Race & Grace

 

Racism and Christianity: No Room for Hate

Recent events have brought to light some major rifts within our society, our nation, and our communities. The events in Charlottesville over a month ago sparked new discussions about race and racism all across our country. As Christians we have an opportunity to speak truth to this persistent and difficult issue that continues to trouble our world. What is a Christ-follower’s role in these discussions and what kind of representation of Christ should the world see in the midst of conflict?

The False Concept of Race

First, we must address the issue of race as a concept. As a church we believe in and affirm the account of creation as given in Scripture, in the book of Genesis. We believe that God created one man and one woman named Adam and Eve (Genesis 2). They were the first human beings and the first parents of all the human race.

If you accept this narrative of history then “races” is not an appropriate term to use to distinguish people from each other because we are all descended from two common parents - Adam and Eve. We are told in Genesis 3:20 that Adam named his wife Eve because “she was the mother of all living.”

We don’t know what our first parents looked like but we can assume that they possessed all the genetic variations for skin color, eye shape, and other physical characteristics that we see exhibited in humankind today. At the tower of Babel God judged humanity and confused their language. From this point on people tended to only associate with those who spoke the same language as they did. People were instantly isolated by their language and as a result only married within their language group. Because of a small genetic pool certain characteristics - skin color, hair and eye color, etc. - became common within certain groups.

The science of genetics bears out the biblical truth of one race. There is only 0.1% difference in DNA between any two human beings. The DNA that influences our physical traits and characteristics accounts for a very small fraction of that 0.1%. From a biblical perspective we should stop using the term “race” as it is inaccurate and only serves to cause division.


Prescriptions for Christlikeness:

Seek Truth

In Philippians 4:8 we are told to “meditate,” or think, on “whatever things are true.” This is somewhat easier said than done, especially when we live in a day and age, and a culture, where the media has such hold and sway over people’s minds. Often the truth itself is obscured, perhaps intentionally. Ultimate truth is found in Christ and in His word, but as Christians we need to pursue truth in every matter and avoid taking one side or another until we understand, as best we can, all sides of an issue.

When Jesus sent his disciples out in Matthew 10 He warned them that He was sending them out as sheep amongst wolves. He then told them to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (10:16). This is an admonition to be discerning and careful. These words perhaps have never been more timely. We need to be more discerning, wise, and harmless than ever before.

Avoid Anger, Vandalism, & Violence

We are emotional beings, given to impulsive decision and actions. Sometimes it seems like everyone has a knee-jerk reaction for any news report that they see or hear. The media often purposely designs their stories and coverage to elicit a kind of near instantaneous knee-jerk response. However, God warns us over and over again to be “slow to speak” and “slow to anger” (Psalm 4:4; 37:8-9; Proverbs 10:19; 14:29; 15:1-2, 18; 16:32; 17:27-28; 18:2; 21:23; 22:24; 29:11, 20; Eccl. 7:9; Matt. 15:11; James 1:19-20; Eph. 4:26; …). Impulsive, immediate reactions are usually not motivated by the Holy Spirit and tend to do more harm than good. In James 1:19:-20 we are also told that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” As much as you may feel justified and right in your anger, stop and check yourself. Check your heart, check your motives, ask the Lord to show you if your anger is righteous.

Many of the recent clashes in our country have become increasingly chaotic and violent. Police have withdrawn from many of the situations due to the explosive nature of these events. Property has been damaged, and people have been injured and even killed in some of these gatherings. There’s no circumstance in which a Christian should find these kind of actions acceptable.
The Bible treats crimes against someone’s property as a sin. Christ’s words “do to others what you would have them do to you” spring to mind. It’s also important to note that vandalism and violence are not mentioned as fruit of the Spirit, but “outbursts of wrath” are condemned as “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16-25).


Be Peacemakers

In the New Testament, Christians are called to be peacemakers in numerous places. Peace isn’t just something we should be fans of. As Christians, it’s part of our job description, our ministry. For instance, in Matthew 5:9, Christ spoke these words, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” In Romans 12:18 Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” In the fifth chapter of 2nd Corinthians Paul tells us that Christ died for all, thereby reconciling the world to God. He goes on to say that God has “committed to us the ministry of reconciliation.” It is clear from Scripture that the ministry of peace and reconciliation has been entrusted to all believers.

Now, as believers, we know peace, ultimate peace, is found only through a right relationship with God. This is achieved through believing in and accepting Jesus’ offer of eternal life. How will the world believe us or view our message if all they hear is angry opinions or loud, divisive political rants? What is more important to us? Our temporal, earthly politics, or our Christ-centered, eternity-motivated message of reconciliation.

A Christian's life must be typified by as a life of peace and peaceful interaction with those around us and with our society. Hot-tempered anger and protests will do very little to expand the reach of the gospel. Yes, we should engage our society about social issues, injustices, and oppression, but we must do so with in an orderly, peaceful way, with wisdom. Above all, the Holy Spirit must be the motivator and prompter in our lives. Our lives and actions must exhibit His fruit.

I implore Christians everywhere to lay aside phoney and divisive concepts about race and to be reconciled to each other and to Christ. There is a hurting and needy world watching us and they need the salvation we possess more than they need our politicking.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:22-25

-David Bechtel