Pastor’s Statement on Charlottesville, Racism, & Christ’s Reconciliation
I shouldn’t have to write a statement like this. Not because it’s not part of my job, or because I dislike dealing with weighty topics like racism. It’s because it should be obvious. But, since this week’s events have proved otherwise, let’s be clear: Racism is evil. Hurting people is evil.
This isn’t a, “well, I suppose I could be better” kind of issue. This is a repentance issue. This is a salvation issue. I believe God has clearly demonstrated that you cannot live in a demeaning hate for people and still say, “I love Jesus and his Kingdom” – not an ‘alt-right’ hate; not an ‘antifa’ hate; not a ‘nationalist’ hate or a ‘separatist’ hate – none of it will escape the judgment of God. Either we give it up to Christ and repent, or God’s wrath will be on us.
Are we clear? Good. Now, I’d like to explain this in some detail.
I’ve been pretty busy. Sunday morning I was getting ready to travel two hours away to lead Communion services for a church in New Jersey. The day before, my family spent time with friends who are taking a tour of the east coast. We drove to New York City and had fun at the Natural History Museum (no – it doesn’t look exactly like Night At The Museum). So, when I turned on the radio Sunday morning, I was shocked to hear about what happened in Charlottesville, VA. Shocked. Outraged. Disappointed.
I guess I was more hopeful about the state of our nation (check off one more time when I’ve been wrong). Either way, I am also concerned that some of the people from the Charlottesville protest believe that Jesus somehow likes them better because they’re a lighter shade of melanin than other people. Let me be clear – God is not for you or against you because you are white [or black, or yellow, or brown, or (insert skin color/ethnicity here)]. And, you cannot call yourself a “Christian” and hold racist views without the Holy Spirit wrestling those views from your heart and crucifying them. I hope you hear the seriousness of my words here. I say this as a Pastor as well as a concerned human: believing that people of one skin color is superior to others is hatred that requires Jesus’ death and resurrection to cleanse you. Why would I say that? I’m glad you asked:
We Are ‘One People’ With a Single Origin
Genesis 1.26-28: 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; rmale and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them.
Reflecting on this, the Apostle Paul said:
Acts 17.26-27: 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”
There’s no fundamental difference in people that would make one “race” better than another “race.” In fact, the idea of “race” is really an illusion. We are all human, and there is only one, “human race.” So much for fundamental differences. True, there are cultural differences all over the earth, but honestly, nobody’s culture is clean and pure.
We Are All Broken and Infected With The Same Sin
If we all came from Adam, then we should all have some common traits. Unfortunately, one of those is that we are not composed of God’s “image” as Adam and Eve were originally. We are all born after Adam & Eve sinned, so we inherit Adam’s image and likeness:
Genesis 5.1-3: 1 …When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
Oops. We look a little like our Creator, but in the brokenness of our first parents. Our sinfulness is rooted through the entire “human race.” There’s no “white” sin or “black” sin or “red” sin. We’re simply all made from the same broken pieces now. Consider this from the Apostle Paul:
Romans 3.9-12: 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: [from Psalm 14.1-3, 53.1-3] “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
The more we dig into the Bible, the less we can justify the idea that skin color, “race,” or national heritage give anyone a superior status. I mean, really – if the Apostle Paul makes the case that Jews (Abraham’s descendants) need to be saved from damning sin just as much as Greeks (everyone else in the world), then white supremacists, neo-nazis, white nationalists, black separatists and any other kind of “racially” motivated person can’t claim that a Christian God supports their side. At all. Period.
Our Hope For Ending Racism is Found in Jesus
Romans 3.21-25: 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Racism really is the opposite of God’s work in Jesus. Racism, or the idea of a “racially-pure” movement, nation, or even religion seems to be idolatry and the opposite of a “saving faith” in Christ alone as our worthiness in God’s eyes. Racism, nationalism, and even idealism sidelines the true hope of being made righteous only through the life, death, resurrection, and continued ministry of Jesus (or Y’shua, if you want to get particularly ethnic about it). Even better, the unity that we all desire, whether misplaced in racial superiority or unrealized through social reconciliation movements is achieved by Jesus alone:
Ephesians 2.13-16: 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
The hostility that Jesus heals is the one between us and God, but also between “races.” Our flesh – our color, genetics, heritage and national origin are nothing compared to being unified in Jesus’ perfect, crucified, resurrected body. The main racial problem of the Apostles’ time – Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) was solved by both being included by God, through faith, in Christ’s risen body. God considers our genetics a problem of our past, not a plan for our future:
2 Corinthians 5.16-17: 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Christians, therefore, have no ground for racism. We can’t claim it and we can’t shackle others with it. God seems to have spent a lot of effort – not to mention his own son’s life – to build something eternally better for us through Jesus. The truth is, if a “Christian” exchanges the grace of Christ for something so cheap and disgusting as racism, then there’s only two options: 1) Either that person has a lot of repenting to do in Christ’s grace, or 2) They don’t really know Jesus to begin with. Make no mistake, there is grace and room to grow. We grow out of all sorts of evil – that’s the power of God over our sin! That’s the grace of God to change and be made more like Christ! But, there will be a change, and it will be towards Christ’s likeness, not away from it.
As for what God says, there are no “lesser” people. There are people in Christ, and not in Christ – that’s it. And to be in Christ only requires faith. Not a certain color, country, heritage, income or resumé. Take a look at what Paul says again, from his letter to the Church in Colossae:
Colossians 3.9-14: “9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
And how do we see this coming together? Look at what the Apostle John says about his view of heaven and the saints he sees there:
Revelation 7.9-10: 9 After this I looked, and behold, 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, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Get this – there are souls from “all tribes and peoples” that God saves into Jesus and his Kingdom. This is the glorious, eternal, gracious ministry of Jesus to us sinful, broken people. Adulterers, murderers, racists, unbelievers, and on and on are converted by the Holy Spirit to love Jesus. People from all over the world are freed from their history, their genetics, their heritage and their own hate by the love of God into faith in Jesus. This is what the Church is about. We tell the gospel of Jesus because it is God’s news of eternally beating our brokenness, our hate, and our unworthiness. If you are dealing with racist ideas today, or are consumed with hate for people different from you, there is a way out. There is a great King who has won the battle for you. Today you can put down your hate and live forever in the love of Jesus, the Son of God because “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ” [Acts 2.21, from Joel 2.32]