September 8, 2016

Race and the Gospel, Part 4

The gospel has the power to defeat racism

The “now and the not yet” of our life means that the brokenness of racism stings us, yet Christ promises wholeness in His kingdom, and His kingdom starts now.

In this five-part video/blog series, we will consider the reality of racism and what it means for us as the Church. In previous weeks, we looked at how our churches are divided along racial lines; why it’s crucial to acknowledge the past; and how our own worldview affects what we consider “normal.” This fourth blog post will examine how the gospel in and of itself is anti-racist and thus has the power to defeat racism.

Solutions: The Power of the Gospel

May the change in our hearts be evidenced by our lives as we stand against racism in all of its forms.
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At the core of the gospel message is the proclamation that, in Christ, God has created for Himself a new humanity that looks radically different from what has come before it. The apostle Paul speaks of this new humanity in Ephesians 2:13-16:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new humanity in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (English Standard Version).

On the cross, the hostility that stood between Jew and Gentile (and thus the hostility between all ethnic groups) was put to death. Every people group has been granted access to God the Father through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Contained within the seed of the gospel itself, then, is the power of anti-racism. The gospel not only kills racial hostility, but it also creates a new humanity that relates to one another as family.

In Christ there is a new kind of oneness, a sharing in one another that did not previously exist. In their book, The Heart of Racial Justice, Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson say this as they reflect on Ephesians 2:

“Our God is a God of reconciliation. Ethnocentrism and racism always carry with them an understanding of salvation that violates the truth of the gospel and the necessity of the cross. Whenever our community reinforces splitting the new humanity back into its separate and alienated parts, the gospel has been undone.”

When Paul speaks of Jesus being our peace in this passage, he is pulling from the Hebrew idea of shalom. Shalom has to do with much more than the absence of conflict or hostility; it refers to a comprehensive wholeness and well-being for all within its sphere, in every area of their lives—from the spiritual to the emotional, the interpersonal to the systemic.

Racism is more than just treating one another through the lens of prejudice on a personal level. It also affects the way our systems and structures operate. The gospel of the kingdom of God declares that all of this must come under the Lordship of Jesus; therefore, all things, from the personal to the systemic, are being made new.

Shalom is what characterizes the new creation that has been launched in Christ through the resurrection. As those who have been brought into the new creation through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we have a responsibility to bear witness to the newness that will one day be fully realized. Part of bearing witness to this newness in a world shackled by racism involves pursuing racial reconciliation and justice wherever racial injustice exists.

We must begin where the gospel begins: at the level of the human heart. May we first allow the gospel to root out the racism that lies within our own hearts; and may the change in our hearts be evidenced by our lives as we stand against racism in all of its forms.

The work that the gospel does in us to address heart-level racism will be an ongoing work that must be accompanied by continual repentance and humility. As we stumble forward, let us extend grace to one another, and “let love cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; ESV).

Discuss this post with others on your leadership team or in your small group, and ask:

  1. Have you ever considered that the gospel, in and of itself, is anti-racist? Why or why not?
  2. The cross did not abolish the distinction between “Jew and Greek” but destroyed the hostility between them. How can we celebrate the way God made us, allowing for our unique ethnicities/cultures, while not letting those things divide us?

Read the final post: “Solutions: Trusting God

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