I have decided to take some time to write a few pieces focused on particular issues I feel, based on scripture, Christians should care about. There are so many issues in this world that it’s hard to narrow these thoughts down to just a few, but we are experiencing a significant tension in society that Christians should see as potential to point to the Kingdom of God. In all reality, these issues should be polarizing to the world but should be unifying for those who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is not going to be an attempt at shaming anyone, but to see what is shown in scripture, which should be our guide when discussing societal issues.
I want to be very clear, I am a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart. I long to see His return. Yet, until He returns, I firmly believe Christians have a responsibility to demonstrate the love, compassion, grace, mercy, and justice of Jesus. We have a charge from our Creator to “Go into all the world making disciples and baptizing…” (Matthew 28). It seems when someone takes the opportunity to speak about how the Church could be doing better, people tend to instantly jump to the conclusion the writer has an issue with Christianity. This is not the case.
For the first conversation, I would like to speak about racism. If your initial reaction to hearing the word racism is, “Oh, great! Here we go again!”, then I would suggest that this is something you should continue reading. Racism is a deep sinful issue. It is a part of the sinful nature of humanity that leads them to believe they hold a superior position over another group, in particular, a group of people who have a different skin color. I want to acknowledge that an inward sin is the root of all of this and it needs to be addressed.
Yet, I would also suggest that not responding or speaking out on racism is equally as sinful. When we decide to ignore, stay silent, and/or push aside the idea of racism in the world and the Church, we are participating in a sinful act that, I believe, we will need to answer for when we are with Jesus in eternity.
Why would I say this? How can I say that this is equally as sinful? Let’s start at the beginning…
Sin came into this world in the garden of Eden. God could no longer be with His creation in perfection, so He had to step away. When Adam and Eve had their children, we find the first experience of animosity and fear leading to the ruthless act of murder. Cain and Abel were brothers bringing an offering to God. God found value in Abel’s offering and Cain was found to be wanting. In his jealousy, Cain killed Abel. When God confronts Cain asking about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain responds by asking God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The easy answer tot hat question is, “Yes!”
We are all our brother’s keeper. We are all to find ways to care for each other, serve each other, and love each other. In his jealousy and fear of inadequacy, Cain murdered Abel and held the belief that he didn’t have to worry about the needs of his brother. He was wrong.
If we think racism is not an issue to be concerned about because it’s not your problem, you’re missing the point. You are your brother’s keeper. When your brother or sister of color is suffering, it affects you. When you are a part of the Church and called to point to the kingdom of God, then we need to be doing all that we can to be sure our words and actions demonstrate the faith we proclaim.
What should it look like then? How are we to respond? How do we stand up?
Let’s look at the response of Jesus in a clear commentary on racial tension in His day. Jesus showed up at a well in the middle of the day. He had taken His disciples through an area that Jewish people, especially men, would not go. They entered Samaria as a woman was going to get water. Samaritans were known as “half-breeds”, due to people from the nation of Israel hanging out with Assyrians after being set free from captivity. They intermarried and produced a group of people known as Samaritans. They were unclean and a horrible reminder of an ugly experience of bondage for the people of Israel. Samaria was avoided at all costs. So much so that Jewish people had a road to avoid the area completely. Needless to say, Jesus and His disciples were not supposed to be there.
As the woman came to the well, she most likely saw a Jewish man, a rabbi, sitting by the well. She probably tried to come up with her eyes looking down and avoiding conversation. Then, a Jewish man asked her for a drink. At that very moment, Jesus is setting a new standard of interaction with different cultures, people, and communities. He revealed many things to this woman but ultimately helped her see that He was the One who came to provide life and freedom. The barriers were broken. The entire city came out to meet Jesus and begged Him to stay.
Why is this important? Jesus showed up when nobody would. He was not afraid of controversy and challenging cultural norms. That is how the Church should look. We are called to show up and challenge the ideas that have permeated our culture that people of different skin color are less than any other group. He came to show there is no one superior or greater. Jesus came for all who are willing to listen and accept His message.
Jesus responded without condemnation and shame. He heard the woman’s story. He knew her story. He listened to her pain. He sat with her where she was. It was hot. He was thirsty. He could have been anywhere else, yet He chose to sit at this well. Perhaps we should be responding by being where the pain is? Sitting at the table of those who are hurting? Listening to stories without judgment or condemnation or doubt could be beneficial. He didn’t tell her He doubted she needed water. He didn’t doubt her stories of her several husbands. He didn’t question her intention at the well. He pointed to His grace and His desire to provide life to those who are losing life. Her dignity was restored. When we respond with open ears and closed mouths we may experience a movement of change we would have never expected.
As the disciples returned, they questioned why Jesus would speak to this woman. They didn’t do it out loud, but they wondered how Jesus, a respected rabbi, would sit at a well with such unworthy people. Jesus was standing up with this woman and remained standing as the community came out to meet Him. As the crowd was coming Jesus told His disciples the harvest was ready. The potential to point to the Kingdom was arriving. The opportunity to share the truth of Jesus was marching their way. This was the opportunity to serve a group of people that had felt unworthy of being connected with the God of the Jews. At this moment, Jesus was bridging the gap between the people of Israel and the Samaritans. He was cleaning the unclean.
This is how we stand up! We should be aiming to clean up the unclean. We meet people with the truth of Jesus. We stand up to bridge the gap. We speak with honesty, openness, and with a firm understanding of what it means to stand with humanity. Jesus stood to restore dignity and identity, and the Church should do the same. If people are feeling marginalized and neglected, we step into the margin with them and show them we see them.
Racism is an ugly reality. It is not something to ignore. We cannot be complicit in what causes the pain of so many. If we see it, we speak. If we hear of it, we stand against it. You cannot be a follower of Christ and live in acceptance of separation of His creation. May we remember, that no matter what skin color a person may have, the image of God is present within them. That’s what we need to honor. Racism has no place in the Church, as the bride of Christ. If Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, then neither should we.
It is a true degradation of the gospel if we allow human dignity to be trampled upon by such a sinful ideology such as racism. May we see change come through those who follow Jesus as we await His return to eradicate this evil for good.