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Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

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Ears to Hear: How Does the Gospel Speak to Racism?

Posted on: Thursday, April 27, 2017

Racism and the gospel

Will Rogers once said: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

We all have drums we like to beat. But never doubt the capacity of the human heart to be self-centered even in its pursuit of justice. As passionate as we may feel about certain causes, and as eloquent as we may wax, we tend to be most passionate about our own reputations. We come by it naturally: When Adam and Eve were confronted with sin, they tried to deflect. “It’s not me, it’s them!” Our knee jerk reaction is self-defense; listening with humility feels less important in the moment than asserting our own innocence.

That’s why talking about racism makes us uncomfortable. We prioritize self-justification over self-examination. We can’t listen when, like Pontius Pilate, we are more eager to wash our hands than to stop an atrocity happening on our watch.

Does the Gospel Say Anything About Racism?

If you believe the gospel, you must hate racism. The question is, why would you otherwise? Racism, sexism, classism, nationalism, tribalism—every ism—make sense in a godless world. If it is true that we owe our existence to victory in a long struggle against other life forms, there could be nothing more natural and right than taking pride in power, fighting for superiority, and clinging to those similar to us. If the law of the universe is survival of the fittest, then love is an indulgence, tolerance is a weakness, unity is frivolous, and kindness is illogical.

But followers of Jesus know that humans are not cavemen fighting for survival, the byproduct of millions of years of violence. We are God’s children. But we chose to walk away and disobey Him. Every type of hate, including racism, is a symptom of the sickness infecting our broken world. Even stereotyping is completely selfish and wrong, carried out in the interest of feeling superior or protecting ourselves.

The world knows racism is wrong. We can see that inner war between humanity’s status as beings created in God’s image and the choice we have made to take up arms in rebellion against Him in the fact that even nonbelievers who deny Christ and accept a dog-eat-dog model of existence intrinsically realize that racism is evil. As believers, we know why racism is wrong. We have the language to explain it. Apart from that truth, there can never be reconciliation and there can never be peace.

Unity in a broken world can only be accomplished through Christ. Jesus died to save men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation so that in Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) The Bible teaches that we are all created equally. We stand before God, made in His image, precious in His sight, but sinners and rebels by our own choice. Jesus died to save everyone. The Book of Revelation predicts a day when His throne room will be filled with redeemed representatives from every people group on the planet (Revelation 5:9-10).

So if you think the gospel has nothing to say about racism, you don’t know the gospel. And if you are a follower of Christ and you are not taking action against racism, you are withholding grace from a world that has no other way of achieving it.

Love Doesn’t Look Away. We Must Learn to Listen.

When a brother or sister tells us about their experience of racism or sexism or discrimination or prejudice, that is a good chance to shut up and listen. Christians understand sin; we know that our world is full of pride and hate. So why would we deny racism? We should expect a fallen world to use any and every opportunity to oppress. Oppression is present in every place. Wherever you live in the world, don’t be fooled: Sin and hate are present in the fabric of your culture. If you don’t see it or experience it, that simply means you are among the members in your society with power.

We have to get better at listening to people in our congregations and our communities who feel disenfranchised. We have to suppress the urge to justify ourselves. We cannot be content to relax in the status quo, more interested in preserving our view of ourselves than rocking the boat. We must follow the command to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). We must ask ourselves tough questions about our own complicity or culpability. We must pray Psalm 129:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart…see if there is any hurtful way in me.”

We are Fellow Heirs of the Gospel of Peace.

This matters, because it matters to Jesus. We are His family, and some of us are hurting. We’re not supposed to wash our hands, proclaiming our innocence, walking away while people suffer, enjoying the benefits of a sinful culture. We’re supposed to get down and wash each other’s feet. Jesus blessed the meek (Matthew 5:5). So may the well-being of our brothers and sisters matter more to us than our pride. Instead of an opportunity for blind comfort, may we desire to turn any power or privilege we have been granted into an opportunity to be a platform for the voiceless. Let’s pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and grace to change. May the world witness our unity, our compassion, our humility, and our love for one another, and turn to the Prince of Peace.


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