By Shawn McMullen
Jesus prayed that his followers would be united, even as he and the Father are united (John 17:20, 21). Paul urged believers to “make every effort” to maintain unity (Ephesians 4:3). It seems strange, then, that some people who identify with Christ ignore this clear biblical mandate.
Why would someone who wears the name of Christ behave as if he were more important than someone else who wears the same name? This is a mystery, since the Bible clearly says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Jesus and Paul were clear on this. So was James: “Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (James 2:1). Ignoring the call to unity, devaluing others, and showing favoritism lie at the heart of racism.
An unbiased reading of Scripture confirms that we’re all created equal. “So God created mankind in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26).
Sadly, the church in North America has yet to transcend the problem of racism. Many of our churches have made great strides in this area. But while some are being intentional about integration, other congregations prefer to remain segregated. We should acknowledge the progress we’ve made, but let’s admit we still have a long way to go.
How can the church rise above the problem of racism? Here are a few suggestions.
Pray for racial reconciliation. Knowing God wants all who follow him to be one, we must pray for greater diversity, unity, and harmony in the body of Christ. Do you keep a prayer journal? Does your list of prayer concerns include racial reconciliation among Christ’s followers? If not, will you add it today and pray about it often?
Preach racial reconciliation. We must preach this message because it’s biblical. We must keep preaching it because many who hear it will listen. Although Christians shouldn’t have to be reminded, there are many good people out there who will respond positively to this message when it is brought to their attention.
Honor Christ when seeking racial reconciliation. Like other forms of sin, racism angers us. Who can imagine one person devaluing another in this way without feeling some level of anger? Here is where we are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. So we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We choose our words carefully (Colossians 4:6). We seek grace and mercy for the offender as well as the offended. No doubt Jesus was offended by the sin he encountered. But he never sinned in the process of reforming the sinner.
Model the message of racial reconciliation. We can take practical steps by establishing friendships with people whose racial and ethnic backgrounds differ from our own and by considering diversity when we staff our churches. We can repent of past sins, asking forgiveness as churches, families, and individuals. And we can extend forgiveness when asked.
We are one with all who belong to Christ. Let’s demonstrate that principle to a watching world so that, in Jesus’ own words, “the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).