the sin of racism and the gospel

February is Black History Month. I met an African American lady who is past 100 years of age at the nursing home I visit on Sundays. I would like to visit her and listen to what she might want to say about her own experience. And as a young girl, she certainly would have known a few who actually were slaves in the Old South.

Of course the ending of slavery, as great as that was, was not at all the end of racism as is all too known by history. The Jim Crow laws were experienced by many who are still alive (I was around 9 years of age, when they ended). Strict segregation from the large things, including churches and schools, down to the smallest things like restrooms and drinking fountains was strictly enforced in the South. And blacks who fleed to the north, if anything found just as strict a segregation in practice, if not overtly, still definitely in place in private and community practice and I think government policy. The most segregated places in recent decades have been in the north.

I’m sure this next part would be criticized by some, and labeled liberal or whatever, but the United States is far from being a Christian nation when one considers that humans were stolen and made slaves, looked at as less than the whites who enslaved them. Of course I’m sure there were examples of slave owners who mistakenly saw the practice as parallel to the practice of slavery in the Bible, which actually was indentured and temporary, or at least was quite different as a rule, in Bible times. The idea that we have to get back to some utopian idea of early Christian America is pure fiction in my opinion, and at best is not without problems.

The gospel is the one solution that helps everyone overcome the sin of racism. Of course there is a tendency in the best within humanity made in the image of God to see through the wrong of racism, and call it what it is. But to think that most of us haven’t struggled with prejudice toward each other in some way, is surely to live in denial of the truth.

In Jesus, there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, we can say neither black nor white: we indeed are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). And yet our rich diversity is not lost, as we see in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. In the end, all cultures of humanity worship together, and are enriched by each other. We worship the God who through the Cross brings forgiveness and healing, and indeed has broken down the hatred existing between various peoples. Through the cross there is complete reconciliation to God and to each other. All in and through Jesus.

And so let us endeavor in some seemingly small way as a first step, if we haven’t done so already, to reach out in listening and learning from a black sister or brother. Let’s be open to the reality that racism is still very much alive even in the least expected places, sadly including Christian institutions. Most all of us need to repent. Let’s pray that an essential part of our witness of the gospel, needed just as much as any other part, will be fulfilled: how in Christ not only do the old divisions end, but how we’re one family in him. We should at least pray that this will be seen in the demographics of our churches, including the leadership.

The needed change comes through the grace and kingdom of God which is present with us now in and through Jesus, and the good news in him.

color blind?

I wonder what it means to be color blind, as in not really prejudice. All of us carry prejudice, that’s part of the human condition in our sin. We compare others with ourselves, setting ourselves up as the standard, while others do the same thing, looking at us. In that scenario, we all find each other lacking in some way.

But in Jesus, there’s a better way. We learn to quit comparing ourselves with others, as if we are all to be the same. We learn instead to ask questions, and learn to appreciate all the good in the richness and diversity of other ethnicities and cultures. While forgiving the shortcomings and sins in others, even as we hope they do for us.

The dream that Martin Luther King, Jr. had was an important one for America, and important to be pressed on American society. As he knew, the way of working toward that dream would be the way of peace and non-resistance based on the teachings of Jesus and the gospel, as he understood that.

If we’re to be the witness God has called us to be, we need to become more proactive in intentionally both fellowshipping and working together with other ethnicities. I’m especially thinking of whites and blacks (as my generation at least used to put it), but this includes along with African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and all the rest. The church should be known for its rich diversity. Instead, all too often, we’re divided up into this and that kind of churches. Some of that may be understandable. But by and large I’m afraid it reflects our lack in really reaching out to each other, in crossing cultural lines, which are not always easy to cross.

In Christ there is no wall between peoples, thanks to his death. In all our diversity we are one in Christ, one body in him. May we pray and work to that end until the day comes when perhaps we won’t be color blind, but will love all the colors God has made, expressed in his people in Jesus throughout the earth.