The Church and Racism

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This past weekend, about 70 miles from the church, a deadly riot occurred.  This murderous riot was planned and organized by the white supremacists and racists of the “alt-right.”  And make no mistake the “alt-right” is racist to its core, and God hates racism, as much as He hates all other sin.  And what God hates the church should hate too. And the church must denounce it unqualified terms.  The “alt-right” is evil, kinism is evil, white-supremacy is evil, neo-nazis are evil.

As the people of Israel were instructed in Amos 5:15 the church, God’s covenant people in the present age, ought to hate evil and love good and pursue justice. Hating evil means allowing no space for it, it means never giving it a wink, it means never making allowances for it and it means opposing it wherever it manifests itself.

Loving good means diligently pursuing racial reconciliation. Over the past 10 years or so it seems that in some quarters a simmering animosity or at least a deep-seated suspicion of other races has grown. The believing church ought to be at the vanguard when it comes to speaking out in such a way as to quell these tensions, after all Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God (Matt 5:9).” From our pulpits the message that all racism is unacceptable in the eyes of God ought to ring out clearly. Our people ought to be instructed to confront racism boldly when they encounter it.

The church and her people ought to be vocal in condemning all forms of racism. The Nazi flag ought to be most offensive to those who understand that all humans of all races and ethnicities bear the imago dei (Gen 1:27) and that all of the races and ethnicities of mankind are equally descended from those who exited the ark (Gen 10:1-32). There should be no doubt where we stand. In fact, it should be so clear that if anyone says otherwise, our word and our deeds should be so well known that it puts such a slanderer to shame (1 Peter 3:16).

Some have said that in order to condemn the “alt-right” with any moral authority churches and pastors need to condemn the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement too because they too are a racist movement. Fair enough, all racism is sin. But we must remember that every time Jesus condemned the Pharisees He didn’t also condemn the Sadducees. More importantly we must remember the only moral authority the church has derives from Scripture. This moral authority is absolute.

Quite frankly the BLM movement didn’t just organize a riot that drew thousands armed (really, look up some of the pictures) racists from all over the country to my home state that left 3 people dead. Here in Haymarket we haven’t had a BLM instigated riot on our proverbial doorstep. If we ever do, I’ll take the time to learn about that movement so that I can speak out biblically against it. In the meantime, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I am bound by conscience to speak out clearly and biblically about what just occurred right down the road.

As a minister of the gospel, I am bound to call it sin because it is sin. I am equally bound to point out that the only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as there is no Jew or Greek in Christ (Galatians 3:28) there is no black or white (or any other shade or ethnicity) in Christ.  Ultimately there is no black or white outside of Christ either. People are either redeemed or they are not. They are either in forgiven in Christ or they are condemned apart from Christ.

Even the most wicked racist sinner can be redeemed and forgiven in Christ. There is no more powerful example of this than John Newton. As many of you are no doubt aware, the hymn writer of Amazing Grace and one of the animating spiritual figures in the British abolitionist movement, not to mention one of the most tenderhearted shepherds of God’s people that the church has ever known (if you have never read them you should read the letters of John Newton immediately) was once a vicious racist.  In fact, he was the captain of a slave ship and you don’t get more vicious or racist than that. Yet he was entirely changed by the transformative power of the gospel. He is (and I use the present tense advisedly) a living illustration of what it means to be a new creation in Christ.

As believers we must not only confront the sin of racism and unabashedly call it sin even when it is couched in political terms or codewords, when we encounter racists (those who are characterized by the sin if racism) we must confront them with the gospel and the love of God. As Martin Luther King jr said (and I’m paraphrasing) darkness cannot drive out darkness, light drives out darkness, and so the only thing that will drive out the evil of racism is not education, it is not ignoring it, and it certainly is not violent confrontation, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we encounter racists the appropriate response is not to shout epithets at them, it is to firmly but lovingly admonish them to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Because racism is a gospel issue, the church ought to be vocal about it, and in my opinion, it has not been vocal enough in recent years. This needs to change. From our pulpits the seriousness of this sin needs to be addressed and the solution declared. (I’ll at times make biblical statements about current events from the pulpit before the sermon, as I in no way want to force an issue into the passage being preached.) As we fellowship with one another, we ought to encourage one another to view this issue biblically and never, ever as a matter of politics. Our churches ought to be welcoming to all people, not only in theory but in practice. There should be absolutely no question or ambiguity about where we stand on the issue of racism.

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.