The Moving Word

Writer, Preacher, Bookworm, Student of the Word

Fighting Racism

The following is a segment of an actual letter given to me.

“I share your desire to spread the gospel. However, since you are new to our area, I feel that you should know a few things. I believe that all members of our congregation want everyone to learn the gospel. We also want our minister and his wife to be respected by all people of the community. We’re a small Southern town with some old Southern ideas. In our town it takes great effort not to offend people but there are ways of doing things without causing outrage. I speak for several members in saying that your intense work among the Blacks may have a reverse effect on the white people in our area. I would like for you to keep in mind that this is not heaven, we are not all alike, and we can see each other’s differences. None of us are perfect and it’s only in God’s eyes that we are all the same.”

I have been privy to many racially charged comments and jokes from the mouths of Christians. These comments have been from both blacks and whites. Yet, they rationalized and justified each until they safely removed the pangs of guilt.

In Galatians 2:9ff, we find Peter and Paul in an interesting situation. Peter was dining with Gentile Christians until Jewish Christians entered the room, and Peter got up to go and sit with “his people,” the Jews. Paul confronts Peter and gives us some indispensable insight when he writes that Peter and Barnabas were not being “straightforward about the truth of the gospel” when they gave deference to the people of their own heritage in 2:14.

The Gospel was for all and Peter had been the bearer of this good news. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord your God will call” (Acts 2:39; cf. Acts 10:34-35). Peter, though, reverted to the “old Hebrew” ideas of segregation and bigotry that he had heard all of his life.

The word, “straightforward” means “to walk in a straight path signifying a course of conduct by which one leaves a straight track for others to follow.” Peter was to set a “straight path” in declaring all men as equal. However he gave credence to bigotry by his example.

Are we as leaders going to try to maintain the traditional Southern ideas of racism or are we going to try to fight against the grain? Are we willing to do so against a storm of opposition?

In the epilogue to the Gospel of John we find an enlightening example of how Jesus feels about the dispersion of the Gospel. In John 21 we find several apostles fishing when Jesus comes by and tells them to cast their net on the right side of their boat. True to his word, the apostles retrieved 153 fish.

Two facts are forthcoming. First, the apostles had no say in what fish entered the net. They had to take whatever came along. They could not choose which ones they liked the most, whether of size, shape or coloration. They brought all into the boat. Secondly, the net never broke. The Lord’s kingdom is a big place, big enough for all of us. The issue of evangelization ought not to be “who” but “how many.” While we are delineating between this person and that person, we are missing two souls.

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One thought on “Fighting Racism

  1. Robert M Washington Sr on said:

    I just completed a small essay for school where the question was asked, “What is the main concern in churches of Christ today.” I wrote:

    The most vital concern in the church today is the division in the church of Christ. This division is spiritual as well as physical. Many brothers and sister in the church have written on subjects such as the role of the women in worship, instrumental music, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, one loaf and one cup, and of course the one church. The division I’m referring to is so obvious, that it is overlooked and rarely spoken or written about. Paul said in 1 Cor 12:13 and Gal 3:28 in essence saying the same thing to two different congregations that There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). The main division in the church is racism.
    Racism in the church of Christ is not as blatant as it used to be, but it still exists. Racism has been defined as one or persons that practices discrimination or segregation based on race or an irrational bias towards people of a specific background. The bias can either be positive (prefer to be with your own race) or negative (one race hating another race). This type of division in the church has been going on so long that it has become the norm or the standard practice of today in our churches in the twenty-first century.
    This division can be seen nation-wide as well as locally. For example: 21st Century Christian bookstore sells a church of Christ directory every year that gives congregational names, addresses, website address, telephone numbers, and even GPS coordinates. It also has this same material in software for Windows. The blatant division in the book or software is where it distinguishes the congregations as black or mixed raced. We must ask ourselves should the ethnicity of the congregation be relevant if we “all are one in Christ Jesus?”
    A new book is being promoted by Abilene Christian University called “The Fight is on in Texas: A History of African American Churches of Christ in the Lone Star State, 1865-2000,” written by Dr. E. Robinson. If there is no division in the church of Christ, why does the author use the word “fight” and the timeframe of the book from 1865 to 2000?
    This division has also crept into the church of Christ universities also. Each school usually has a “Church History” course where they explain what dates churches and universities began. Notably under the heading of university or Christian Schools, schools are listed by date opened and after that, there is a listing called “Black” schools. If there is no division in the church of Christ, then why not list all the school according to the date opened and make note beside the school if it was “black operated.”
    This division has entered into the national and local “Lectureships” hosted by the churches of Christ. Usually whatever race hosts the lectureship shows division by only having preachers of that particular race to speak. This division or subtle racism is most prominent in the individual churches of Christ themselves. If you see a two church of Christ congregations less than six blocks from each other and one is “white” and the other is “black,” and both where started less than two years of each other, how can you not see a division of the churches? When either church has “homecoming” or “gospel meetings” neither invites the other to join them their celebration or evangelistic efforts. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” He also said in John 17:22, “And the glory which thou gave me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
    If we do not show unity amongst ourselves, how can we convince the world that the church of Christ is right in it practices, principles, and doctrine? Satan is still at work causing division in the churches of Christ. What is sad is many have come to accept it as the norm, because it appears it has always been done this way. We all need to see the subtly of Satan (Gen 3:1-6) and realize this is not what Jesus taught. Where there is division there is no unity (1 Cor 1:10-17).

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