Our world is divided. Man or woman. Old or young. Catholic or Protestant. Able or disable. Black or white. Difference divides us. Difference has been the stimulus for discrimination of all sorts: religious difference becomes denominationalism, difference in ability becomes ableism, sex difference becomes sexism, race difference becomes racism.
Our focus over the next 5 weeks as a church will be racism (the title for the series is Bloodlines - unashamedly stolen from a book on race by John Piper). I’ve been on a significant learning curve as I’ve been researching the topic over the past couple of months. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the topic, and my own heart.
Prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviour can remain deeply hidden in the human heart. These attitudes surface more as implicit racial bias rather than explicit racial prejudice. They effect how we unconsciously think about and act toward someone. It can lead us to treat people differently because of their race and ethnicity without us even realising it (eg. when, in 2010, a black hand held an iPod for sale on eBay, the auction received 17 percent fewer bids than when a white hand held the same item for sale at the same location at the same time).
Most people harbour implicit racial bias that makes it difficult to integrate races and ethnicities in corporate life - but that is exactly what we are trying to do at St Paul’s! Our core value of Treasuring Jesus Together says that as a church we are committed to “welcoming people from every background” and “openness towards new people and the avoidance of cliquishness”.
I believe that it is crucial for us to get a biblical perspective on race and ethnocentricity. Bloodlines will be important for us. As a starting point though, here are ten biblical reasons why racism is a sin and offensive to God. These 10 points are sourced from The Gospel Coalition website. They form part of a blog written by Kevin DeYoung and published on the 25th June 2015.
1. We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Most Christians know this and believe it, but the implications are more staggering than we might realise… But of course, as a white man I am no more like God in my being, no more capable of worship, no more made with a divine purpose, no more possessing of worth and deserving of dignity than any other human of any other gender, colour, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different.
2. We are all sinners corrupted by the fall (Rom. 3:10-20; 5:12-21). Everyone made in the image of God has also had that image tainted and marred by original sin. Our anthropology is as identical as our ontology. Same image, same problem. We are more alike than we are different.
3. We are all, if believers in Jesus, one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We see from the rest of the New Testament that justification by faith does not eradicate our gender, our vocation, or our ethnicity, but it does relativize all these things. Our first and most important identity is not male or female, American or Russian, black or white, Spanish speaker or French speaker, rich or poor, influential or obscure, but Christian. We are more alike than we are different.
4. Separating peoples was a curse from Babel (Gen. 11:7-9); bringing peoples together was a gift from Pentecost (Acts 2:5-11). The reality of Pentecost may not be possible in every community–after all, Jerusalem had all those people there because of the holy day–but if our inclination is to move in the direction of the punishment of Genesis 11 instead of the blessing of Acts 2 something is wrong.
5. Partiality is a sin (James 2:1). When we treat people unfairly, when we assume the worst about persons and peoples, when we favour one group over another, we do not reflect the God of justice nor do we honour the Christ who came to save all men.
6. Real love loves as we hope to be loved (Matt. 22:39-40). No one can honestly say that racism treats our neighbour as we would like to be treated.
7. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). Sadly, we can hate without realising we hate. Hatred does not always manifest itself as implacable rage, and it does not always–or, because of God’s restraining mercy, often–translate into physical murder. But hatred is murder of the heart, because hatred looks at someone else or some other group and thinks, “I wish you weren’t around. You are what’s wrong with this world, and the world would be better without people like you.” That’s hate, which sounds an awful lot like murder.
8. Love rejoices in what is true and looks for what is best (1 Cor. 13:4-7). You can’t believe all things and hope all things when you assume the worst about people and live your life fuelled by prejudice, misguided convictions, and plain old animosity.
9. Christ came to tear down walls between peoples not build them up (Eph. 2:14). This is not a saccharine promise about everyone setting doctrine aside and getting along for Jesus’s sake. Ephesians 2 and 3 are about something much deeper, much more glorious, and much more cruciform. If we who have been made in the same image, born into the world with the same problem, find the same redemption through the same faith in the same Lord, how can we not draw near to each other as members of the same family?
10. Heaven has no room for racism (Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9-12; 22:1-5). Woe to us if our vision of the good life here on earth will be completely undone by the reality of new heavens and new earth yet to come. Antagonism toward people of another colour, language, or ethnic background is antagonism toward God himself and his design for eternity. Christians ought to reject racism, and do what they can to expose it and bring the gospel to bear upon it, not because we love pats on the back for our moral outrage or are desperate for restored moral authority, but because we love God and submit ourselves to the authority of his word.
Steve Jeffrey - Senior Minister