George Floyd’s murder is shining a national spotlight on racism. Since his murder video went viral, I have spent a lot of time reading and listening to many different perspectives. I have listened to voices on the right, the middle, and the left. I have been doing my best to “be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).
As a white man, I am trying my best to listen carefully to the abuse black people have suffered over the years. Though I may not say everything perfect, my heart aches for the suffering black Americans have endured.
The cover for an upcoming edition of the New Yorker says it all. In one image, it depicts what many black Americans feel right now.
George Floyd’s face is at the top. As you look downward, filling the outline of Floyd’s shoulders, chest, and waist are faces and symbols of violence against black Americans over the past 400 years. This includes black men and women whose deaths have recently made the headlines; icons of the Civil Rights Movement; and images symbolic of unnamed millions of black people enslaved throughout American history.
The Power of Forgiveness
This past Sunday at our church, Larry Rowe shared his experience with racism living in the Deep South. Larry, a black man in his seventies, lived through the Civil Rights Movement and knows deeply what racism feels like. I highly recommend listening to his testimony.
One story stood out. A leader of the KKK, whose nickname was “Red,” manipulated Larry to do a job where he daily encountered rattlesnakes. When Larry tried to resign after several months of dangerous labor, “Red” tried to beat him with a switch but Larry escaped.
Years later, Larry saw “Red”—a frail representation of what he used to be as aging and a stroke took a toll on his body. To Larry’s shock, “Red” was playing checkers with black men. Long story short, “Red” had given his life to Jesus Christ, experienced the power of Christ’s forgiveness, and asked all who he hurt to forgive him.
When Larry initially saw “Red,” it triggered many different emotions of pain and anger. But the Lord insisted that Larry forgive him from the heart. He did and the two were reconciled. Larry even sang at “Red’s” funeral.
What a beautiful story of the power of forgiveness. Hated enemies became amiable friends by the love of Christ.
The Tension in the Middle
Ever since the white cop put his knee on Floyd’s neck and suffocated him to death, many things have been said about racism and injustice. Most Americans truly want racism to end. We want any injustice against black men and women to be abolished. We want our police departments and legal system to be reformed where appropriate.
At the same time, we must discern and resist the radical left’s and the globalists’ agenda, who want to foment civil unrest, anarchy, and lawlessness. These want to destroy America and the constitution. Their goal is to create a Marxist revolution and establish socialism.
For some reason, people struggle embracing truth from different perspectives. They go to either the far left or the far right without balancing the tension in the middle. But truth is often found in the middle, where the circles come together and intersect.
This means it is possible to be against racism and to be against defunding the police, lawlessness, riots, and anarchy. It is possible to be against unjust police brutality against black people and against false accusations toward the police who lawfully do their job. It is possible to be against white supremacy and against white guilt at the same time.
Love Triumphs Over the Law
Recently, I have been teaching from Galatians. One thing stands out crystal clear. Laws can never change the human heart. Only the love of the Spirit can rewire us internally.
Before going further, please know I wholeheartedly agree with Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
Though true, external laws, political solutions, and reforms in our justice system can only do so much. Ultimately, only God can change the human heart. Only God’s Spirit, who pours His love upon the hearts of His people, can transform our deepest desires, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Only the love of Christ can triumph over racism.
As Paul said, “If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (Gal. 3:21). “If righteousness,” could come “through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21).
Paul said, “The whole Law is fulfilled in one word” (Gal. 5:14). What is this word? Love. Loving our neighbor as ourselves by the love of the Spirit always trumps external legislation.
When men and women in whom Christ dwells yield to Him, the fruit of the Spirit is produced. This fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control always transcends laws—even laws that come directly from God, like the 10 commandments (Gal. 5:22-23).
Ultimately, racism goes much deeper than the color of one’s skin. Racism is mostly about the nature of one’s heart.
Racism manifests from the cancerous pride lurking in every human heart. It is a belief that my race or tribe is better than another group of people because of certain traits or characteristics, such as the color of my skin. So, while I am all for social and legal reform where needed, this alone can never eradicate racism.
First-Century Racism Between Jew and Gentile
It would do us well to leave the twenty-first century for a moment and travel back in time to the first century. Seeing how Paul confronted and solved racism will most definitely help us today.
Like Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc. 1:9). “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done” (Ecc. 1:9). As the famous saying goes, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
In the first century, Jews and Gentiles despised one another. In all of human history, nothing compared to the animosity, hatred, and violence between Jew and Gentile prior to Christ.
A first-century Jew looked at “uncircumcised” Gentiles—whether Roman, Greek, Syrian, Asian, or African—as less-than-human dogs (Matt. 15:6-27). In the first-century Jewish mind, God handpicked the Jews to be His chosen people and the pagan Gentiles were demon-worshipping sons of the devil.
Read Galatians 2 and you will see how deep the Jew’s contempt was for the unclean Gentiles. Peter, the most famous church leader of the predominately Jewish church, stopped eating with Gentiles because he didn’t want to be defiled.
On the flipside, Gentiles viewed the holier-than-thou Jews with spite and envy. Their mouths watered at the thought of the Jews disobeying the Law. They knew sin would remove the Lord’s firewall of protection, allowing them to attack, oppress, and conquer them. This happened with Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome.
The racism between Jew and Gentile was so deeply ingrained the Lord had to speak three times to Peter in an open trance, telling Peter He was welcoming the Gentiles into His family. Even after this dramatic experience, the Lord had to tell Peter, “Go downstairs and accompany them [the Gentiles] without misgivings” (Acts 10:20, emphasis mine). When the Lord poured out His Spirit on the Gentiles, it shocked Peter and the rest of the Jewish church.
Because of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, the Lord has removed the barrier between Jew and Gentile. The Law, which had separated Jews from Gentiles until Messiah came, was crucified with Christ on the cross (Eph. 2:14-15). The result: The Holy Spirit made “the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:15).
Christ Ended Jew-Gentile Racism
In a dramatic turnabout—to the shock of the first-century world who experienced the racial divide between Jew and Gentile for centuries—a group of people emerged who overcame racism. They transcended the racial hostility and became one in Jesus Christ. I am talking about the church—the ekklēsia.
Paul told the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
The church, the ekklēsia, comprised of various societal, racial, and gender divides, became one body in Jesus Christ. The first-century world stood in awe as they watched those who hated each other begin to love one another.
Jesus said they “will know that you are My disciples” by your “love for one another” (John 13:35). Citizens in the Roman Empire were astonished watching hated enemies eating together, working together, and taking care of one another.
All dividing distinctions were erased in the ekklēsia. A group from many classes, races, and nationalities became one spiritual family in Jesus Christ.
The Third Race
Paul said, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). Based upon this statement, early Christians referred to themselves as the “third race.” Get this: The church of Jesus is an entirely different race.
When I use the word church, I am not referring to a building, an event, a service, a message, music, or ministry. I’m referring to the people who have Christ’s indwelling life, are members of His body, and who meet together regularly under His headship. This church is a new creation—a new race of men and women without racial, social, and gender divide.
This body of Jesus Christ, His very body in the earth, is meant to organically express Christ in this world. The church has a heavenly calling to demonstrate to a world inflamed with racial discrimination what it looks like when black and white, male and female, American, African, Asian, and every other nationality become one spiritual family in Christ.
Paul said the church should have “no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman” (Col. 3:11).
The church is a new race of men and women—comprised of every skin color, nationality, tribe, and tongue. The church is called to embody the every-tribe-and-tongue reality of heaven right now in the earth (Rev. 7:9).
The Body of Christ Is Christ
Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Cor. 6:15). Those in whom Christ dwells are members of His very own body. The church is Jesus Christ on the earth.
Because of the indwelling Spirit, we are connected to the risen Christ. We have a vital life-union with Him. We are partakers of His life.
Paul made an amazing statement when he said, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
The body of Christ on earth is Christ. What a profound statement and revelation! The fullness of Christ is Christ the head in heaven joined to Christ the body on earth. We are literally the expression of Christ’s heavenly life in the earth. Of course, that doesn’t make us gods. But we are a corporate vessel that God fills and possesses.
Christ Is the Only Lasting Solution to Racism
What does all of this mean in light modern-day racism? It means Jesus Christ, the most unifying person in history, is the only lasting solution to racism—or any ism for that matter, including racism, genderism, nationalism, etc.
Only by the impartation of Christ’s indwelling life within His people, our yielding fully to His life, and us being joined to others who are filled with His life—whether black, white, male, female, American, Asian, African, or any other nationality—can we have true unity.
If Christ broke down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile in the first century, He can most certainly do it again in our day. The church, the body of Christ filled with His divine life and overflowing with His love, is God’s ultimate answer to racism.
Political solutions will always be limited. Justice reform can only go so far. External legislation will never be able to transform internal issues of the heart.
All of these things are good and welcomed, but they can’t extract the cancer of racism from the human heart. Only Christ, the finished work of the cross, and the indwelling Spirit can ultimately eradicate racism.
The Church’s Opportunity
Right now, with the centuries-old wound of racism reopened in America, the church of Jesus Christ has an incredible opportunity. Jesus prayed that His people—from every tribe, tongue, nation, and race—would be one (John 17:21). When this happens, the world will believe that God sent Jesus as the Savior of the world (John 17:21).
What would happen if the church, the people in whom Christ dwells, truly began to love one another without personal favoritism? What would happen if we proved we are Christ followers by our love?
The world, who presently uses Jesus Christ’s name as a curse word, would see His life and love displayed in real, visible, tangible, and experiential ways through His body. Just as the first-century church shocked the Roman world by their love, the twenty-first-century church can demonstrate Christ’s life and love to a world on fire.
Let’s not waste this opportunity to demonstrate what the third race looks like to a world searching for answers. Let’s show them what one spiritual family looks like—comprised of every race, tribe, tongue, and nationality.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of racial equality. God has a dream that goes even deeper. He dreams of one unified church of Jew, Gentile, male, female, black, white, and every nationality.
By the Spirit, let’s become the church of God’s dream that shines Christ’s life, love, and light to a dark world searching desperately for answers.
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