A couple of years ago, I preached a message on the subject of racism. It’s probably a topic that we as a church should address more, but I thought I would reiterate some of the points of that message as a reminder since this issue is as bitter and divisive as ever.
Christians should be a united group, in mind and heart and voice, from every tongue, every tribe, and every nation. (Revelation 7:9)
In the Kingdom of God, all are equal. (Galatians 3:28)
Salvation is equally and generously available to all. (Romans 10:12)
Racism is sinful and evil, a condition that betrays a reprobate heart and distance from the saving grace of God. (James 2:9)
It is the Church, not culture nor politics, that should be the mouthpiece of God in declaring God’s amazing Grace to all races and accepting all into worship together. (Romans 15:5-7)
6 Months after Hurricane Katrina obliterated New Orleans, I had the opportunity to serve on a missions trip there. It was surreal to drive through quiet, empty neighborhoods and see an X on every house from where first responders had searched. Around the X were numbers,,, indicating those who had been rescued and those who had perished. It was crushing to drive by and see 1’s and 2’s spray painted in the column of those who had been found dead in the home.
It wasn’t the brunt force of the actual storm that sank New Orleans. It was the massive amount of water that it brought through the Gulf of Mexico into the artificial canals of NO that toppled the levees and washed away entire neighborhoods. New Orleans is… or was predominantly African-American.
I’m a curious guy, especially when I travel. I pay attention to the culture, the history, and the news. This event was especially vivid given the circumstances, so I soaked up every thing I could experience.
While we were there, I believe ABC News did a report that I saw as were were sitting in a restaurant. I think you can view it here. There was a growing group of African American residents claiming that the city or state or federal government had intentionally blown the levees in the poorer, minority neighborhoods in order to spare the more wealthy white and the historical neighborhoods. What a fantastic accusation. I get that the government was pitifully slow and inept at their response to Katrina, It took a week to get power and water to the Superdome. A week!! I also understand that nearly 93% of the 1900 people that were killed during Katrina were African American. But to claim that it was intentional…really? Sounded like a conspiracy theory to me.
Except that it was happened before. At least twice. In 1927 and in 1965, the city government set dynamite to the levees without warning to the low income and minority neighborhoods that were destroyed.
No wonder that there was a lot of built up frustration.
2 thoughts really hit me as I begged God to help me process this incident:
First, it’s my job, as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a member of His Church to live as a shining example of love and grace to those of other races, cultures, or geographies. I have no excuse to be slack on this responsibility no matter what my base emotions or whatever rational I employ to be dismissive of my brothers and sister of other ethniticies. I also must realize that there is a perspective that others may have that I could not possibly realize.
1 Peter 2:12 tells me to “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.”
In every case, I must be found honorable in the eyes of my friends of color. I have a duty to conduct myself in such a manner. I grieve for and repent of the past when I recognize where I have failed.
Secondly, it is also my duty to express empathy and patience to those who are hurting in ways I cannot possibly understand. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. That only comes through mutual love and understanding. We cannot have empathy with our brothers and sisters of color if our hearts are not open to their perspective. And in the spirit of charity, I pray they seek to understand mine as well.
It can only happen when we listen but it will surely die when we attack each other’s character as “racists” or “race-baiters” from behind our keyboards. I fully repent of believing that social media is a proper venue for this and implore us all to have face to face conversations. Make a friend if you have to. Speak to your neighbor who wasn’t born here. Ask questions. Find common ground. Share a meal. Pray for them. Love, forgive, heal. Let nothing stand in your way of this.
As this topic continues to rage in culture, may we, as the Body of Christ, embody this exhortation:
“accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.”