We will never have proper race relations until we recognize the fundamental role of God, try as we might with programs, laws, textbooks, pundits and cable news town halls
After all, He is the Creator of us all. If we have a common Father, then we are all brothers and sisters. It doesn’t mean that we are all exactly alike, but that we are all family—and are all equal.
When that perspective takes hold in the life of a believer, differences between us become something to celebrate, never to separate.
At our own church today we have what I believe is a growing proportion of African-Americans. Our pastor is Egyptian. I’m sure I speak for every one of several thousand white members who are overjoyed by this diversity, precisely because it is God’s diversity.
When I lived in Moscow in the 90’s and worshiped regularly at a Protestant church, the common denominator was not nationality, race, neighborhood or income—it was language. We all spoke English. There were young Russians, Kenyans with tambourines, conservative Western business people, Arabs, Indians and Indonesians, all praising the Lord together. It was fantastic. I remarked at the time that it was a glimpse of what Heaven will look like. All colors of skin, all backgrounds, all shapes and sizes, all joyfully and humbly thanking God together that we are saved by faith in His son.
There is no racial divide when the children of God genuinely understand that all of us– male and female, black, white and brown—are equally made in His image.
The secularists keep hoping that programs, laws and exhortations will remove the perceived differences and teach us to love one another. While these can have some effect, it is God who is the transformer. If you want to change people overnight, and permanently, you need Him. Ask John Newton, the former slave ship captain who wrote Amazing Grace.
Some pundits will correctly argue that in America’s more-Christian past, there was slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. They are right, and all of those are a blot upon the founders who could somehow keep their faith and race relations in different, tightly sealed boxes. But, as I have argued in earlier posts, Jefferson and the others got the overriding concept right—All Men are Created Equal—even if they often failed in practice. It is always closer to that radical, God-acknowledging truth that our nation has moved during its short history. And in what other nation have hundreds of thousands of the majority given their lives in a terrible civil war to free the minority?
What about the secularist side? Let us not forget that it was superhero Charles Darwin who “proved” scientifically that blacks are inherently inferior to whites (and that women are inferior to men). And Progressive Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, a staunch racist, segregated the federal government and the U.S military.
Both “sides” have changed over the last hundred years. The difference is that believers are moving closer and closer to God’s unchanging, revealed truth about all people, while secularists change the rules and the programs willy-nilly to fit that day’s particular situation.
What if Jefferson had proclaimed, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men have evolved to be equal…?” Clearly that would make no sense, since macroevolution, if you believe it, is a random, uncontrolled process. You would expect there to be racial differences, as indeed Darwin “proved”. For the secularist, it must always be so, and therefore good race relations is an add-on, not a foundational truth. Under the right circumstances, the concept might have to be jettisoned in the name of practicality. Like the different treatment of Japanese-Americans and German-Americans during World War II.
Only the Biblical truth that God created all of us as His equal children has the power to transform us, and to remove race relations as a subject of separation. Once I am a Christian, all of my relations with others are based on my relationship with God.
And that doesn’t just apply to race. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a man who leaps across racial, theological, personal safety and economic lines to help his “neighbor”. Jesus admonishes us to “go and do likewise”. Do we? Not nearly enough. But, like “All Men are Created Equal”, Jesus’ broad definition of our neighbor defines how we, as believers, are to view, interact with, and help all those around us.
I have no extra knowledge of their backgrounds, but what if those concepts had been more woven into the lives of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, and into the lives of their friends, as well as their favorite movies, downloads and games? In short, into American culture.What if each had viewed the other as a member of one family, or as a neighbor to be helped? What if grace, rather than bravado and legalism, had infused both of their lives?
We will never know, at least in Trayvon’s case. But I pray that his tragic death can be a wake-up call that we have moved too far from God’s truths, with results that are sadly predictable. We are all created equal in His image, and He has admonished us to love our neighbors, even when they don’t look like us. Those two radical ideas transformed the world centuries ago. It is time to ask God to do so again, with us, now.