As a part of our #TRENDING series at City Church Dayton, I spoke this past Sunday on the issue of Racism.
When my oldest son was about to enter into kindergarten I took him to the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, AL, because I felt like it was important for him to understand and know the pain of racism so he could go into his new experiences with the proper mindset of equality for all. As a pastor of a church, I know that Sundays are generally the most segregated day of the week, and I have encountered attitudes of racism in my 23+ years of ministry that I believe should not be a part of the Christian church. With the events of Ferguson, Baltimore, South Carolina and the Confederate flag as the headlines in today’s world, I wanted our church to know how we are supposed to live with others and respond to the hate of racism from a Biblical perspective.
In the Scriptures, there are precepts. These precepts are the rules and regulations that define what to do and what not to do in day to day life. The Scriptures are more than this, but there are in fact some things that are outlined in the Word of God as rules to live by.
These rules (precepts) are based on universal principles that are found throughout the story of Scripture. For example, the precept “don’t steal” is based on the principle of honesty. This is important, because in today’s world there might not be a set precept or rule that you can locate to give you a specific yes or no on an issue, but there will be a universal principle so that you can see how to know the mind of God on an issue.
The principles that set the precepts are all themselves based on the Person of God. In our example, “don’t steal” is the precept, and “honesty” is the universal principle that the precept is based upon; but honesty is a principle because the God Himself IS honest. When all else is in question, look to see who the Person of God IS.
The Person of God is relevant to racism and how we live with each other because Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we are made in the image of God. We watch God to know what the standard, the image, is. In fact, Genesis says we are ALL made in His image. God values all people because they are made in His image… ONE human race, different ethnic groups, but one race. We are all joined together. The PERSON of God tells us that we are all one.
The precept, principle, and Person idea matters when we look at the fact that Christianity is about “freedom” and the “liberty” we have in Christ. We DO have liberty in Him. We are not bound by the sin of our past. However, does this mean we have the “freedom” to do what we want at all times? The most recent flap is over the flying of a confederate flag (to take one of the hot button issues of the day). There is not precept on flag waving, so we must look at this issue like any other issue of freedom and liberty in the context of the principles of the Word of God.
With any question of “liberty” (not just a flag) I ask a question. “Why do you do it?”
- Is it to “show you can”? – Then you should not, because it becomes an issue of rebellion more than liberty.
- Is it “because you can”? – Then you should not, because it becomes an issue of arrogance more than liberty.
- Is it to “walk in the glory of the Father”? – Then you should.
Our liberty is meant to point to Christ, not satisfy our selfish desires. You have an opportunity to be either a catalyst or a hindrance for a Kingdom connection to the world around you.
So, what are the principles in Scripture as they relate to our liberty and freedom?
1 Corinthians 8 and Romans tell us that we have liberty in Christ. Nothing is “unclean” that is before us, and we can live in freedom in regards to the “inanimate” around us. Romans 14 goes on to describe what the Kingdom you are pointing to is… “goodness and peace and joy.” However, both of these passages also tell us that when our freedom to act (or eat, or drink, or do anything) would hinder another in their walk then we should refrain from acting on our freedom.
The principle is that God values the heart of others more than He values your or my freedom. We are to be wary of those who’s words and actions perpetuate anything other than goodness and peace and joy. To bring this principle to the issue of racism, is our “freedom” of white or black or any-other-color pride really worth the walls that it puts up to those around us who need Jesus?
So how are we, as believers, to live in a world of racism?
We are to love. John 13:34. When we treat another as “less,” then we are not demonstrating love for those who God loves.
We are to forgive. Ephesians 4:30-32. Pain from past prejudices are real, but they are not to control and define our lives. When we let it go, we can live together in love.
While the world is feeding off of the hate and the offense… the follower of Christ has an opportunity to change the world through love.