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A Reformed Fellowship

Racism and the church

There are things in life that I have trouble understanding. I don’t understand why Hollywood celebrities are called before Congress as expert witnesses concerning environmental issues. I don’t understand why folks who don’t like winter sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” I don’t understand why men can’t pick their clothes up off the floor (or should that be “little boys in men’s bodies”?).

Something I really have trouble understanding is how folks can say they love Christ while at the same time disdaining others simply because those “others” are of another ethnicity or skin color.

I was struck by this last year during South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary. It seems that the Clintons decided surreptitiously to make Barack Obama’s race an issue. Black South Carolinians took umbrage at the attacks and voted overwhelmingly for the candidate of their skin color. White South Carolinians basically voted likewise, dividing their votes between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Please understand that I did not have a dog in that fight. As far as I’m concerned, not one of the three is worthy of the presidency of the United States. All three are pro-abortion, and that one factor disqualifies them from my vote. By the way, Republican Rudy Giuliani was likewise disqualified because of his pro-abortion standing.

Unfortunately, the same racism which characterized the Democratic primary is too often seen in our churches, both white and black. How can a person really be a Christian and disdain another person because his skin is a different color? I can hear someone say something like, “Well, you’re not old enough to remember how it used to be.” I have two responses. First, how things “used to be” is rarely how things really were. We all observe the past through biased lenses. Second, how things “used to be” is at most how things used to be. Whatever it was does not make it right. Besides, this is now, not then.

The gospel of Jesus Christ stands in opposition to racism, whether it is white against black, black against white, black or white against Hispanic, or whatever. If it is really true that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), then most certainly there are to be no divisions based upon any ethnicity or color of skin.

God looks not at the color of our skin or the bent of our culture but at the condition of our heart. Outside of Christ, every heart is the same color, filled with depravity. In Christ, the believer is counted perfectly righteous.

Theologian Michael Horton maintains: “The prophets remind us repeatedly of the vision of the latter days, with the nations streaming to Zion, bearing their gifts for the great celebration. As a foretaste of that festival, each gathering of the Lord’s people should reflect as much as possible the diversity of gifts that serve the unity of the body.” (“Grace, Race, and Catholicity,” Modern Reformation, Jan./Feb. 2008, 21).

Horton is right. There will be no preferences in heaven—whether race or age or sex or social status or whatever. Only because of man’s depravity are there any on earth.