocking down the wall. Government can't do this. Political correctness can't even touch it. Racism will only die in us when the Gospel comes to life and Jesus transforms our hearts. Only the Church - the people of God - can lead the way through this wall. 

Jesus - We pray that you would transform our hearts and minds to see each other as you see us. As yours. As one. Unite our hearts as partners in the Gospel, that we might see the world transformed as they see your love in us. You said the world would know us "by our love for one another". May they see clearer now than ever! Only you can do this in us and through us. Give us strength, vision, unity and courage to knock down this wall. Amen.

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