We come now to our final installment on this matter of racism. Our intention has been to produce a Biblical perspective and response. It needs to be made very clear that this is not an attack in any way on white brethren or black brethren! We can testify that in most of the brethren we know, and can assume the same for those we do not know, there is no overt prejudice, and no intention to be prejudicial to anyone.
However, the reason for these four studies is to deal largely with the perceptions of our young people in light of the recent horror scenes being displayed on the public media, scenes which have generated anger and confusion among them. They have seen these things and they need answers!
Our intention has been to produce a Biblical perspective and response.
Where are they to find these answers? …on street corners? …Facebook? …the gossip columns of the media? We older brethren, who have seen all this play out before, have an option to say nothing and hope things will eventually quiet down.
But, even if things do quiet down, the underlying passions and doubts have already been sown in ignorance and will only erupt at a later time, with worse effects that can fragment ecclesias!
I suggest we do not fear to handle the matter openly and dispassionately within our ecclesias in pointing our young people in the right direction. When we ignore an issue, we open the way for doubt into which can step all sorts of lies and propaganda that can do far worse damage to the Body of Christ. So, let us at least try to see what ought to be done within our ecclesias.
Many of us may have heard the story of the police officer who treated a black resident quite differently from a white neighbor during a disturbance in a luxury neighborhood. The black resident was forced to prove the house where he said he lived was indeed his own, by placing his door key in the lock of his own front door and turning it open. Whereas the word alone of the white neighbor was sufficient to prove his residency and no such evidence was asked for.
Racism is an evil disease, but where did it come from, we may ask? It arises from a basic prejudice from not understanding or valuing differences.
Let us, then, look at examples within the Scriptures to see whether there are lessons for us to be learned in confronting this evil disease of racism
Where does prejudice come from? Prejudice arises from the erroneous belief that in order to make ourselves better we must put down those around us. We win, not by excelling with our own talents, but by undermining those around us. Our need to feel important and valued leads us to believe we must be the best.
In the Bible we see it springs from the “pride of life”:
It was displayed first in Garden of Eden:
It follows that mankind would always find a way to express personal or group superiority over his fellow man. If Africans were not picked on, then men would look for who they consider the next inferior. Race is just a first call! If there were only one race, then the next stop in line would be found…maybe differences in tribes, or castes, or skin color, or eye color, or social standing. Jeremiah says:
We cannot escape the heart or run from our own selves. To varying degrees, we are ALL guilty of prejudice, though we may deny it openly. We must, therefore, be brutally honest with ourselves and confront it with the Word of God, which alone is the foremost source of all wisdom.
Let us, then, look at examples within the Scriptures to see whether there are lessons for us to be learned in confronting this evil disease of racism. And we must begin within the Household of Faith: I submit that for the brotherhood this should be a major concern, not for the protestors in the streets.
The Real Question
Is there racial prejudice within our ecclesias? Most certainly NOT! Well, I can hear some thinking that he must be mad to dare ask that question. Or, he must belong to a different planet! What can we do about it? We can only do something about it after we admit that we are all exposed to its influence and are all guilty in some way.
we must examine our own selves to see where we may be contributing to even the appearance of this evil of racism
But would we admit to it? Some of us, by God’s grace, have been able to confront & overcome it. Others (on both sides) either have not recognized it or been honest to admit it, having learned instead how to conceal it. It is best not to be judgmental by looking around at others to see who is guilty. Instead, we must examine our own selves to see where we may be contributing to even the appearance of this evil.
Consider the problem from the source: our own inner perceptions and insecurities, the origins of our thinking. Ponder the Ethiopian Eunuch in Act 8:26-29. What can we learn from this true Bible story?
Consider our natural negative perceptions of the Ethiopian. This was a black dignitary of very high governmental rank in a highly developed nation of the day, who visited Jerusalem to worship, a journey of 1,500 – 2,000 miles! If Cornelius was the first Gentile convert, as is generally accepted, then this man must have been a full Jew of Ethiopia, a land where there were many Jewish colonies since the Babylonian captivity.
Does this in itself come as a shock? That some Jews were actually Black? History records the fact that Jews settled in many nations thousands of years ago, and given varying degrees of intermarriage, dispersed into almost all nations. If we say the Ethiopian eunuch was a proselyte, do we mean he was just converted to Christianity?
If, on the other hand, his black ancestors were African going back for some while, why do we still refer to him as a proselyte? We do not consider the descendants of Ruth and Rahab as proselytes, do we? If we do, then we would be making the Lord Jesus Christ a proselyte also, and that would be simply ridiculous!
The fact is, Israel is not one race of people. They have become several peoples out of every nation and kindred and tongue.
The State of Israel had this problem after the 1967 6-Day war. There were Ethiopians who claimed they were Jews at the immigration border in order to enter the land that was regained from the Palestinians. They were being turned back until the immigration officers began to check diligently, only to find they were, indeed, genetically authentic Jews! They are known as the Falasha Jews, or the Beta Israel Jews. Indeed, Falasha Jews date back to the Babylonian captivity. It is a fact that about 144,000 of them reside in Israel today!
It is said that many of these Jews living in Ethiopia were surprised to discover there is such a thing as white Jews in the world! The fact is, Israel is not one race of people. They have become several peoples out of every nation and kindred and tongue. There are white Jews, black Jews, Indian Jews, Iranian Jews, even Chinese Jews, known as Kaifeng Jews.
This proves that if we are not careful, each of us can become guilty of unwitting prejudice because of what we have been taught or grew up seeing all our lives in our cities, in films, books, or even just from simple ignorance.
The point is this: Prejudice can easily creep into our very ecclesias and homes while we preach the love of God to the rest of the world and wonder why they do not readily see it our way. Images are very powerful in training our perceptions. This is one of the reasons why TV and movies can be so powerful in shaping our thinking. We accept those images as truth.
The point is this: Prejudice can easily creep into our very ecclesias and homes
What can we do about this great danger? First, we must recognize we have all become unwitting victims of prejudicial assumptions based on what we have both heard and seen, and, maybe all our lives, have even taken to be truth. We need to stop and look in the mirror honestly appraising our own actions and motives. Second, we need to summon the determination, through constant and earnest prayer, for God to work in our hearts to change this wrong attitude.
Our Thoughts…within the Ecclesia
Here, within the early church, there was prejudice; no one is exempt! While we cannot control a thought from entering our mind, we can control which thoughts we accept and which we act on!
Jesus, immediately after his baptism, was driven by God into the wilderness to be tested by devil, that is, his own flesh. He could not stop himself from thinking, “Command these stones to turn into bread”, but he could counter the evil thought with the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone.”
While we cannot control a thought from entering our mind, we can control which thoughts we accept and which we act on!
This demonstrates that a thought does not become sin until we accept the thought. Jesus rejected those tempting thoughts by immediately quoting the Scriptures. How can we call the word of God to our assistance if we cannot recall what the Bible has to say about evil thoughts? How can we know what God says is evil if we do not read His word?
Our Thoughts…within the Family
Another example is found in the story of Eli and the family life within his home:
Here we see Eli, the High Priest of God, allowing his two sons to get away with sacrilege until it was too late. After a while, he could no longer correct them, only speak feeble words of disappointment.
We need to teach our family how to recognize prejudice and openly label it as evil
We must make a positive effort to set the right example from the very beginning within our own home, our own workplace, our own ecclesia. We need to teach our family how to recognize prejudice and openly label it as evil. If we wait until our children are grown, we will have missed the bus! The best time to do this is, I would suggest, around the family reading of God’s word. Take a firm grip on this priceless habit Brethren!
Our children must also see us practice sincere love and openness regardless of race. If we consistently practice Christ-like behavior, others cannot help but notice and after a time it will bear fruit. One day, maybe later in our lives, we will be judged for it when our children throw it back in our faces. “It was OK for you to do it then, Mom or Dad, how come it is now so wrong for us?” We may be tempted to answer: “My child, do as I say, not as I do…”, but I think we are all aware that this is no answer at all.
What are possible solutions? We must have positive thoughts at the ready to counter negative ones. Those positive ones come from the lips of Christ. Make a habit of reading God’s Word daily. It is our daily food. It is our constant reminder of good and evil. Without it we will die spiritually, just as we die from lack of natural food.
Consider engaging the entire family around the dinner table each day. The family that eats together stays together; so too does the family that prays & worships together. Sharing in God’s Word is like sharing food. It is the best chance we have of winning our kids from the world. If we do not point them in that right way each day, the time will soon be too late.
What about when no one else is hearing us? How do we refer to other ethnicities and races? Do we use slang words such as the ‘N’ word or other words to describe others or even to describe our own race? I have heard some describe their own in the most venomous terms, but suddenly become righteous when others of a different race do the same.
I have seen far too many cases of some who treat their own in the most cruel and abominable manner, but expect others to treat them with respect. And all the time, our children are watching, and learning, and looking for the chance to speak and do just like Mom and Dad. We do not realize that when we ourselves curse; we are helping to institutionalize the evil. We ourselves are subconsciously turning fiction into fact!
Every time we repeat the behavior, it begins to take on a mind of its own, and after a time it becomes almost impossible to turn back the clock. Simply passing laws are not sufficient. We all have to make the change. We usually say hurtful things to put others in their place because we want to feel superior, or to hit back harder, because we were hurt.
To solve this problem, we need to make positive efforts to eliminate slurs and scorn from our own thinking and adorn our conversations with the positive…as if our Lord were there in our presence while we speak, which, in fact, he is! In putting a stop to the hurtful things that spring too readily from our lips, we need to replace these with complimentary things, even when others have hurt us. Better yet, pray for them, for their understanding and repentance. Truly,
Our Actions: speaking louder than words!
It is by our actions we glorify God…or drag our Lord’s name through the mud. We should be positive and pro-active in our behavior, not doing wrong because we know no one can prove us wrong!
I do not wish to make myself an example here, only to share an experience. I know someone, who, whenever stopped by the traffic police, does not wait for them to ask for documents. Instead, they immediately lower their car windows, and turn on their roof lights, if it is night, or take off their sunglasses if day light, and greet them with a “good-day sir!” This never fails to disarm them and almost always they wave the person on.
It is by our actions we glorify God…or drag our Lord’s name through the mud.
If we carry or conduct ourselves in an unacceptable way, we are sure to make a negative impression on others and get a negative response. One of the hardest things to do is to transmit Christ-like behavior to our children who are too often well into the world and have begun to copy the world’s ways. Until Christ comes, democracy is the next best thing. Should we do wrong knowing that our victims cannot prove it and we can get away with it? Or, we can knowingly engage in wrongdoing while hiding behind our democratic rights. Remember God knows our hearts.
On the other hand, would we invite a black Brother or Sister back to our homes for lunch after Memorial Service? Or find a good reason why someone else should do it? Would we give up our bed for another Brother or Sister to sleep?
Clearly, we must work hard to be doers of the word, moving beyond just nice thoughts. And, too, we need to translate our new positive thinking into positive behaviors when actual situations confront us to prove our true discipleship.
When others do us wrong: How should we respond?
The way of the flesh is not simply to get even, but to do back worse. This has been the way of the world from the beginning of time, since Cain killed his brother Abel. Those that have put on the name of Christ have chosen a different path, Christ’s path of non-resistance, remembering that vengeance is God’s, not ours.
This is not an easy path to follow, and it calls for much patience & endurance. We accept by faith that those who trust in the Lord will eventually triumph over those who take to the sword. Such will not only die by the sword, but die without Hope!
In a physical fight, the physically strongest is more likely to win. Perhaps that is one reason why many have been fighting losing battles for decades now. You cannot win on the enemy’s own turf! We need to find a different champion. One who has already overcome. The world has seen many attempted saviors, but none has brought a salvation that reached beyond the mortal horizon. We, though, have found a champion! The only one without moral blemish. Jesus has told us:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
Only the Word of God has the power to make a complete change of the human heart…beginning with ourselves.
Christ is our champion, indeed the only champion! One who has overcome the tribulations of life, prejudice, and death itself! While suffering the worst, he prayed: “Father, forgive them…” Only those who have met him and stuck with him know his power of non-resistance! We too can and will overcome through the same Word of power. Only the Word of God has the power to make a complete change of the human heart…beginning with ourselves.
The Word of God demonstrates repeatedly that without God’s word an intelligent man can easily become a “beast in human form” (Ecc 3:18-19). We must ensure that having preached against racism, prejudice and discrimination to others, we, as Brethren in Christ, must not allow this cancer to enter our own body!
History has proven that hate can breed only one thing – more hate, and the one with the bigger sword usually wins, until their turn comes. And so, the futile but deadly cycle continues. And the cycle will continue until Almighty God intervenes in this earth through the return of His Son. Then, we will know an altogether different world pictured so wonderfully by the prophet Isaiah:
A Final Exhortation
Our advice then to all who are hurting, all who are puzzled and justifiably angry, especially our young people: Do not lose The Hope! Do not take rash advice. Rather, let us press ourselves to continue in patient waiting on our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah once said, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Isa 40:31). These are true words; they can be completely trusted!
If we obey Christ’s commands while we wait, he will watch over our interests; he will watch over our families; he will fight our cause in his own way, until he comes to gather together the faithful. Our Master is presently in Heaven, and he too is patiently awaiting His Father’s signal to return and fulfill the will of the Eternal God declared since the Garden of Eden when man first fell into sin.
If we give up now and take matters into our own hands—a most tempting prospect—and take the natural solution that calls for no faith, then all that we already labored and sacrificed for since our baptism into the Saving Name will have been in vain. The Apostle Paul warned his own self:
Brethren let us keep the focus on the Gospel and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God! Do not be side-tracked. Yes, the world is full of prejudice, but let us keep it outside of the Brotherhood. Let us remain faithful and ready for our Master’s return, building each other up in our most holy Faith. He who is coming, will come and then this evil world will be transformed into the Heavenly Paradise promised in the Lord’s prayer.
Brother David Andrews