We need to talk about race.
Yes, I know it probably makes you a little uncomfortable. I know issues around race have been highly politicized. I know conversations can often be polarizing. But the only thing more dangerous than talking about race… is not talking about it.
I’ve literally been in church my whole life. I’ve heard thousands of sermons and been to thousands of services, but I’ve heard almost nothing about racism. As a white man, I’ve grown up around a predominantly white church and white culture, and so we didn’t really have to talk about it. And if you stay in a predominantly white church and a white culture, you get the feeling it doesn’t affect you.
I spent most of my life in that place of indifference. It didn’t affect me. I was active in ministry as a pastor, and sure, I knew having a people of different races in our church would be a good thing. But it wasn’t something that matters enough to actually do anything about it. Life goes on.
But then I did something dangerous. Something that knocked me out of my indifference. Something utterly jarring. I started to listen.
I started listening to the voices of African Americans (and other cultures). I started listening to their experiences. I allowed my mind to travel outside of my assumptions. I started to question the places I felt defensive – and why I felt that way. And most of all, I started to see a disconnect in what I said I believed and the manner in which I lived and saw the world. What do I believe?
I believe every human being is an image-bearer, no matter their race or ethnicity. And in this, they have dignity, worth, and value in the eyes of God (Genesis 1:27-28). So when others deny that dignity through degradation, disrespect, violence, and racism, this is an offense to the Gospel. When others face discrimination and racism, it is my problem.
I believe that Jesus died to redeem a church of every tribe, nation, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). And in this, I need to see the Church and its beauty not just in my culture, but other cultures. I need to listen to their struggles, learn from their faithfulness, and in humility know that I see through a limited lens of my own culture. And when I stay insulated and refuse to listen to the struggles outside of my own experiences, it is an offense to the gospel. It is my problem.
I believe that the cross broke down not only the walls between man and God, but between man and man. The walls of hostility have fallen away (Ephesians 2:14-18) and we’ve now been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). This isn’t a passive option, but a call to obedience. When I’m not crossing cultural boundaries through active listening, serving, and loving my enemies, I am missing out on the mission of Jesus. And yes, it is my problem.
For me, it’s been a cultural journey of repentance. I believe discipleship is bringing every area of our lives under the Lordship of Jesus – our actions, our beliefs, our opinions – everything. As a disciple of Jesus I have to see my views of race move into alignment with Jesus, which simultaneous moves them out of alignment with much of our predominant political and popular culture.
In Galatians 2, when Peter doesn’t eat with Gentiles and stays only with his own ethnic group, Paul challenges him strongly. How? Paul tells Peter and his cohorts that they were “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:14).”
Racism gets the gospel wrong. It’s not just an opinion, it’s a heresy.
And that, my friends, is why we have to talk about race. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when we feel powerless to bring change, we need to examine our hearts and the way we see our brothers and sisters in Christ who look different from us. We do this not from a place of judgement, but from a place of grace.
This Sunday night at Restoration, we are having a conversation around race and the Church inspired by events in the book of Acts, which is what we are studying in our series, Throwback.
I want to challenge you to come and listen. What we are seeking is a night to be honest, to be gracious, and to be hopeful. As a church seeking to be a multiethnic congregation, this couldn’t be more important to us.
So grab a friend and join us Sunday night!