Once, I preached a sermon about the two Great Commandments that Jesus gives us in Mark 12. As I studied for this sermon, I kept coming back to the Second Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I thought about why we have such a difficult time even wanting to obey that commandment, especially in this day and age where love and respect and tolerance are the buzzwords we are supposed to live by.
Then I remembered a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which said that Sunday mornings at 11:00am is the most segregated hour in the churches all across our country, and I realized that in over 40 years, not much has changed.
But even as I stood there preaching what I KNEW the Lord had laid on my heart, I felt uncomfortable. After all, what could a white preacher say to a white congregation about racism and discrimination in our churches and in our country? Shouldn’t we look to an African-American preacher for guidance and teaching on this, since they have been preaching and teaching on this subject for decades?
The problem is the continued segregation in our white churches. African-American preachers have been preaching and teaching African-American congregations for decades, but what about white congregations? Are any whitepreachers preaching and teaching what the Bible says about racism and discrimination? Are any white people talking about racism and discrimination to other white people anywhere at all?
I mean, besides the ethnic jokes that are told after looking left and right to make sure none of “them” are around.
Racism is truly the pink elephant in the room that no one is talking about. Especially in rooms full of white people. But it HAS to be talked about because race is one of the most dividing influences in the church. In fact, it may be the most dividing influence next to denominational distinctions (but that’s a post for another time).
The Bible is a great and wonderful book that we don’t really read. Sure, there are some parts we love. For example, “For God so loved the world,” is one of those parts we love to think about. But there are also parts we don’t want to think about because that might change how we want to live. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me,” is one of the parts we would prefer to ignore. Another might be 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
We look at verses like that and we are thankful that we think it means that in heaven, we will all be one. But it’s not talking about heaven. It’s talking about here on earth, and that troubles us. It troubles us greatly because apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we don’t want to be one in unity; at least not with people who look different from us.
That truth becomes obvious as we look around at the faces in our churches each Sunday.
But there is another truth that we must consider, because it’s what the Bible tells us is true. We must understand, not just in our heads but in our hearts, that each human being on this planet is a beautiful and unique individual who was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of Almighty God Himself. We must look at each person through the eyes of the Holy Spirit and see them as God sees them.
We must treat each person with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
If we can’t do it in the church to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how will we ever do it out in the world where we are hated for the name of Christ?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!