Sunday, October 4, 2015

Repairing Race Relations - a Christian response to racial tensions

When considering the relationship between the races, America has a painful history.  This history is full of black eyes and ongoing shame.  There are many reasons for the struggle we face today.  It is a complex and sorrowful situation. 

When I look at the picture of race in America, where we have come from, and where we are at, the burden of sorrow brings me to my knees.  The situation seems hopeless.  There is a population of people who were wronged by the institution of slavery.  There is a population of people who were harmed by institutionalized racism.  There is a population of people who are encouraged to ruminate on their wounds.  

Contrast that there is a population of people who thought it was their superior, and God given right to own another person, based solely on skin color.  There is a population of people who refused to fellowship with another because of their skin.  There is a population of people who think they can just say sorry and too quickly forget the pain of the past. 

(I do not want us to think that race is a problem only for the white American.  The issue of race belongs to everyone who calls themselves human.  Through out history one population has sought to rule another, thought superior due to a location, ethnic tradition, or color of skin.  The Germans and the Jews. The Hutus and the Tutsis.  The Serbs and the Albanians.  The list is infinite.  Race is a complex and trying issue for all of us who call ourselves human.)

So the question is, where do we find ourselves in America on this issue of race?  Some look to the black population and say, “Just get over it. It happened so long ago.”  There are some who would advocate flipping the scales and having those who were on the bottom be on top. 

There are those, both white and black, who would say to my friend, who is black, “You are not a black,” because he does not fit the “thugging” stereo type.  (The last time some one said that about my friend I almost stood on my head in frustration.  Black is not a “getto thing!” White is not a “rich thing!”)  Everything seems broken and I do not know how to fix it!

That is until I turn to the scriptures for hope.  We must approach this issue with profound humility especially as Christians.  For we recognize that no one is righteous not a single one.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Our pride, be it arrogance due to skin color, or wallowing in guilt, is all-sinful.  But we have true hope in Jesus Christ.  The good news of the cross is that under one banner all people of Heaven are going to be united.  The wounds will be healed, and the world restored, to include all races. 

Galatians 3:26-29 says,
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
In Jesus Christ we belong to a new family, a new order.  I believe that the only place that we will be able to find unity between all races is in the beautiful call of Christ.  We are all guilty.  Every one of us here.  I know that even I have allowed the stereotypes to affect how I see another person. 

I confess that there has been times where I saw a black/Hispanic/Asian/Indian person and I did not see a person for whom Christ died, but a skin color or an ethnic stereotype.  I confess that and tell you that in this passage we see the answer to the problem of race in the world. 

We who are gentiles, that is not members of the nation of Israel, are now accepted into the promises that once belonged to Israel, the promise of God’s favor.  In Gal 3:29 Paul tells the Galatians that we can all be called heirs of the promise of Abraham.  All race is united in Christ Jesus. 

This is not a Borg like unity.  This is not uniformity, we are not going to be the same.  This is not sameness but a rich diversity and tapestry of nationalities, ethnicities, and races who are all called to one body, one Church, and one nation under the banner of the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Revelation 7:9 says,
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could 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,

The image of heaven is not one of everyone looking the same, having the same face, having the same name.  No, we will be a diverse people with an inseparable unity.  We will be one people called to worship and glorify God!  (And don’t get me started on the food.) 

There is an answer to the problem of race.  The answer begins with humility in our hearts.  We must remember that we were once not a part of the Kingdom of God.  We were once not part of the promise of Heaven.  In fact we were all once enemies to God.  Our sins added to the burden of Christ on the cross.  So we must be humble and know that we have no claim, no priority, no ability, that is innate to who we are because of our skin, birth, wealth, poverty, or gender.  But we belong to the beautiful diversity and unity that is in the Church because we belong to Christ. 

I challenge you, that as you encounter diversity as you hear the voice of how different we are, the voice of the struggles of the past and present, the voice of stereotypes, remember that you belong to a new nation.  You belong to a diverse nation. 

That person you see and scoff at because of their skin may stand next to you in eternity.  That person may receive his or her crown first in heaven.  Remember that it was Christ’s blood that bought your salvation not your own.  We must humbly remember that we were purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ not because of skin color but because we were created in His image. 

Let us look at race a little differently.  Let us pray that we can be united together here in this life, like we will in heaven.  Wouldn’t be cool if we could gather together to sing praises to God, if we could eat and share our fellowship together and celebrate, in Christ Jesus, our rich diversity.

Let us pray that our church will become a place of diverse unity for the Cross of Jesus Christ!

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