February in the US is Black History month. We celebrate the amazing achievements and accomplishments of African Americans as well as remember the dark reality of slavery and the valiant fight for civil rights and equality that continues today. As a nation we have a long history of racial divide. Ours is a nation of many divisions: racial, cultural, political, economic, religious, the list could go on. Our divisions even have divisions; it seems we are more divided today than we have ever been. The church, as a part of this culture, is no exception.
John Piper is an author and pastor who has recently spoken out on this very issue in his book, Bloodlines. Piper even valiantly confronts his own racism after growing up in a South Carolina culture that was entrenched in it. For many who have grown up in a similar Southern culture, racism is the unnoticed sin, one we cannot see but that burns bright in the eyes of those outside the church. No matter how some may want to cover it up or excuse it, there is no room for racism in the Christian faith.
In Acts 8 Phillip baptized an Ethiopian eunuch regardless of his race, and the man was welcomed into God’s family. Jesus himself gives a powerful example in John 4 in his famous interaction with the Samaritan Woman. Even though she was both a Samaritan and a woman, Jesus still taught her and showed compassion. God is neither racist or misogynist, as Paul wrote to the Galatians:
28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
This last month we had unexpected opportunity to host His Little Feet a children’s choir made up of 14 orphans from Ethiopia and Honduras. Two of the boys, Eyob and Yohannes, and their staff member Drew stayed in our home for three precious days. There were obvious differences in skin color, huge language barriers, enormous cultural differences, a broad age range, almost every major difference you can think of... and it seemed to only draw us closer because we had one thing in common. Jesus Christ. Instead of focusing on those differences, we all played, teased, and simply enjoyed being together. Those 3 days were beautiful and full of great joy for my family, we will never forget them.
In God’s family there are no racial, gender, or cultural bounds between brother and sister. Instead we are joined through the red blood of Jesus. I can remember singing these words in children’s church as a kid:
“Red and yellow black and white we’re all precious in His sight Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
He certainly does. As Peter taught in Acts 10:34-35
“I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.”
This is the truth about God’s perspective on people that as descendants of Adam and Eve, we are all God’s children in some way. And if God shows no favoritism, neither should we. Instead our light needs to burst forth in the form of love.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
The principle characteristic of the Christian is love. Racism, like any sin, in any form and by any degree tarnishes that light.
9 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.
-1 John 2:9-11
May the Light of Christ so flood into our lives that all darkness would flee. May the brokenness of our racial divides be healed in the blood of Jesus Christ. May our love for him truly be defined as we love one another regardless of color, culture, or creed. And may God be truly honored in how each of us love our neighbor no matter how different then may be.