By Steven Clark Goad
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28, NIV, 1984).
No single race or ethnicity has a monopoly on prejudice. If the truth were known, we all struggle with our own demons of bias and racism. However, the time that has passed since the Emancipation Proclamation should find us in far better standing than recent years have shown.
A young Yankee evangelist was hired in the Deep South to minister among a thriving congregation. He came highly recommended for his soul-saving zeal. The elders of the church declared they wanted to grow and see souls brought to Jesus. At the interview the young firebrand asked, ”Does it matter to you who I bring to Christ, regardless of race or social standing?“ The answer: ”No. We want to reach out to all souls.”
Within eight months there had been 68 baptisms into Christ. The church had grown in attendance by 45 percent in that same period to 500. However, the young preacher who hadn’t even got his new lawn established was dismissed summarily one Wednesday evening. Why? He had taken the elders at their word. He had baptized three black men the week before in their lily-white baptistery. So much for racial equality in that church. Thankfully, this same church is integrated today with over half the membership consisting of people of color.
The Time Isn’t Right
The Christian university was thriving. Enrollment had doubled within a decade. Things seemed to be moving along swiftly. God was blessing the institution beyond measure. But one thing was glaringly apparent. There were no black students on campus. Why?
In the 1960s the president of a Christian junior college appealed to a university president to admit a student from his school who had graduated with honors. The young man wanted to become a minister of the gospel. His academic excellence and musical skills should have made him a top-notch applicant to the university. Only after a great deal of arm-twisting and a close vote by the board of directors was the young man admitted. Why? The applicant wasn’t a white man. We have lingering vestiges of racial discrimination and intolerance among us still.
Harken to the Past
We’ve made tremendous strides since the Jim Crow and Dred Scott days. Yet, until we achieve genuine equality among the races, we have a lot of work to do.
The love Paul had for Onesimus warms our hearts. ”If you consider me as a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” (Philemon 17). We don’t know the race of this slave, but we do know Paul saw him as an equal. Our own nation’s slavery is a stain upon the tapestry of our great union. We can do better. We must do better.
Many early leaders in the Restoration Movement had to struggle against tremendous odds to make headway within the church. Marshall Keeble, G. P. Holt, R. N. Hogan, and others persevered with their hands tied behind their backs so to speak. It required the aid of David Lipscomb (namesake of Lipscomb University) and financier A. M. Burton to get support for men like Marshall Keeble to do what white men had been unable to accomplish, Keeble being just as successful among the whites as among people of color.
Embrace Me, Please
My wife had been the best friend of a black girl while in college. The young lady was the daughter of a well-known black evangelist in our city.
A few years after college, we were attending a meeting at one of the local congregations. We went to the church house with a couple we had become friends with in our own fellowship. This couple had been reared in the Deep South, and that surely had something to do with what occurred. When my wife saw her old friend from college in the church foyer, she immediately went to her and gave her a big hug. Our southern friends turned on their heels and walked out of the church building.
Was this a big deal? It seemed so at the time. It still seems so in my mind. The couple was willing to come and hear a black evangelist, but were unwilling to get ”too close” to the other race. Why? Prejudice. Bigotry. A holier-than-thou attitude toward those who might force them out of their comfort zones.
One In Christ
Years ago I read a book by Sinclair Lewis titled King’s Blood Royal. It’s about a man in a southern community who was a racist. He was a mover and shaker in his white circle of influence. One day the man decided to run for office. His opponent looked under every rock and in every corner to find some dirt to use against the man. In time, he discovered the benighted Anglo politician had African blood flowing through his veins. The story describes how this man had to reassess everything he had assumed was correct.
When we belong to Jesus, we are part of the same family. We are one in Christ, period
The man was a friend of mine. He did not like blacks. He admitted he was a racist. He based his position on selected biblical texts taken out of context. One day a terrible accident found the man in an operating room needing a transfusion. The only blood available was the blood of a black donor. He instantly changed his position on racism and it changed his entire attitude about other human beings.
What Shall We Do?
Here are a few suggestions on how we can make racial reconciliation an ongoing reality. First, we can start treating all others as equals, made in the very likeness of God, regardless of their ethnicity. Second, we can stop using vulgar epithets and course jokes that demean others. Third, we can share our love of Jesus with all people no matter their race, social status, or creedal thinking. Fourth, we can make an extra effort to reach out to those who show signs of having been abused because of their standing in a particular community or milieu.
Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in his sight;
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Steven Clark Goad is a minister and freelance writer in Blythe, California.
Taking Steps Toward Reconciliation
1. Pray for God to open your eyes and change your heart.
2. Focus on commonalities like parenting, work,
balancing life, music (even if it’s a different style), art, sports, or books.
3. Read books, even novels, about different cultures or by authors from different cultures to help you understand different values and mindsets.
4. Ask open-ended questions rather than making
5. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge differences, but don’t make more out of them than necessary.
6. Spend time with people who are different from you: Invite another family over for dinner. Go to a school sporting event together. Talk to other parents while your children play at the park.