I’m shocked that we even need to say this, but as long as the world asks, we need to answer. Those of us who believe the gospel will always oppose ideas that relegate others to any kind of subhuman class. There’s only one race of people: human. Only one model of man: the image of God. If we believe the gospel, we always have to resist all forms of racism because to fail to do so is an assault on the God behind our gospel.
Those of us who believe the gospel will always oppose ideas that relegate others to any kind of subhuman class.
I worry, however, that there’s a more subtle danger for many of us. Once we’ve decried the tenets of racism, we think we’re off the hook. Have I ever marched at night, torch in hand, for a white supremacy rally? Absolutely not! Do I make racial slurs? Nope. I must not be the problem then.
But what if the problem is bigger than the images we’re seeing in the news?
Perhaps our problem is deeper than overt racism. Perhaps our real problem is a lack of empathy that dulls our hearts to the burdens borne by other Christians, a lack of charity that makes us question their motives, a lack of trust that belittles their emotions, and a selfishness that makes us unwilling to surrender our privileges and preferences to make “the outsider” feel welcome.
The Scottish preacher Robert Murray McCheyne once wrote, “The seed of every sin is in every human heart.” I start my reflection on this with the assumption that the pride that leads to racism, the suspicion that leads to hostility, and the selfishness that refuses to share privilege are endemic to my heart.
I want to suggest that in our day one of the most relevant and countercultural manifestations of gospel power will be multicultural unity in our churches. Our nation desperately wants to see racial unity. But only the gospel has the power to achieve it.
(Note: While pursuing cultural diversity involves much more than Anglo and African Americans, I am giving special focus to that dynamic here. Much has been written—profitably so—about ethnic diversity among Native Americans, Latinos, East Asians, Arabs, etc. In our nation, though, and in my community, ethnic tension is felt most tangibly in the interactions between white and black Americans—and this is where our church has most tangibly wrestled with it. So it will be the context for much of what I share.)
J. D. Greear, Above All: The Gospel Is the Source of the Church’s Renewal (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2019).
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