Bible Study Series

Responding to Racism — A Biblical Perspective

Article 1: The Nature of Man

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The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the hearts. (Jer 17:9)

Whenever the Bible speaks about our heart, it might be good to note that it is not referring to the physical organ that pumps oxygenated blood around our bodies that we might live, move and breathe. Rather, the heart is the inner-most being of a person, the totality of one’s entire being that includes their desires, their feelings and their thoughts. It has no color or race, ethnicity or tribe, but is filled with intents and purposes of every human being in their very natural state. Though, we sometimes like to think very differently about ourselves, it is Yahweh who searches our hearts and tells us what it is in its natural state.

It is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things, and out of it proceed evil thoughts.

What this means is that irrespective of who we are, or even how long we have been in the Truth, we all have the ability within us to indulge ourselves in every possible evil under the sun, given the right situation and circumstance before us. It is only by the grace of God, and for no other reason, we are who we are today.

The common ground, upon which all of mankind was born, is after the similitude of the transgressions of the very first man, Adam.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom 5:12)
For by man came death…as in Adam all die… (1 Cor 15:21-22)

Go back to the Genesis account when Yahweh created the very first man and recall how God’s very first creation was affected by sin throughout the ages that followed.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:27-28)

It was always the intent and purpose of Yahweh from the very beginning to have this wonderful creation ruled over by the man He made.

And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.  (Gen 1:31) 

We were never created perfect from the very foundations of the world, but instead, the record tells us quite explicitly that we were created very good.

When that “very good” state of man was tested, however, it never produced the intended result; the consequence was that sin & death entered into the world.

The command given was very direct:

Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:16-17) 

Here is man in a state of being “very good”, and with a 99% chance of success in a single test through the commandment given by Yahweh; and he failed. Remember how this transpired.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened. (Gen 3:6-7) 

Evil was born, and this evil has found its way among God’s creation, among His people; and subsequently, into God’s world that was so beautifully created.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… (Rom 5:12) 

What then is sin?

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (i.e. God’s law). (1 Jn 3:4) 

When Adam & Eve chose to follow the serpent’s temptation to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their decision drastically affected the human heart and it became tainted with evil. The subsequent generations also felt the dying effects of this selfish decision.

It therefore remains no fault of ours that we were born into this sinful world; make no mistake about this.

Having created us very good, God laid before us His commandment, and in that single commandment, perhaps without realizing it, God also gave Adam one of the most important ingredients in his life – THE POWER OF CHOICE.

That ingredient, “choice,” has affected the human race to this very day. It remains part of us; it’s built into our DNA, if you will, and it helps each of us to determine the course of our lives.

Our lives in the Truth MUST, therefore, be measured by the higher standard set before us by our Heavenly Father, and MUST be governed by His instructions.

Of greater importance, it also gives us the same ability Adam had in Eden, that is, to make a choice of either GOOD or EVIL when confronted with various situations that present themselves before us, especially so as disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Thus, John exhorts us:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)

Our lives in the Truth MUST, therefore, be measured by the higher standard set before us by our Heavenly Father, and MUST be governed by His instructions.

He who created us understands the effect evil in the world has on our thinking and lives, and warns us not to be caught up with its enticements, however good it may feel or sound, because the world will truly pass, along with the lusts of this nature inherited from sin.  But, when that is all done, only one thing will be left standing, “the will of God”, which is, a world without sin.

So, God continues to test the character of every single human being and every single disciple to bring about His divine plan. And we, just like Adam, are also called to make critical choices and critical decisions every day of our lives. To this intent, James reminds us:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (With Evil). But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jas 1:13-15, ESV) 

God continues to test the character of every single human being and every single disciple to bring about His divine plan.

Note what James says: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

James is exhorting us here with a message of individuality when it comes to overcoming the tests and the inevitable challenges we face on a daily basis by using such phrases: “Each person”, “he is lured”, “his own desire”.

We, therefore, all have an individual responsibility before God when it comes to the evil we chose to do in our lives. Evil remains a choice of ours. But where does it come from, where did it originate? Is it not out of our hearts; out of our natural desires?

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: (Matt 15:19)

Mark emphasizes the same point in a parallel record:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within (Mar 7:21-23)

We, therefore, all have an individual responsibility before God when it comes to the evil we chose to do in our lives.

It is that which comes from within us that defiles us, and the only antidote for sin, for these natural tendencies, for transgressions that’s deeply rooted in our hearts and minds, is the engrafted word of God.

It follows, therefore, that if we fail to associate ourselves with God’s word, and if we fail to meditate upon it day and night, there’s absolutely no chance for the “natural man” to live a life any different from the rest of the world.

The apostle Paul made this problem a bit more explicit for us in his letter to Galatia:

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies (wild parties), and do other things like these. (Gal 5:19-21, GNB) 

This, very sadly, is who we are by our very nature; these inherent characteristics and qualities within us, dominate the life of every human being exposed to the elements of the world and its many influences. If we are without any restraint and guidance from the word of God in our lives, this is what our life will look like.

Hearts that are so committed to doing such evil, often become hardened, and those who persistently refuse to listen to God’s word, and to obey what He commands, following instead their own wicked desires, will in due course lose all measure of sensitivity to God’s word, and be left to the abuse of all worldly measures.

The act of jealousy, anger and murder, for example, came almost immediately after the fall of man in Eden, when the older of two children of the very first man and woman, rose up against his younger brother in a rage of jealousy, because the LORD had respect for the younger’s offering, over that of the older brother Cain.

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? …his countenance was very sad. If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Gen 4:6-8)

Cain failed miserably in his bid to rule over sin by falling victim to the temptation presented by it. It is a very real battle in our members as the apostle Paul expressed it:

For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice. But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (Rom 7:19-24)

How are we then, who are born after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, to overcome such great a sin and evil in our lives today?

As time elapsed, and generations multiplied in the earth, even Yahweh Himself was overcome with emotion at what His wonderful creation had evolved into and was forced to take the most severe action against the evil that men do.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Gen 6:5-7)

We, therefore, all have an individual responsibility before God when it comes to the evil we chose to do in our lives.

With great sadness we read that eight people were saved out of this great flood, only eight

But it was Jesus who prophesied and said: “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt 24:37)

Recall again what it was like in Noah’s day: “The thoughts and imaginations of man’s heart was only evil from his youth”

What is even sadder is the fact that, given a fresh start, our world is absolutely no different today than it was before the flood.

Why? Why aren’t we any better after a fresh start? Why aren’t we different after the world was cleaned of all its filth?

It all goes back to our hearts. It all goes back to the natural state of man. It all goes back to sin in Eden. It all goes back to what lies within us. And unless all 8 billion people here on earth today are purged of these natural tendencies, our individual fight to change the world remains futile, incapable of producing any useful results, and in some measure, pointless.

Why aren’t we different after the world was cleaned of all its filth?

Why aren’t we different after the world was cleaned of all its filth? It all goes back to what lies within us.

Total reliance on a better world can only be found with Almighty God and His son, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. There is no other way given among men wherein this can be accomplished.

That being said, it does not mean we agree with the many things happening around our world today. There are many evils evident on a daily basis before us. Racism happens to be one such thing which will be picked up in more detail by others in this series.

Here are some sound instructions from the writer of the Proverbs to establish our ways in Yahweh:

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. (Prov 4:20-27)

So here we are yet again, in the year 2020, where all the works of the flesh are very evident before our eyes across the globe; and more specifically, with the recent events that caught this country, and world, by storm when “a black man” was killed by the hands of “a white police officer”.

Many are outraged, totally frustrated & disgusted with such events still taking place in this so-called “great country”, and I do understand, in some measure, the outpouring of anger in many, and the devastating impact on brothers and sisters of like precious faith. What concerns me most, and has been the driving force behind these studies, is to set out a course of action for all who feel compelled to literally join “the fight”. We also hope to provide a basis of discussion on these issues very different from that of the world, a basis firmly grounded in the Scriptures and in the life, mission and ministry of our Lord who was truly in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

The circumstance of these events hit very close to mine own home when my 20-year-old son, a brother in the Truth, wanted to take to the streets in an act of protest over this troubling injustice. This was deeply troubling. I’m quite sure the impact of this story echoed throughout your homes too, and throughout the many regions of the world and among all colors. We must seek better ways to deal with the evil of racism, and not to allow human attitudes to have a place in our lives, and in the Truth, we hold so dearly in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Those of us who perhaps remained silent on this topic, not willfully, but simply because we didn’t feel qualified to speak on such issues because of the difference in the color of our skin, or perhaps were uncomfortable, knowing the sensitivity that underlies this topic, or even those who did not want to stir up strife in our meeting place: we should all feel a sense of responsibility in creating a platform and atmosphere that pleases Christ in everything we do, and also one that helps nurture the weak and struggling, so we all might find a place in God’s Kingdom.

That being said, I’d like to share an excerpt from the newsletter brilliantly written by bro. Dan Langston of the Moorestown Ecclesia:

“The events taking place in this country as it concerns the perpetuation of gross injustices and system racism are deeply troubling to anyone who accepts without reservation that men are all made in the image of his Creator. Our relation and behavior one toward another are laid out in definite terms in God’s word, namely that He has “made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26).

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. (Act 17:24-27) 

Following from that revelation, our actions and thoughts toward our fellow man must be without partiality, in all respects. It is James who strongly warned us against favoring men on the basis of outward appearance. For example, asking of those who would do so, “Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:4) He continues,

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8 ESV).

The sin of partiality leads naturally to injustice and oppression – an evil, we will recall, for which God dramatically and devastatingly judged Egypt”.

Considering the fact that it took Yahweh Himself 10 plagues to turn Pharaoh’s heart to let the children of Israel go from Egypt, and who were heavily burdened by its forced legacy of enslavement, and the subsequent acts of discrimination, racism and injustices, how do we reckon our direct involvement with the powers today, whose hearts are equally evil and desperately wicked above all things, to bring about the kind of justice the world desperately needs?

Very recently, I attended the funeral of a 27 year old “black man”, son of one of my managers, who was mercilessly gunned down at the hands of another “black man”, something which is equally disturbing and devastating to me as a human being, much more a brother in Christ.

This is the point I wish to make: Because there are so many things wrong with this nature of ours, which of us truly can prepare ourselves for this battle? I thank God for the saving grace through Jesus Christ our Lord! This has been, and will continue to be, the one issue that every generation will have to contend with, until he comes whose right it is.

—John Thomas (Elpis Israel, 15th edition, p331-332): “Mankind have not yet learned that the world’s redemption from all its evils is from God; nor are they aware, that they have neither virtue, knowledge, power, nor wisdom, enough, to deliver themselves from their miseries, and to re-constitute society to the promotion of their own happiness, and to the glory and honor of the Most High. There is no man, nor any combination of men, under the heavens, that is competent to the work of social regeneration. If individuals be unable to regenerate themselves, which is unquestionable; no association of persons however multitudinous, can renew the world, and make it what it ought to be. That it needs regeneration is self-evident to all the ‘sons of light;’ and that it cannot of itself compass that necessity is equally apparent to all, save those who are of the night. What then is the hope of the believer in the world’s extremity? Let the ‘testimony of God’ be our oracle; and let Him reveal to us the help He has provided, the deliverance in reserve.”

—HP Mansfield (The Logos, Dec 1963): “As brethren of Christ, who are ‘CALLED OUT’ of the nations about us (Acts 15:14), we must strictly stand apart from such currents of thoughts, and not allow ourselves to become identified with any political moves one way or the other. CHRIST ALONE CAN SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS. We have nothing to do with them at all, except to observe them as part of the pattern of life in which we live, and await the solution that Divine wisdom will ultimately reveal. We cannot afford to take sides today, whether we are colored or white. A strict neutrality in such issues must be observed by us… Let us bear well in mind our Scriptural standing in the country where the accident of birth has placed us. We have here no permanent resting place. We are not of USA, Australia, Germany or Great Britain, but we are of ISRAEL. And not the Israel of the Middle East today, but that of the future. As soon as we lose our sense of proportion to things happening about us, as soon as we forget that we have been ‘taken out’ of the nations, as soon as we identify ourselves with national aspirations, we are in serious danger of losing our spiritual heritage…. Never let us lose our sense of proportion and perspective in regard to current issues, but ever bear in mind the temporary nature of the present way of life, and seek the permanent things of the kingdom of God. In due time it will supplant all the things that disturb the minds of men now, and will reveal the glory of Yahweh’s truth in every avenue of life.”

—Harry Tennant (The Christadelphians: What They Believe and Preach, 1986, p228-229): “…the disciple’s thrust of life is in ‘seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). He is not directed by Christ to be a great social reformer or a ‘Christian’ political campaigner or a leader of protest movements of any kind. The New Testament steers the believer away from these things as not being appropriate or suitable for the life of the disciple. Disciples are scattered worldwide, live in all kinds of countries and under all kinds of governments, democratic and otherwise; and in social conditions which vary very widely. Is the disciple to choose the best of these and seek to bring about changes in the country in which he lives in order to achieve these things? …Christ was primarily concerned with showing the disciple how to live in the circumstances in which he finds himself. Christianity is not designed for this or that country, for this or that way of life; it is designed to survive everywhere, under all conditions. There are no Scriptural injunctions telling the disciple how to put the world right, or that he should be concerned in doing so. His concern is to live a Christlike life in his own country and under existing conditions… The world has its way of life and the disciples has the Christ way. They are different ways of serving different ends.”

—Peter (2 Pet 2:20-24):For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.”

Nigel Small, Moorestown Ecclesia

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