Okay, I am beginning to put words to these thoughts. This subject is not easy and before anyone makes it public, it must be done prayerfully and in earnest. Yet it is always important to address these things at some point.
To help us illustrate the importance of this discussion, I have chosen to direct my attention to a recent situation involving an owner of a professional basketball team who was recorded on audio making disparaging remarks about a particular group of people, namely blacks (I do not condone the person(s) who recorded the conversation, just stating the facts as presented). His remarks were sharp and cold to a great degree. Just based on the facts evident from his recorded lips, he was speaking evil against those who are created in the image of God, regardless of their color.
From what we gather, the reaction was with outrage. Many people, including prominent athletes, were clearly and patently upset over this and called for immediate dismissal from his role as owner of the team. We do not need to belabor the point but apparently this was not the first time this person was involved in something of that nature, and at this point I must stress the hypocrisy of fallen man. This same individual was involved in discrimination lawsuits and also gave generously to causes for the advancement of colored people.
Now let me focus my attention on the major problem before us. Needless to say, the expectation of the world and their reaction to this is not alarming. Society is busy trying to create a utopia of sorts, a world like Disney where everything is just fantastic. Fantasy is the cure for reality of sin. This is evident in all the laws being passed to silence the call for godly morality and call sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We are looking at the muzzling of preaching if it offends others in order to promote a level of tolerance foreign to Scripture.
So the protest coming from the oval office to the post office comes as no surprise. What surprises me is the reaction of believers when racial problems occur. At this stage I know I am treading on dangerous water and I plan to try and navigate through this as graciously as possible. But I must first say we, those who trust in God, can never react in outrage against a man who is making it clear to the world what he believes. Our concern should be more––his soul, not just the defamation of character he was accused of. What he accused other people of being is not as weighty as the judgment of God against the unrepentant sinner.
Now it is important for me to make a few points very clear. These points are in some ways foundational to understanding or reconciling the issue before us. The Bible must become the source of our understanding, but lately I have found that even doctrinally sound preachers are tripping over the issues because of subjective past experiences. In no way am I undermining the pain others have experienced in the past through racism but at what point in time do we see the sovereignty of God in everything? At the same time our theology helps frame how God still works through this maze of sinfulness in a society navigated by fallen human beings.
That’s right, we must and always must understand that anything racial or anything that fosters hatred for others or disdain toward anyone is a result of sin. God never has and never will judge anyone according to color, He examines the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). So number one, the problem is not coming from the “white” man, it comes from sinful man. Man’s sin drives him to do what he does. It makes him hate and despise others with great intensity, including God (Titus 3:3; Romans 1:30); it causes him or her to see others as inferior or moves him to accept society’s definition of “normal” or “accepted.”
This is one of the fundamental problems caused by sin when it comes to relationships. For if God created male and female in His own image and according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26-27), and made all nations from one man (Acts 17:26), there is nothing in the Bible that states the situation changed until sin entered the scene. Sin has marred our perception of God’s image in man. Sin is the cause of this mêlée and our recent problem with this owner is indicative of that. We do not value others because sin has infected us.
Secondly, the church must avoid what I designate as a worldly “color-coding system” as much as possible.
When I first came to Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, my pastor and my shepherding pastor were slaves of Christ. Not for once did their color bother me, and when I described them, I used everything else but color. They are men, men in whom I appreciate and admire. I love them and their service to God and to the body of Christ. Their preaching is what drew me and nothing else. I knew what I would receive every week. In addition to these godly men, the style of music was secondary; the primacy was content above style.
To extend that further, we do not use color descriptions in our home. After years of looking into this, I did not find calling people by color to be appropriate. I may refer to their nationality if they are from another country, but the color terminology has been removed from the home. The color and variety we see in others is a wonderful work of God’s creation and is special, but not as ways to class people.
Granted once in a while the color calling creeps in but we do our best to represent this universal church that God has established, “where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NASB). If we are a new creation in Christ, our language and mode of describing others should change. Society tends to promote or diminish people based on color; God does not.
With this in mind, I am not ignoring the problem. Sunday is the most segregated time of the week. Let me illustrate the perplexity of Sunday morning “fellowship in isolation” by examining the weekdays and Saturday prior to Sunday, where believers are to worship together. On Monday we drive to work together. On Tuesday we attend the meetings together. On Wednesday we have lunch together. On Thursday we talk about sports together. On Friday we go to the bank together. On Saturday we attend public events together. But on Sunday, for some reason, we cannot get together to worship the one who made us all one in Him.
Of course I hear all of the “cultural” reasons. But is that really true? And should that not be the exception instead of the norm? Should not our interest on Sunday be driven by a passion for the preached word of God, fellowship, and exalted worship (Acts 2:42; Col. 3:16-17)? Does the style or use of instruments matter as long as the singers and musicians are lovers of God and lovers of truth? Does style really impress God or is He pleased with true worship alone (John 4:23-25)? I believe we have missed God by thinking He has a cultural recipe for those who have “preferences.” I am not condemning it as such but should this be truly appreciated or just tolerated for the time being, as we trust God to bridge the gap that the sinful subculture has created?
That discussion is for another time so let me try to bring this home. As believers, we are not concerned about what someone says about others above the problem of the heart. And one way we can show our love for all people is to intentionally and prayerfully attend a fellowship where a faithful man of God is preaching the word of God, regardless of his color.
So let me ask you this: Are you still bound by color? Can you attend a place of worship where the pastor is not the same “color” as you are? Then if you cannot, the owner of the professional team who made those hateful remarks may have more in common with you than you think.
You must able and willing to embrace Christianity as the Bible states for it to be. No wonder the Jews had a hard time dealing with Gentile believers, until God allowed trials to scatter the Jewish believers and then they had no choice but to serve Christ with people from all nations. The scattering forcing that form of fellowship may have been a secondary result of the main purpose, that is going to all nations as commanded in Matthew 28:18-20, but all throughout Acts the cultural barriers were being removed by God’s sovereign initiative.
Prejudice comes in many shapes and forms and God must challenge us to think through these things and live as those who are truly being transformed in their minds. This applies to every believer; I do not expect for any given moment that unredeemed mankind really grasps this.
We may criticize people who make publicly disparaging remarks about other color and ethnicities, but as a church, what are we doing to show them we are not the same?
On a final note, I appreciate all the friendships God has given me. How much I would have missed if I let the orientation and the mold of the world shape my relationships. Let us allow the word of God to shape our relationships and prayerfully pursue color blind Christianity to the glory of God. And may God enlarge our hearts to truly live as color blind Christians who examine the heart as God does and not the outside appearance.