The Gospel message is amazing. The message is of the coming Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is/will be a place where all nations, tongues, and tribes will be together before the throne of Jesus, singing praises. The Kingdom of God is/will be the new heavens and the new earth, a place of perfect peace with no more curse (sin) which distorts and messes the crap out of things.
If you notice, I talk about the Kingdom of God with is/will be. The Kingdom of God already is here but not yet fully. And we live in this tension. The church is to be the representation of the Kingdom of God on earth. The church is to be the body of Jesus reflecting Jesus and being the reflection of what the Kingdom of God will look like when Jesus returns and the Kingdom comes in its fullness.
Boy, are we messing up big time.
There is a struggle to confess the sin of racism. There are sins we know we commit and we confess and seek forgiveness for and then there’s the sins we don’t know.
Paul writes this wonderful section in his letter to the Galatian Church
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
This is the message of the church that we bring. This is the message of the Gospel. In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well in the middle of the day. She is a Samaritan. Two things are going on here. First of all, during this time period, men didn’t talk with women. Second, Jews didn’t speak with Samaritans. The Jewish people of Jesus’ day saw Samaritans as mongrels, half-breads, and were despised. The Samaritans and the Jews fought bitterly and hated each other mutually. Many travelers from northern Israel on their way to Jerusalem in the south, would travel way out of their way just to go around Samaria which was between the two. Yet here was Jesus breaking through barriers to bring a message of acceptance and salvation to this Samaritan woman.
The sad thing is, is that even though this is what Paul wrote about and this is what Jesus did, followers of Jesus have not always done this. Even in the early church, even in the New Testament church (Book of Acts, the letters of Paul) people discriminated against one another due to race and ethnicity. Subjugating other nations and races due to the fact that they were different (and many times non-Christians) was done by Christians and even they had twisted the Bible to back up their right and reason to do so. So many people and generations were brought up thinking that this was okay. This was fine. And didn’t even know that they were living out the sin of racism.
Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, even after the wonderful work of those like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, even after all the gains we’ve made as a society, there is still the sin of racism that we commit and at times don’t even realize we do.
I look at my family and see God’s beautiful diversity with cousins, nieces and nephews who are of mixed ethnicities of Hispanic and African-American. I look at adopted cousins who are African-American. I look back at my time in junior high and high school and where I lived and see the wonderful diversity I grew up in.
During high school I lived in an apartment complex where I was the only white boy there. Each day after school and work, I’d come home to find Butch (his name was Manuel but we all called him butch) who, after a long days work, would sit outside on a bench in front of his apartment smoking cigarettes and drinking Southern Comfort. I’d join him and my neighbor Ray (who had gotten himself out of the Mexican gangs of LA decades earlier and reformed his life) and I’d sit and listen and learn. There was so much I didn’t realize I was doing to offend them, so much I was doing that stereotyped them, and I needed to confess of the sin of racism I didn’t know I was committing.
As I look around the world today, as I see the headlines, I struggle. How far have we actually come? We try today to be colorblind, that’s the thing we’re supposed to do (especially as white dude, right?). No. We need to see each other as who we are. Wonderfully beautiful people made in the image of God.
Yet we live and do things that can be racist that we don’t even realize we do (and I’m still guilty of this at times and I have to check myself).
One thing I learned from sitting down with Butch and Ray all those years ago was trying to see life through their eyes. Trying to see what it was like to be someone different, with a different cultural, ethnic background that was stereotyped, that was oppressed (the Zoot Suit Riot of 1943 comes to mind), and struggling to make ends meet.
Racism is all around. We all have our own preconceived notions of who others are of different races and ethnicities (even those who are non-white do…argue in the comments for or against if you like). There is the sin of racism that we need to confess. Confess and work on living out that confession and new life.
In Jesus, there is no Jew or Greek, black or white, male or female, there is only one in Jesus. We are all made in the image of God and are wonderfully and fearfully made and deserve to be treated thusly.
Yet we still struggle with confessing this sin. Where might you be struggling with this? You may not even realize you are. You might think you’re trying to be colorblind or trying hard to be multicultural. You might be doing everything you can to prove you’re not racist. And you might be doing well. Yet there always is, and always will be the sin of racism handed down from generation to generation and we may not even realize it.
There are the sins we know, and the ones we don’t. It’s easier to confess the ones we know. It’s harder to confess the one’s that are so ingrained in us, we don’t realize we’re even doing.
It’s a journey I’m on and will always be on. How about you?