Bible Study Series

Responding to Racism — A Biblical Perspective

Article 3: Our Call to Overcome Racism

I had a thought-provoking conversation a few weeks ago. During that conversation, an old school friend of mine made an interesting comment and question. He said there have been many atrocities against black people in the past, what makes this cycle of events so different that has caused this prolonged worldwide attention? My answer to his question was summed up in one word, time.

I cannot speak on behalf of the older brethren, but everyone in their mid-40’s and under would quickly submit to the fact that there has never been such a prolonged ‘time-out’ in our lifetimes. COVID-19 has been a major contributor to what is known as a “Perfect Storm”.

we need to be clear on where we stand, and what we should be doing about it.

There have been massive shutdowns to many industries which has caused unemployment, forced vacations, and quarantines (whether sick or not). And so, in general, people have more time on their hands. People have more time to see what’s going on, to question, to observe, to investigate, and for some, to protest injustices.

I’m glad we are taking advantage of the time as well. As minorities and as brothers and sisters in Christ (in general), we need to be clear on where we stand, and what we should be doing about it.

I want to begin by considering our call, our calling from God to come out from the world. It is especially important that we understand our own calling because we are being constantly called by others in a different direction. The calling that we have responded to must be clear in our minds so that all our thoughts and desires, which end up leading to our actions, can be based on things above and not on the earth.

As of late, there has been a grassroots initiative happening not only in the United States, but also in many countries around the world. Most of these initiatives are under the banner of ‘Black Lives Matter’.

People are being called out from their homes, to join hand-in-hand, in scheduled, street protests. The purpose is to create awareness of the past and present atrocities towards blacks and demand changes in the laws so that systemic racism and violence towards minorities can be eliminated.

If we take out the looting, the violence, the vandalism, the burning down of property, and the carnival-like atmosphere out of the some protests and just consider the message being relayed, then we can admire and even agree with the things that are said and proposed.

It is tempting, indeed, for our black brethren (and other minorities for that matter) in our community to answer THEIR call and join hand-in-hand with THEM because we are suffering the injustices as well. It is tempting, indeed, for us to demand the democratic powers that be to change their laws in order to fix the problems.

But should we?

What should we be our thinking?

How should we answer THEIR call and invitation?

As I said before, a proper appreciation of our calling as brothers and sisters in Christ sets the stage for an even better response than what’s currently going on out there. Let’s begin with the basics of our calling.

I’m sure you have heard the expression ‘a bird’s eye view’. A ‘bird’s eye view’ provides the opportunity to look down on a place or a scene from a very high position. The phrase describes a view that is seen as a bird might see it, from an elevated perspective.

This phrase came to my mind after reading the last verse of Isaiah chapter 40:

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; [how?] They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”. (Isa 40:31)

what exactly does our Heavenly Father want us to see, acknowledge, and appreciate from His perspective?

The mention of the eagle drew my attention. I believe we have been invited by God to have a bird’s eye view of the problems that transpire in the world. He has invited us to see things from His point of view. This is obviously not about a literal, physical vantage point. Physically we are on ground level; we are in the world. But in our way of life, in our mindset emotionally and spiritually, we are not to be entangled in or be “of the world” according to John 17:6-19 and 2 Timothy 2:4. So what exactly does our Heavenly Father want us to see, acknowledge, and appreciate from His perspective?

Earlier in Isaiah 40, God tells Isaiah to “Cry” (v.6). That word literally means to “accost”, that is, to aggressively approach and speak to someone. Isaiah’s purpose here is to wake us up and aggressively speak to our hearts. And the message couldn’t be clearer:

The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isa 40:6-8)

The “all flesh” mentioned in v.6, is referred to as “nations” in v.15 and 17, as “isles” in v.15, as “grasshoppers” in v.22, and as “princes and judges” in v.23.

The “goodliness” mentioned in v.6, that the “all flesh” representatives attempt to demonstrate, and apply to law, is filled with weaknesses and is essentially doomed for failure.

Brother Nigel (in Article 1: The Nature of Man) spoke about the root of the problem in his first address – the nature of man. The goodliness that mankind tries to implement doesn’t last, because the world’s inherent, carnal nature will always find a way to tear it down. The results of good intentions by the efforts of mankind are mentioned here; they appear as beautiful as a “flower of the field” when they first bloom (v.7), but later they slowly “fade” away.

Jesus was the one who came in the flesh and held peaceful protests. He cried and asked people to repent… and asked for hearts to be changed

They “fade” just like mankind (the grass) withers away, due to their lack of continuity and durability. God is inviting us to see the difference from His vantage point. God’s goodliness, His proposed measures for change, His implementation plan, His “word” is durable, it “shall stand forever”.

The “word” being referred to here (v.8) can also be attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the “word made flesh”. He was the one who came in the flesh and held peaceful protests. He cried and asked people to repent, because the kingdom of God was at hand. He taught people about godliness. In fact, he embodied the glory that will fill God’s future kingdom. He asked for hearts to be changed according to God’s word that stands forever.

Jesus was a stark contrast from those mentioned in this chapter. God’s perfect implementation of righteous rule, which shall surely come through Jesus Christ, is mentioned a few verses later:

Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:10-11)

The mention of Jesus Christ’s bosom here in v.11 is the eye-opener. It reminds us that the expression “a bird’s eye view” is an understatement (in regard to what God has offered His people). Birds must land at some point; they do become “weary” and they do “faint” from tiredness. But those in the bosom of Christ, those who wait upon the LORD can run and not be “weary”; They can walk and not be “faint”.

Ephesians chapter 2 reminds us that our wings (figuratively speaking) are not natural and weak as the birds. Notice the connection to Isaiah 40:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph 2:4-6)

God has pulled us out from the “all flesh” group in Isaiah 40. We have been pulled out from the grassroots calling to something much better. We have been baptized in Christ Jesus; we are one in him where,

“there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female: for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

We have been “quickened”, which means we have been revived and born again in Christ Jesus. We are being told that our thinking, our purpose in life, our disposition to things are no longer of an earthly nature. It is now of the spirit, because we have been raised up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In fellowship, we have joined the plan and purpose of the Father with the Son, and to comprehend the natural elements as they do.

Our calling is beautiful! It is not to be compared with anything else!

Paul refers to that same calling in Philippians as the “high calling”:

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:14)

The “mark” or goal is our Lord Jesus Christ; this is the one we must keep our eyes focused upon as we run towards the Kingdom. As Hebrews 12:2 puts it, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”.

And the “prize” being referred to here is not the prize of a temporary fix that will fade and wither because of its lack of durability and inherent weaknesses. The prize we are running towards is of the “high calling”. It lasts; it stands for ever; it is the resurrection from the dead according to the context of this verse. And from here the Kingdom of God will be ushered in. God’s “goodliness” shall stand forever when his,

“law shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:3).
“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded” (Phil 3:15).

There are more observations that come from Isaiah 40. When I read this chapter, I can’t help but notice the illusions to the image that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed in the book of Daniel. An image, of course, is an idol, and we know they are worthless things. The image from Daniel represents the kingdoms of men. The first two metals (gold and silver) of that vain idol are mentioned Isaiah 40:

The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. (Isa 40:19-20)

These are the inventions of mankind, of which Solomon says,

“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” (Ecc 7:29).

The mention of the other elements is not required to arrive at the result. Isaiah is clear about the result of mankind’s attempts to implement something of substance, something that lasts.

Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. (Isaiah 40:24)

The whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.The connections here are marvelous: The “strong hand”, “the arm”, the “shepherd” of the flock (v.10,11) are being equated to the stone of Daniel 2:

…a stone [Jesus Christ] was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Dan 2:34-35)

And here we are living in the times of the iron and clay representing the weakness of democracy.

The flesh, the nations, the isles, the grasshoppers, the princes, and the judges of Isaiah have all contributed to the various forms of earth’s failing governments. This idol, which represents the kingdom of men, will soon be replaced.

And here we are living in the times of the iron and clay representing the weakness of democracy. Has it come into our thoughts or are we being seduced to come down from our high calling to participate in the inventions of man by promoting, supporting, and demanding changes to a system that we know has weakness, lacks durability, and will be destroyed by the stone, Jesus Christ?

Channeling our efforts towards that cause will result in us becoming weary and faint because we will be occupying ourselves with something that withers and fades. The initiatives and solutions of mankind to this world’s problems are terribly unstable. They promise that the reforms will be well rooted and planted, and even immovable (v.20). But the graven image, and all the inventions that it represents, will not last.

Interesting to note: It is for this same reason we refrain from voting and involving ourselves in politics at all.

You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.” (2 Pet 3:17 NLT)

Just because we have a better understanding of how things will eventually play out doesn’t mean we should just fold our arms and be spectators to all that’s happening.

That secure footing is indeed, in the heavenly places. It is this elevated view of things we have been given in Christ.

So, what can we do “in Christ”?

Just because we have a better handle, a better view, a better understanding of how things will eventually play out doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sharing that view. We shouldn’t just fold our arms and be spectators to all that’s happening. We can all make a significant contribution.

We can all encourage one another and call each other out to work in the harvest. Jesus said,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matt 9:37)

We must be those laborers. The harvest has never been so plentiful like it is now. The opportunity to do the Lord’s work has never been as timely as it is now because there are so many people looking for answers. But what should our contribution be? What should we cry out?

The opportunity to do the Lord’s work has never been as timely as it is now because there are so many people looking for answers.

We should cry out the message of love in Christ as opposed to the message of:

“an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe.” (Ex 21:24)

We should cry out an invitation to know the truth concerning Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. We should surely highlight the injustices that the government has allowed and its inability to fix them. We should tell them of God’s plan to correct those injustices. We should tell them of the new government with the new king who is coming and of God’s righteous plan which will stand for ever.

We should highlight the injustices, we should tell of God’s plan to correct those injustices, we should tell about the new king who is coming 

Paraphrasing Psalm 146: 7-10: God will execute ‘judgment for the oppressed and give food to the hungry; he will open the eyes of the blind and raise those that are bowed down’.

This passage says the LORD “loveth the righteous”, so we can be assured that He will act on our behalf. Verse 9 says, “the way of the wicked He turneth upside down”. And lastly, verse 10 says,

“The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD”.

We should cry the message of Psalm 82:

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations. (Psa 82:1-8)

Look how v.1 establishes God’s high position as he sits upon the circle of the earth. And then in v.2-4 he lays out the expectations of righteous rule in the form of questions and commands. But God knows mankind fails to uphold them, and so in v.5-7 He indicts them for their failure. So far this is a bleak picture, but not all is lost. Our God, through the work of His son will intervene (v.8).

Whether we organize public lectures online (as we are being forced to do now), or we do our own personal witness at work or among our friends, the only effective initiative is the one that shares with others our hope and our faith.

the only effective initiative is the one that shares with others our hope and our faith.

Will everyone welcome and receive this message?

In most cases probably not. Jesus warned his disciples:

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (Jn 15:19)

Does that mean we shouldn’t call out to the harvest with our message?

But how can we refuse? We have been instructed to take up HIS cross and follow HIM. What are the consequences of taking up his cross? Jesus suffered as a result of the message he proclaimed. Isaiah tells us,

“he was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isa 53:7)

Peter, referencing Isaiah, says,

“when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).

Paul is equally clear we must share in his sufferings (-see Rom 8:17, Phil 3:10).

…rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Pet 4:13)

In conclusion, Jesus Christ has not called us out to the streets to protest and join in other callings. Jesus is explicit:If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight” (Jn 18:36).

Indeed, our kingdom is not of this world. Our kingdom will be based on an enduring love, on mercy and grace, for in it,

“God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev 21:4).

It is our love for one another, our hope and faith in what is coming that helps us overcome all wickedness. We must continue to look for that city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

It is true, those of us who comprise the population of visible minorities, will be subjected to additional trials. But we need to keep God’s plan and the love of Christ in focus. And we must also put everything in prayer to our Father and faithfully wait for the results:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Brother Ian Neblett


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