Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Answer to Racial Divisions in Churches: Jesus Christ

In many churches across the country, pastors will be preaching about Martin Luther King, Jr., or they will take about race, prejudice, or some other topic touching on the Civil Rights Movement.

In one church service, the pastor spent the greater part of his sermon talking about the different women whom he dated. He also talked about the primacy of Christ Jesus instead of culture.

Yet he spent the greater amount of time in the pulpit talking about race, prejudice, and our need to welcome all people, regardless of race, color, or creed.

What does the Bible teach about ethnic conflict, and what does the Word of God reveal about overcoming prejudice, racism or ethnic divisions in our midst?

First of all, in Christ these ethnic divisions do not exist:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3: 28)

We are called to related to one another in the Spirit, not accord to our skin, or our flesh:

"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." (2 Corinthians 5: 16)

We do not know Christ after the flesh, but after the Spirit and through His Word.

As far as the Bible is concerned, as far as the New Covenant is concerned, race and national status are marginal issues.

Yet strife about our political status will emerge from time to time. What does the Bible teach regarding this?:

"1And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6: 1-4)

The divisions between Jew and Greek starts with the division over the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. At one point, even the apostles got taken in and turned up about these ethnic divisions, and fearing the Jews, or '"the circumcision" as Paul refers to them, Peter and Barnabas would withdraw themselves from Gentile believers in order to not be shamed by the Jewish authorities. Paul the apostle would have none of this:

"And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? " (Galatians 2: 13-14)

Returning to Acts 6, there were murmurings and complainings among the Greeks and the Jews. All of this murmuring and fighting is just the "old man" breaking out, when God has called us to reckon ourselves dead in the flesh, but alive in Christ (Romans 6: 11). How did the twelve apostles handle the "racism" and "prejudice" in their midst? The reminded them who they were and why they were there, not to "serve tables" but to receive and preach the Word of God.

In effect, all of this discussion and debate about race is a big, bad distraction from the Word of God, from Jesus Christ, in whom we have (present tense, folks!) forgiveness of sins, and in whom we are accepted (Ephesians1: 6-7) The "perfect" answer to the Acts 6 problem  was "seven" (the number of perfection) men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. The Holy Spirit breaks forth in love, joy, peace, and all the other fruits of the Spirit, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit will always reveal Jesus, who is made through God to every believer wisdom, as well as righteousness, redemption, and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, and in Christ no member is of lesser repute or greater dispute:

"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Corinthians 12: 27)

To end divisions over race, class, creed, or any other fleshly thing, pastors and members of local churches need only declare Christ and Him Crucified. When men and women, no matter what their background, take in a growing revelation of Jesus Christ and his grace, there is no reason whatsoever to be bitter or prejudiced toward anyone.

The answer to ethnic strife and prejudice is not :education" about different races or accommodation of different cultures, but Jesus Christ, who is made unto Wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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