"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms"

RACE – ism

I am perplexed by the recent “woke-ness” inside the church; as if all of a sudden the church realizes that racial inequality, unfairness, and privilege, is something new and appalling.

I notice many church leaders jumping wholeheartedly into the narrative being portrayed by an ungodly media (pick your poison, right or left) whose very lifeblood is derived from hate, anger and animosity.

Many folks who have addressed, and consistently address, the ongoing issues of racism, are being made to feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment for not doing enough.

As Christian leaders, we are supposed to believe the Gospel message; and should have been “born again” of the Spirit long ago, and awakened to the injustice of racism early. One of the first issues a Christian leader MUST come to terms with, is the issue of race-ism.

The Bible is very clear:

James 2:8-9

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”

Colossians 3:9-11

 “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

The Scriptures mentioned here are only but a few of many that show there is ONE Body in Christ, and there are NO RACIAL distinctions whatsoever.

Please, allow me to share my own journey as I negotiated the issue of racism in a small, white community, in rural America.

I did not encounter any racism being expressed in my home, as a matter of fact, I recall my father telling of a black man he had met while working for a paving company in the area; they were good friends, and he always spoke kindly of him; often highlighting the grief his friend faced at the hands of other men.

It was in school, when the issue of racism began to present its ugly head. Our “white” community had only one black family, and the kids were mercilessly mocked and ridiculed in school.

On more than one occasion I would see a young black child weeping in a corner after being verbally and physically abused by a group of bullies.

I began to understand that racism is taught to children and usually it is taught in the home.

Nearly 20 years after high school, through an amazing set of circumstances, my wife and I came to faith in Christ, and in 1995, I was appointed as pastor, and I would serve two small churches, one in my hometown, and another church in a smaller community 16 miles away.

The little church in my hometown, had a beautiful white piano, with a name inscribed on a brass tag; “In Loving Memory – James Carter” I always wondered who he was.

It was not long after my pastoral ministry began, that I noticed the racial slurs some of the people in my churches were using; I did not like it, and I knew God wanted me to address it; I was at a loss to know how.

One day, the matriarch of the only black family in our town came to church; she was a stunningly beautiful woman, she wore a white dress, her hair meticulously styled, and as she walked in, all eyes were on her.

I knew her name was Lois; I had gone to school with her son; we were in the same class. I introduced myself after church and told her I was so glad she came. As we talked, she told me that she used to attend this church, but had not been there for a few years and wanted to “check it out” as some of her grandchildren attended Sunday school here.

Later on, she would share with me that her husband had tragically died some years ago, and that the white piano in the front of the church, was donated in his name; I was stunned!

I began to spend more and more time getting to know Lois, we would talk on and on after church and at various church functions where she would attend. I began to learn the depths of her pain; having raised her family in a very racist community. I will share the depths of those racist roots in a few moments.

I can remember asking her how she would like to be addressed; as in African American, or a black woman. She responded to me that she was not born in Africa, nor were her parents born there, so she is not African.

She also said that just like there are different colors of white people, there are different colors of black people too. She told me that she just prefers to be called a woman of color.

I felt it was time to address the issue of racism in our church and I asked Lois if she would help me. I told her that it would require a great deal of courage on her part, but I felt God was leading us to do it; so with great trepidation, she said yes.

On the following Sunday morning, as our church gathered, I had taken one of the extra large pulpit chairs and placed it in the front center of the church, right near the altar. After a few songs were sung, I stepped up to the pulpit and began to address the issue of racism.

I shared how prevalent it was in our community; but I was more concerned how widespread it was inside our own church, and that it was time dealt with it. You could feel the tension; it was palpable!

After a few passages of Scripture, like the ones shared earlier in this article, I asked Lois if she would please come and sit in the chair. She took a deep breath and came forward and sat down.

I began to address the congregation of about 60 or so and I asked a few pointed questions:

  • Did you ever listen to, and then laugh at, a racially charged story or joke?

 

  • When you were at the grocery store and needed something in aisle 3, but noticed Lois was there, did you avoid her and go over to aisle 4 instead, so as not to be seen socializing with her in public?

 

These questions, along with a few others, caused great conviction upon the congregation; tears began to fall. I told the folks that they now had an opportunity to make it right, a time to ask forgiveness, a time to heal.

One by one, with tears and sobbing, as our pianist played the piano dedicated to the memory of her husband, people came forward, asking Lois for forgiveness; it was one of the most powerful moments I have ever been involved in.

Later the next year, my mother, passed away. Mom was my confidant, I could go to her with any problem; she never judged me, always hoped for me, and loved me unconditionally! Her passing affected me deeply, and I missed her so much.

I recall about a year after my mom passed away, I was sitting with Lois having early morning coffee with her at her home. She had invited me to come have coffee with her in the mornings, and we would talk and pray together.

As I sat there, I looked over at Lois and began to share with her how much I missed my mom. I told her some of the fond stories I remembered, and how much my mom had impacted my life.

I was overcome with emotion and I looked at Lois and I asked her: “Lois, I need a mom in my life, someone who will listen to me without judging, who loves me without conditions . . . Lois, would you be my mom?”

Big tears began to roll down her beautiful face and she reached across the table and grabbed my hands, and she said; “I would love to be your mom”, and then she said; “but oh I love my children!”

In 2000, our little church bought an old school building and we moved into it. Lois came along too, and so did some of her children and grandchildren. I wanted our church to be a safe place for her and for anyone else who felt disenfranchised by this cruel world.

As we began ministry in the old school; I came across some old newspaper articles and I read the story of the dedication of the old school in 1924.

It seems that the school did not have the money to purchase an American flag and the area Ku Klux Klan stepped in and offered to buy the flag, and the school accepted the offer!

Once again, we took the initiative to renounce that offer and we pushed back the racial hatred foisted on a community nearly 100 years ago!

Several years later, we had a Navajo Evangelist by the name of TH Lee, come to our church for a week of meetings. As I prayed for these meetings I was reminded how in the late 1700’s a party of white men, came to an Indian Village near Sinnemahoning, a town in our county, and there killed a small village of Native American Indians.

As we were getting ready to kick off a week of meetings Sunday morning with our Native American friend; God spoke loudly to me. It was ten minutes before the service began and God said: “Get a shovel and go out to the front yard of the church and bring in a section of sod.”

So, I ran quickly to the tool room, grabbed a shovel, and in my suit I ran out to the front yard and began to dig; I carefully cut out a rectangular piece of sod. Directly across the yard is a large Catholic church with dozens of people looking curiously at me, digging in the front yard in my suit on Sunday morning!

I took the sod inside and placed it on a silver plated platter. As I got ready to introduce the guest Navajo speaker, I shared with the congregation about the way our county got started; by the killing of American Indians!

With tears streaming, I gave the “land” back to our Native American friend, and I asked him to forgive us, and to bless our land! With tears streaming down his face, he forgave us, and blessed our land!

Over the course of ministry in that small, mostly white community, I did not tolerate racism coming from anyone in the church.

If I heard racially charged language I would shut it down, and if it persisted, I would ask the person(s) to leave. Remember, you get what you tolerate, and there are some things worth going to the wall over, and this is one of them!

So when I hear pastors and leaders today, jumping on the band-wagon so to speak; saying all the right things, denouncing racism, as they should, the inequality facing minority people of any color, class or creed, I applaud; but I also say; what took you so long!

You are NEVER going to change the sinful nature of broken humanity, apart from the Power and Presence of God Himself. Oh, it would be wonderful if we could cause sinful man to act godly, if we could jump in with the worldly and turn their hearts, convincing them to be nice and kind to one another.

Your flavor of politics is NOT going to help; throwing your money and voice behind anarchistic ventures won’t help . . . so what will?

You are supposed to be salt and light to a broken dying world.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Repent, YOU repent!

Please don’t waste your time telling others to do it if you won’t! It will ONLY start if you start! Once you deal with YOU, then you can become part of the solution to the problem; otherwise YOU are the problem.

Matthew 7:3-5

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

I could tell stories of churches where racism is no longer tolerated; where diversity abounds and the differences in race and color are beautiful to behold.

Racism is the topic of the day right now; next month perhaps it will be climate change, or perhaps back to the virus, or the perils of capitalism, or socialism, or whatever “ism” that suits the insatiable desire of sinful humanity to garner support, money, and perhaps a little fame.

As Christians we would be wise to remain steadfast in our convictions, resisting the knee-jerk reaction the world so fervently desires from us. God’s Word remains true; He remains faithful, and we must hold fast to Him.

Your faith in Jesus is about to be tested in ways you never imagined, and the temptation to buy into the worlds wisdom will be very strong; resist it!

Remember this one thing: “Either the church will disciple the world, or the world will disciple the church”

Take a few minutes today and carefully read John 15 again and let Jesus own words strengthen you.

An old familiar hymn comes to mind for times such as these . . .

 

In Times Like These

In times like these you need a Savior,

In times like these you need an anchor;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,

This Rock is Jesus, the only One;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

In times like these you need the Bible,

In times like these, O be not idle;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,

This Rock is Jesus, the only One;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

In times like these I have a Savior,

In times like these I have an anchor;

I’m very sure, I’m very sure

My anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One,

This Rock is Jesus, the only One;

Be very sure, be very sure,

Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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