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Death to Racismtrey

By Trey Harris

 

The recent video capturing the racist chants of a fraternity were sickening. But is it any more appalling than the racism we participate in or condone in our daily lives?

 

Every Sunday many of us recite the Apostles' Creed, including the line, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." This should shape our views on race and equality and justice. For, if we believe in our heavenly Father and Creator, then we believe God created humanity in God's own image. If created in God's image, then every human being deserves love and respect, despite skin color or cultural heritage.

 

God loves all people, so we are to love all people. When we don't remind each other, teach our children, immediately check racist words and actions, or preach about the value of all human beings, we invite racism to creep into our conversations, our beliefs and habits.

 

I was raised in a Christian home. Racist language or behavior was never tolerated nor modeled. Somehow I allowed racist terms and attitudes to creep into my vocabulary, way of thinking about and treating others. While attending a Christian college, I was a member of a fraternity who thought it cool or funny to make racist remarks. I'm not condoning my behavior or making excuses for it, but it was the culture and the norm at my school.

 

When college was left behind, so was most of my racist behavior, or at least to acceptable societal levels. But the occasional veiled comment accompanied by the ubiquitous raised eyebrow communicated more than any written manifesto. All this time, I was an active church member. No church leaders or members were openly racist, none promoted discrimination and no one ever spoke about the intentional segregation of churches. There were always undertones with comments like, "Well, they ("they" meant black people) have their own style of worship and we have our own style of worship. I'm sure they would feel uncomfortable here and we would be uncomfortable in their churches." Nothing was too blatantly said, just cultural barriers everyone knows should not be crossed.

 

At a Promise Keepers convention I came face to face with my own racism. A speaker talked about the subtleties of racism in the church. Then he invited us to confess our racism and confront our prejudices. I closed my eyes and bowed my head, but did not expect anything dramatic. Then God spoke to me. I was reminded of long buried feelings and attitudes that occasionally crept to the surface. At first I was indignant, after all, I wasn't a racist. Then I realized that the un-confessed sin of racism still clung to my heart. As I began to admit my sins, the tears began to flow. God's loving Spirit enveloped me and assured me of God's forgiveness and grace.

 

As I opened my eyes, I noticed an African American gentleman standing next to me, tears flowing down his cheeks too. We never spoke, never exchanged names, we simply embraced and cried. Two Jesus followers finding God's grace and forgiveness in a football stadium. It was beautiful.

           

Racism, bigotry and discrimination are nothing new. It was an issue even in the early church. Paul wrote to the Colossians concerning worldly behaviors unbecoming followers of Christ. First, he wrote of the new life in Christ.

 

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.(Colossians 3:1-4)

 

Dying to the old ways is key to living out and living into our new lives in Jesus.

 

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires...You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. (Colossians 3:5, 7-8)

 

Would singing racist songs and telling racist jokes fall into the category of "malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language?" I think so.

 

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:10-11)

 

He specifically mentioned equality among races and cultures. According to Paul, putting to death the old attitudes, habits, and prejudices associated with life before Jesus includes ridding ourselves of racism.

 

When we don't speak, preach or write against racism, and when we don't speak, preach and worship about humanity being united in Jesus, our silence speaks loudly. We participate in covert racism. In some ways, this can be more heinous than the overt singing of racist songs by a bunch of drunken fraternity boys.

 

This is Holy Week. We remember and celebrate the almost unbelievable love offering of God's Son to the entire world. Christ loves and died for ALL.

 

Treating and thinking about all people as created in God's image will help us recognize and "put to death" the attitudes that prevent us from understanding Paul's proclamation of human equality. Christ is all that matters.

 

Remember Christ's death this week. Ask Him to put to death any remnant of racism or unloving bias in your life. Then love extravagantly in the power of the Resurrection.

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Trey Harris spent ten years in corporate sales before entering the ministry of the United Methodist Church. Trey and Suzanne married in 1985 and have two married children, Jason (and Stephanie) and Rebecca (and David Gambino). He recently completed the Beeson Doctoral Program at Asbury Theological Seminary and serves as the Lead Pastor of Newsong Church in Prairieville, LA.

 

A Word From James

There are many reasons that Christ followers may fail to adequately engage in the core message of Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Church has often inadequately communicated and demonstrated the loving message of Jesus. Sometimes we don’t share the Good News because we don’t really love certain people or groups of people. Or worse, we share a message of hate instead of Jesus’ message. Help us Jesus!

 

Is there some way FollowOne can help you, your children and your church use the blessings of God to serve lost and hurting people?  

 

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