Ben Gordon, BJU Alumnus and Associate Pastor of Hope Baptist Church
"What is it with all this church talk about racial reconciliation? I wish people would just stick to preaching the gospel! If people would stop bringing up racism then we would not have a problem with racism."
These sentiments, among others, I have heard often in Christian circles when talking to people about racial reconciliation. Ignoring or downplaying the conversation about ethnicity and racial reconciliation is not the answer. The approach to the topic is key.
We must allow the Gospel to frame our perspective on ethnicity and racial reconciliation. The Gospel clearly speaks to these sensitive and vital issues and provides the solution. That does not mean that everyone who puts their faith in Christ will not struggle with racism, but when one meditates on all the implications and logic of the Gospel one unmistakably sees that racial reconciliation is a Gospel issue.
Much can be said on the topic of the Gospel and racial reconciliation but let’s discuss a couple quick points that should shape our thinking when discussing ethnicity and reconciliation in the church.
Embrace our Diversity in Christ.
One popular phrase people offer as a solution to racism is “We need to be a colorblind society. I mean God is colorblind, isn’t he?” I understand the heart of that sentiment, but it can be generally unhelpful to people that experience being singled out by color. More importantly, the utopian color blind society ideal misses the mark biblically.
God is not color blind.
God is on a mission to rescue people of every tribe, tongue, and ethnicity to be part of His chosen people. Our ethnic diversity does not erase in heaven but the beautiful Gospel destiny of the church is highlighted in John’s vision in Rev. 7:9-10.
John sees in heaven, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Since God highlights the beauty of ethnic diversity in the Gospel we need to value and cherish it as a reflection of the Gospel mission as well.
Embracing our individual and ethnic diversity in Christ additionally includes embracing a diversity of perspectives from our brothers and sisters in Christ of other races and cultural backgrounds. The church benefits from the perspective, insights, and experiences each culture brings to the table. Assuming our experience of encountering racism is the end-all, be-all is naive at best but can come across as arrogant.
Listen and seek understanding from other Christians of different ethnicities. Learn from their experience and try to put yourself in their shoes. Empathize with their pain if they claim to have experienced the hurt of racism. Even if you might not initially agree with the cause of said racial hurt or are foreign to that experience, as their brother or sister in Christ you are called to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).
Let God’s Gospel plan of national, ethnic, and linguistic diversity (Rev. 7:9-10) in Christ teach us never to wrongly disparage other races, but also refrain from belittling a reality God has underlined in the Gospel.
Embrace Our Unity in Christ.
Despite the many individualities we have as the body of Christ, we share more in common than we have differences. All people, including the lost, are image bearers of God (Gen 1:27) and come from one ancestor (Acts 17:26). All races and ethnicities are born sinners and separated from God (Romans 3:10; 23). All people, from every ethnicity, are offered reconciliation to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:18).
As Christians from varying races we have equal standing before God in Christ. We are fellow heirs and partakers of Christ’s divine nature. Yes, we make up many different ethnicities, races, and cultural backgrounds but we are all still one in Christ (Gal 3:28) and enjoy immeasurable Gospel blessings.
It is sharply contrary to the ethic of the Gospel to racially judge, stereotype, or mistreat people for whom Christ died, when God Himself cherishes our diversity and made us one in Christ.
Let us view each one another with Gospel-corrected lenses and celebrate both our individual and ethnic diversity in Christ and our unity as one body in Christ.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.