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Pastor's Points

Racial equality has been the passion and the pursuit of many throughout the ages and you would think by now there would be distinctive evidence of that pursuit. But alas, almost every daily newspaper and every nightly newscast reminds us that racial bias and bigotry is still quite evident.

One thing we know for sure is that governments cannot and will not achieve the goal of racial equality. Our nation, the "US of A" is a prime example of the contradiction of it all. Founding fathers orated and penned the words, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" and insisted that was why they would not be taxed and ruled by England. But the contradiction was that almost all of them owned slaves. How could they justify that? The truth is you don’t have to justify your actions when you are comfortable with contradiction. Wars came along and men and women were drafted to fight on foreign soil for "freedom" only to come back home and not have the freedom to drink out of certain water fountains, eat at certain diners, sit in the front of the bus, go to certain schools, or vote.

This is not to say that we should not be involved in speaking to racial issues and active in legislative endeavors to prompt our government to consider and enact laws that overcome racial inequities. It is simply an admission that government will never accomplish the task! After all, government reveals the heart of those who govern and the human heart is filled with too much sin and special interest!

On the other hand, the Christian church should be where racial equality is not only possible but where it is proclaimed and practiced! Why? Because we are a people of transformed hearts! We have, or should have, a heart that beats with the heart-beat of Christ. And He gave His life not for some sinners but for "all" sinners! And the grace fabric of the early church was that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Gentile" but all are "one" in the Kingdom of God. If you can get a devout, militant Jew such as Paul to have a heart like that you have a transformed heart, and with that is the realization that racial equality is possible and demanded in the hearts and actions of Christ-followers!

So, why is the church of Jesus not more racially diverse and inclusive than it is? The answers are varied and not simplistic but two things stand at the front!

One is that we don’t have a clear theological understanding of the make-up of His church. In the Biblical book of Revelation, the heavenly church worshiping before the throne of God consists of those "…from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." If that is what the church in heaven looks like should we not strive mightily to make the church on earth look like that? Instead, we have "white" churches in diverse neighborhoods that choose to stay "white" churches and we have "black" churches in diverse neighborhoods that choose to stay "black" churches. The same is true for any church of any ethnic background.

The most common reason, and excuse, for such exclusivity, is "style". It sounds like this, "We have our style of worship and we are not going to change and ‘they’ do not and will not like it!" The truth is some of "them" will like it if we invite and include them. The other truth is that we have made style our "god" – we are going to hang on to it no matter how many in our neighborhood go to hell! A transformed, racially diverse, and racially unified, church does not happen without sacrifice, which means we have to change some of the way we do things in order to reach all people and to have a racially diverse church.

Which brings me to the second reason there are not more racially diverse and inclusive churches! Behind door number two stands pastors and church leaders who are not willing to lead God’s people past their personal preferences. This never has been, and never will be, an easy task, but it is a necessary and commanded task! The civil rights movement is a legacy of those who paid a great price for racial equality and there are many in the church who have paid a great price for that as well! But why are there not more? Why not all? Does not the cross of Jesus demonstrate and demand that not only are all welcome in His Kingdom but all are to be together in His Kingdom?

At this point I realize that when we talk about "all" being included in the Kingdom, many bring up the issue of rights for all lifestyles. There is much debate here but one thing we must do is recognize the difference between civil rights and right! We can debate civil rights but one thing we cannot do is call wrong "right"! Our main responsibility is the salvation of mankind and we do no one a favor by justifying abortion, homosexuality, or any lifestyle contrary to the truth of God’s Word! We cannot build a New Testament Church and contradict or compromise truth!

One of our issues is we do not want to make anyone feel bad, and we do not want to turn anyone away, and we especially do not want to appear as hateful and intolerant! But loving people does not mean we never tell someone they are wrong, or that we do not let them walk away. In His encounter with the "Rich Young Ruler" we are told Jesus looked at him and loved him. But Jesus also let him walk away when he was not willing to come on God’s terms! Not speaking out against sin may make them feel better but they are still eternally estranged from God! The gospel demands we call wrong, "wrong" because it is only then they will turn to the Savior who can make them "right"! The gospel-news is that "all" can come to Jesus for salvation and a transformed life! And that is why our churches should be racially united – we are all sinners saved by grace!

My thought is that racial bias is a very difficult thing for any Christian leader or church to admit; therefore, it is a difficult thing to work through. I personally do not know one Baptist pastor who thinks they are prejudice but the recent debate at the Southern Baptist Convention on the display of the Confederate flag reveals that many are indeed bias. Thank God for the "Southern Gentleman" who stifled the ridiculous debate by proclaiming that "all the confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race!" We truly have a long way to go, but it is a journey we must all take! The crux of the matter is that the church of Jesus Christ must not simply be a contributor to racial equality but it must be the catalyst for racial equality. That will only take place as we cling to a confidence in the power of the Gospel to change any heart and any community!