Race and a House Divided
- August 02, 2020
- Lori Travers
We are in a war.
“Quite observant of you”, you might say sarcastically. But I’m not talking about the warlike terrain that is sweeping across some major cities of our nation. For those vulnerable citizens who have chosen to make these burned-out, incinerated, looted spaces their homes and places of business, I am truly sorry for your loss. May the oppression cease.
What my focus is in this space has more to do with the lack of unity in the church over the topic of race. Or maybe it’s simply a lack of understanding. Whatever the reason, our divisiveness over this particular social issue is hurting the cause of the gospel because if the world observes our mud-slinging’ ping-pong, we will lose their respect and ultimately the power of our testimony.
I want to pinpoint the topic of ethnicities, racism, and Christianity. And even more specifically, for the church of Christ, I want to say one primary phrase and, if possible, I’d like to shout it from the rooftops. And it is this: Stop hyper-focusing on race! It seems that the more we focus on our ethnicities, the more inflamed we get, the more angry the reactions, and the more we dig our feet into the dirt and become immovable.
Why should we forget, as it were, our genealogy? Simply put, because as one Body of Christ, we are no longer identified by our ethnic bloodline, our nationality, our gender, or even if we are free as a bird or enslaved. Paul sums it up fittingly in his letter to the Galatian church:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
The year might be a different one, but the issues were similar as ours. There was smug, religious and ethnic superiority in the early church and it was addressed head on, but not by elevating one ethnicity while devaluing another. And it wasn’t resolved by violent acts or sappy apologies. As always, the gospel of grace untangles the confusion with a sweeping summary of who humans actually are. We are image-bearers of God, our Father. We are beautiful earthly representations of the magnitude of God’s mastery. We are pieces of work! Yes, as Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Can we see ourselves and our sisters and brothers as such? Can we celebrate the beauty of our diversity, without overemphasizing our pigmentation??
There is a divisive demonic strategy undermining the unity and purpose of God’s people and I pray we wake up and clear the media frenzy out of our gray matter. We need God’s words to wash over us, removing the cultural “norm” verbiage. We, as believers in Christ, would do well to move away from the fear of not looking culturally relevant, towards courage in upholding truth. Cracking open the marked-up pages of our bibles might not be what feels cool to modern culture, but that is precisely where we will find the identity and purpose on this earth that we so desperately seek.
God never intended us to find value and worth in our lineage. He always intended us to find it in our adoption into His family, through the blood of His Son. And if we elevate our distinct ethnicities to the exclusion of our distinction as believers in Christ, we will destroy one another. If our focus is a race-focus, we’ll be strapped to an eternal seesaw, elevating one ethnicity, while destroying another.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
I tend to agree with scripture. It’s the only transcription that is reliable enough to bank your whole life on and in these sadly factious days, full of confusion, fear and anger, we can extract simple reason to douse the fires of racism and revenge. For instance, when Paul addresses Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens, he does so knowing that the region he was in was quite culturally diversified. So he presents to them the case of their origins:
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)
Can we agree on THIS rich derivation?
GOD’S offspring, spelled out clearly in black and white.