I was on my way to work in south Dallas when I stopped at a red light. It was around lunch time and I was in the middle of a part of town in which most of the people looked different than me. The car in front of me had run out of gas and a young African-American man got out and began walking toward me.
Now, I am not going to lie to you and say I felt exactly the same as I would in the suburbs with a white man walking toward my car. After all, I was in an area known for a bit of gang activity and my experience had taught me that some African-American men don’t like white men. The question kept ringing in my mind, “How will this man view me differently because of my race?” In that moment I had a choice to make; do I step on the accelerator and run or roll down my window and offer help?
Now to be fair I would have some fear and misgivings about helping anyone in such a situation regardless of their race. If the young man had been white I would have been nervous about helping for fear he was going to use the ruse of a stalled car to rob me. We have all read stories of such crimes and it is the reason good mothers tell their children not to pick up hitchhikers.
But on that day and in that moment I felt God’s presence, set aside my fear and placed trust in God. I offered the man a ride, took him to the gas station for fuel, bought him a cold drink and drove him back to his car. Some will criticize and say I am inherently racist because of the way I felt in that moment. Some will say I judged a man by his color and nothing else. Before you judge me I challenge you to be completely honest with yourself.
WE SHALL OVERCOME BUT ONLY BY FAITH
I am a white man living in a multi-colored, complicated world. Whether it is my wish or not, I understand life in terms of my race, experience and circumstance. We all do the same. One of the reasons racism exists is our fear of admitting the lens through which we naturally see our world. All of us are a product of learned experiences and some of these experiences haven’t been positive.
But I am a Christian which means I am enabled (and expected) to live a life above and beyond the natural. I need not be enslaved by my race, experience or circumstance. The question is whether I will live by faith or lean on my own understanding.
Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your path. — Proverbs 3:5-6
Believers in Christ are supposed to die to self and live in Christ. It is only as we do so that we have the potential to see the world through the eyes of truth and engage others with unconditional love. Unfortunately, there are many who claim to be believers in Jesus who absolutely refuse to die to self when it comes to the issue of race. This is true of believers across all racial lines. The result is hate, mistrust, fear, racism and a host of other evils often excused by those holding onto their wickedness. Remember, there were professed believers in the Gospel who defended slavery in 19th century America!
I recently ran across an article entitled, “Pastor Whitewashes History of Pastors During Jim Crow — Including The History of His Church” in which Dr Robert Jeffress is taken to task for his defense of the segregationist ways of former First Baptist Dallas pastor, Dr W A Criswell. The article exposes the not so hidden prejudice which existed in the church of the 1950’s-60’s, and unfortunately, in a bit more hidden fashion, still exists today.
“The most segregated hour in America is Sunday at 11am.”
— Dr Martin Luther King Jr
What makes the sin of racism even more maddening are the many attempts to integrate prejudice and segregation with the Gospel itself. As though God condones such blatant evil on the basis that we are better able to worship and serve with “people who look just like us.”
“Segregation was best for blacks and whites, W A Criswell said. Blacks, he argued, would never be able to excel, teach, or lead in a congregation of whites. Instead, they should stay in churches with other blacks.”
Dr Criswell later repented of his segregationist ways but his statement sums up the unspoken ideas of many who stand in the pulpits and sit in the pews of our churches today. There are still many who believe we are better off divided than united and this segregationist ideology cripples the witness of the church when it comes to the subject of race. I wonder if these folks believe Heaven to be segregated as well?
We ask ourselves where such blatantly wicked ideas come from and the answer is often both home and pulpit. The result is another generation which sees the Body of Christ divided along racial lines and believes segregation to be God’s “plan.”
GOD’S PLAN FOR THE RACES
God does have a plan and it involves every nation, people and tongue. This plan involves all shades of pigment in the world today. Jesus spilled His blood for the salvation of every man, woman and child who has lived or ever will live, regardless of what they look like. The plan is salvation in Christ and one united home in Heaven as brothers and sisters in Christ.
What we need is a radical commitment to God and His plan for mankind. We need real commitment and real change not mere talk of these.
REAL CHANGE HAPPENS WHEN:
- Christian leaders step out of the pulpit and pew to begin loving those unlike themselves
- White, black, brown and every other variety of pigment invite those of another “shade” into their home for a meal, to their church for worship and into their life as genuine friend
- We start loving one another through sacrificial service and right attitude
Talk is cheap and we have had plenty from politicians, preachers and other self-proclaimed leaders. It is time for a change in attitude and action toward those who are racially, culturally and socioeconomically different from ourselves.
It is time we stop living in fear of one another. We have been baptized in Christ Jesus and raised to walk in newness of life. We have be resurrected from dead, faithless, fearful living into a life of strength, power, faith and love. It is time we treat one another with the love with which we have been loved. The question is will we have the faith to do so? Will you?
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