More than a Hashtag#: The Evil of Racism
Our country is involved in a deepening crisis of division, often with people talking past each other or, even worse, at each other. Yet the church is called to be the new community where there is neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV). What does this vision mean for the church today and our mission and message to the world? If Jesus took on race relations, racial divides, racial reconciliation, racial…everything, what would that look like?
Something To Talk About:
- The Evil of Racism: Racism is a great evil. It undermines, destroys, rips apart, the very nature of God’s creation of a single human race made in the image of God for a relationship with Him and with each other. Racism is believing in racial superiority. It’s believing that race determines intellectual, cultural, and moral capacities. From that comes the practice of racism, which involves both racial prejudice and bigotry and discrimination against others based on their race or ethnicity. And that is sin. It is a stench in God’s nostrils. To claim that you have more of the image of God than another, that you matter more to God than another, that you are distinct from the human race in a way that is superior to another, is heresy. As the Bible says, “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:14-15)
- The Shadows of racism: First, Employment: Let’s say you are an employer and you’ve solicited resumes. There are no pictures on them just their education and experience, accomplishments, and credentials. You have four in front of you that have been vetted and are virtually identical in quality. You look at their names: two sound black, two sound white. Do you privately make an assessment of worth, value, capability, or likability based on names—even though the resumes are the same? Dating and marriage: You see a black man with a white woman on a date. Or even married. How do you viscerally feel about it? Good or bad, neutral or biased, positive or negative? Assumptions: Four black high school students were going door-to-door to raise money for their football team in Wynne, Arkansas. One minute they were laughing and talking to each other, and the next minute they were on the ground in a stranger’s front yard with their hands behind their backs, while a white woman with a handgun ordered them to stay put. Before she even went out with her gun, she had already called the police. He had the children stand up, and they explained they were selling discount cards for their school athletic program. When she was asked why she pulled the gun on them, she said it was because all four boys were black and that area was white. Pseudo Acceptance: Another way of demonstrating shadow racism is through pseudo-acceptance. As one woman from Africa said to me, “Racism is if you invite me to a party but don’t invite me to dance with you.” Meaning, you don’t truly involve or engage me. People want to not just be tolerated, but to be embraced. Home Life: One last area where shadow racism can manifest itself is in our home life. What do your children hear you say? What do they see you do? How are you shaping your kid’s thinking, their perspectives? Does a viewpoint toward people of color come out as you drive, walk through a mall, or watch the news?
- Repentance: So what’s the answer to all this? It starts with the Church of Jesus Christ. And with personal and corporate repentance whenever and wherever needed. Racism can flow in all directions – not just whites toward blacks, but blacks toward whites, Hispanics toward Asians, Whites toward Hispanics… there is no end to how it can manifest itself. As followers of Christ, and as a community of Christ-followers, we are the hope of the world. Modeling to the world what community is meant to be. So when racism rears its head – blatant or in a shadow form – turn from it. Repent of it. Ask for forgiveness and a renewed mind and spirit. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn away from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)
- Things we can do: Nine out of ten churches are almost entirely of one race. We’re not here at Northstar. Which means we have a chance of modeling something that few churches can: real unity and diversity. So here are some things we need to be doing – here, at Northstar, that will help us reach our full redemptive potential. First, hold each other accountable. If you see or hear anyone doing anything that is racist in nature, confront it. Second, educate each other: help people know what’s offensive. Talk with each other. Here’s a third big idea: Intentionally build relationships with people of different ethnic backgrounds. African Americans, Hispanics, Asian, Jewish, and Arabic and every other type of person here at Northstar and our community. Because we’re all one in Christ. When is the last time someone with different skin color put their feet under your table, and you broke bread, and you had a meal together? We could so change this entire climate of racism if we just opened our hearts in community to one another. Fourth is open and honest dialogue; white people can be afraid of saying the wrong thing. We need to talk about this. Fifth: this is specifically to those of you who are Black, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Arabic, and other backgrounds. Nothing can change if you don’t help. Volunteer. Take leadership roles. Please step up around here. Say yes, if you can, when we invite you to join the staff. If you want to see even more diversity at Northstar, invite more of your friends to Northstar. Let’s learn to forgive each other snd learn to love one another as Christ loves us.
- As you reflect on Sunday’s message, what one principle or insight stands out as being particularly helpful, insightful, or difficult to grasp?
- Racism is evil: What makes the topic of race such a difficult conversation to have for so many? Why has it been hard at times for you? Why is the Christian perspective on racism needed?
- Do you agree with the shadows of racism? Which one do you think is the one that needs attention first?
- What does repentance in the area of racism mean? What are some of the current issues in the world that need to be addressed beginning with understanding?
- Read Mark 12:28-34. Jesus intentionally tied the two great commandments together, implying that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. What causes religion to want to separate these two commands?
- In heaven, the beautiful uniqueness of every ethnicity will be celebrated. What are the implications for the church today, and what might that look like?
- What has been your biggest takeaway or “aha” moment in this series so far? Has the Lord revealed anything to you that He wants you to deal with?
- Racial unity is not the mission of the church, but racial unity is critical to the mission of the church: How do you interpret that statement? Agree or disagree?
- Ask God to give each one a revelation of how we can more fully embrace and embody His love.
- Where do we go from here? What’s the next step God wants you to take? When will you take it?
Take one thing home with you:
Let’s talk for a moment.
Everyone has an opinion about race relations, and most are willing to share it. Why shouldn’t followers of Jesus join the conversation? With God’s Word, Jesus’ example, the Spirit’s leading, we have a lot to bring to the table. We need to talk because everyone else is. We need to talk because God has clearly spoken. When God clearly speaks it should silence all other voices.
We need to engage with people of color. We need to have conversations and build relationships and test our assumptions and perceptions. Shame and guilt are not the answer. We need to educate ourselves and each other. But ideally, these conversations wouldn’t stay there. Ideally, conversations would broaden out and facilitate some real change. We must invite into dialogue those we ordinarily would not seek out. We must work to form relationships with those we might not regularly engage with. This demands that we go beyond ourselves, opening our minds and hearts to value and respect the experiences of those who have been harmed by the evil of racism. Only by forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us.