Are you a racist? Are you given to prejudice? Most of us might be quick to say “absolutely not!” Not so fast.
This coming week we will celebrate a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His courageous, bold and sacrificial leadership forever changed the social landscape of America. At an incredibly high cost to himself and his family, he challenged us to dream about a better way of living. I believe he planted seeds of righteousness that have yet to reach their full potential.
Sadly, racism and prejudice still appear to be very much alive and well in America. All anyone has to do is pay attention to the evening news to know that this is true. Recent events in Ferguson, MO, and Long Island, NY, to name a just a few, drive the point home. While we are quick to say that America is the land of equality, perhaps it’s not as equal as we advertise it to be.
How’s the church doing? It’s been said that the most highly segregated hour in America is still 11:00 AM on Sunday. What’s happening then? Yeah… church. The worship of God. There are “white” churches and there are “black” churches and churches of just about every color. Whenever we separate ourselves into “us” and “them,” I would suggest we are missing the mark. We are missing the dream—of Jesus.
Churches that are a true foretaste of heaven are those that gather people of different colors and nationalities together and forget about individual differences for the sole purpose of focusing on the unity all share in God. Paul said it this way in Galatians 3:28-29,
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Churches who take this seriously are churches which pay no attention to ethnicity. These are places committed to reflecting the nature of the communities where they exist. All people are welcome; all people are included. In these churches nobody thinks they are better than anyone else. Only in such places is the unity of Christ realized.
To be given to prejudice simply means you are given to “pre-judge” people. You do this whenever you make assumptions about someone’s character or motives based on outward appearances or stereotypes, long before you bother to actually get to know them to determine if your conclusions accurately reflect them. To be a racist is simply to believe that one race of people is superior to another. We can do this with ethnicities, and we can do this with nationalities. It’s never the right or godly thing to do.
Jesus, in telling the parable of Good Samaritan, went straight to the heart of the issue when he made the “wrong guy” the hero of his story. The priest and the Levite were everybody’s bet on who the good guy of the story would be, never the Samaritan. Jesus, in doing this was sending a very strong statement, “It’s never wise or prudent to determine the character of someone based on any preconceived notions you might hold of them.” His hearers were appalled at his point. But until you get to know a person, you are not in a position to decide what they are about.
If he told this story today, he might make a Palestinian, or a Muslim, or a ? the hero. If you want to get the point, insert anyone you 1) are afraid of, 2) think you’re better than, or 3) dislike. The more the thought upsets you, the more it’s hitting the mark.
As we gather this weekend, let’s all remember that at the foot of the cross we are all equal. We are all sinners. We are all given an offer to be saved by grace, and we are all equally in need of forgiveness. This is what we celebrate and what is truly worth celebrating! Let’s do church… together!