Suppose it is your first day at a new school. You enter the cafeteria by yourself and see the black kids seated in one area, the white kids in another, the Hispanic kids in another and Asian kids in still another. Now, where will you go sit down?
Is racism preferring the company of your own kind? If so, then all of us are guilty. Perhaps that is racism, but the definition I prefer is this: Racism is VALUING or DEVALUING a human being on the basis of race alone. All can apply themselves to overcoming this valuing and devaluing, but Christians above all can pursue this. We know God created and loves all the human beings and came and died for us all.
I usually get very good service at a retail counter, sometimes before those who were already ahead of me. Why is that? This is what I think. First, because I am a man. Second because I am a tall man. Third, because I am a really handsome tall man (Ha!!) Fourth, I’m a man with some age to him. Fifth, because in addition to all this, I am white.
During the OJ Simpson trial, I was pastoring a congregation in Los Angeles. One of our elders was a black man, a PhD Nuclear Physicist, holding a big job with Boeing. He grew up in south-central LA, though he admitted he wouldn’t feel safe going back. At the height of that trial, when, in LA at least, it was “All OJ, All the Time,” I asked my friend why was it almost all black folks felt OJ had been framed. He told me something I will never forget. He said, “It’s because every black man, either himself or someone he knows, has had a bad experience with a white policeman.” That opened my mind to brand new thoughts. I had only ever seen Law Enforcement as trustworthy.
I remember as a kid at the eye doctor in Columbia, SC in the mid-1960’s getting a drink at the water fountain that had a sign above it “Whites only.” That’s hard to imagine now. As President Obama said in his excellent speech at the Dallas memorial for the slain police officers, black folks have come a really long way, but prejudice still exists. What do you think? Is it better to be white or black in today’s America? Most people would say “white.” Is it better to be rich or poor in today’s America? Most people would say “rich.” Is it better to be a person of influence or no influence in today’s America? Most people would say “person of influence.”
That is the way of our American culture. It always has been, and may always be. Privilege, wealth and influence are sought after and desired. That is NOT true about life in the kingdom of God though.
Jesus had this curious message that if you’re in the kingdom of God, you’re blessed even if you are poor. Or even if you’re mourning you are still blessed. Or if you’re meek and of no reputation. Or if you’re hungry you are blessed. Or if you’re excluded and insulted but you’re in the kingdom, you are still blessed (see Luke 6:17-26). Contrary-wise, Jesus taught, even if you were to gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul, what good would that be for you?
Very odd teaching, indeed.
Jesus’ teaching should NOT be interpreted to mean we’re not to seek to better our life or seek justice. Where inequality and prejudice exists it should be dealt with. Jesus instead is addressing the reality of most human beings at most times and most places. Most aren’t rich and privileged, not the proud, not the sophisticated, not the powerful. Most human beings on this planet are just trying to survive and make it through this next day. Is there any good news for them? Or if you feel beaten down is there any good news for you?
Yes. We can have God now AND his acceptance, protection, provision, deliverance, guidance and significance. The kingdom of God is here now. It is not just heaven after death. It is available to any human being right now. You can step into the kingdom AS YOU READ THIS by entrusting yourself to Jesus Christ and begin to learn how to live in the kingdom of God as his disciple.
I’ve only been mistreated once because of my race. When I was in 7th grade it was 1967 and S.C. schools were forced to integrate. Up until then, I knew only one black kid, named George. That year I went to a previously all-black school, now 50% black and 50% white. About the second week of school, a circle of black boys surrounded me. One pulled a knife and said “If you don’t tie my shoes, I will cut you.” Lacking the courage to fight, I tied his shoes.
From that day, I had very mixed feelings about black kids. Not so much anger as fear. It was in high school though, playing on the basketball team, when things changed. After being with black players every day for months and then years, I actually at times forgot they were black. Instead they were simply Jerry and Lonnie and Albert. My friends.
In his speech at the Dallas memorial service, President Obama quoted the prophet Ezekiel and I’m so glad he did. That quote is EXACTLY right. God promised one day He would remove our hearts of stone and give us new hearts instead. This happens for people when they enter the kingdom of God. They are born again. Their innermost disposition changes for the good. It has happened to me.
THE HOPE for racial harmony comes in fullest extent when people receive life from the kingdom of God and begin to grow in love by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ. Then “your people” are not black people or white people, but instead, YOUR people are the people of God. Frankly, I have a lot more in common with black Christians, in spite of cultural differences, than with most white folks I know. Why? Because they walk with Jesus, and so are “my people” in far more profound ways.
It’s a good thing in God to be the race you were made. Those who are persecuted because of their race should remember Jesus taught, “The first shall be last, and the last, first.” So where do you go with the pain of unjust treatment? Do we fixate ourselves on blaming others? Do we live in bitterness and resentment? I go to the Lord Jesus with my pain. No mere human being can fix me. No matter how others might adjust themselves to suit my desires, my own inner agony of soul will never be healed except in God. It’s my job to find peace and healing for my soul. No one else’s.
I am resolved and have been for quite some time to neither value nor devalue another person BECAUSE OF THEIR RACE. And in addition, I invite people to enter the kingdom of God where racial inequities diminish in the blessedness of the presence of God.