Although all sins in some ways are equal before God, there is something particularly evil and destructive about the dehumanizing effects of racism. Martin Luther King Jr. has by in large been secularized in popular culture as a nice man who wanted us all to get along, but this is an unfortunate caricature of a man whose core foundational trust was in self-sacrificial love and non-violent resistance. MLK Jr.’s message of racial reconciliation, and a refusal to deem another human being as his enemy, is central to the gospel of Jesus.
We see in Genesis that God created all humans in his image and created them to be equal under him. This was an amazing statement, not only for it’s leveling of the ground between men and women, but also in light of all the tribal and racial violence that has existed throughout history. Every human being is owed supreme honor and dignity in light of the creator whose image they were made in.
In providing evidence of our fallenness, all sins are created equal, but not in terms of their destructive consequences. Racism is an individual sin, but it seems to kill, steal, and destroy communally more than any other sin. It divides, destroys, and dehumanizes people and allows the principalities and powers to reign in our world. Our country was founded with this sin fully present. Manifest destiny assumed the white Europeans were supposed to rule, and the result of that doctrine was the breaking of treaties with and slaughtering of native peoples. Then in the 1600s came the importation of millions of Africans as slave labor. The level of horror and terror these people experienced on the boats over to the US and when their families were ripped apart is unimaginable. And even after the civil war technically made slavery illegal, it lived on through convict leasing for decades. Black codes and Jim Crow laws further advanced the racial hierarchy doctrine allowing racism under a different guise. In her book “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander argues that the modern day criminal justice system is further evidence of this systemic racism in our society.
It seems more and more countries are being governed and motivated by fear. In the process we are losing our common humanity. Racism is a beast that just keeps getting fed by this fear of the other based culture we find ourselves in. In this moment it is more critical than ever to reflect on the leveling effect Jesus’ death and resurrection have. In Ephesians 2 we read that Jesus is the peace that came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Further in Colossians 3 Paul states that, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Jesus died to reconcile humanity to God, and also humanity to itself. In this we find racial reconciliation central to the Gospel.
Greg offered 5 practical engagement starting points:
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- Declare War – Taking a stand against a beast that has been around for a very long time requires great intentionality. Anything in our heart that carries racial judgement must be purged. There is great wisdom and power in recognizing that MLK Jr. required his marchers to never respond to violence in kind. He said not to march unless you are able to march for both the black and white people as they are both in bondage, just different types. His confidence was in the self-sacrificial love he saw Jesus model.
- Develop Cross-cultural Relationships – It’s always easier to share life with people who look like, think like, and act like you. But our Kingdom call is to do life on purpose and be intentional about breaking down barriers and dividing walls between us and others.
- Serve – Find organizations seeking to fight injustices and offer you time or resources.
- Be Informed – Yes, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World are distinctly different, but we need to be informed. How do the issues of the day potentially create suffering for my brother or sister, and how can I be an advocate for them?
- Break Unjust Laws – In Acts 3:18-20 we find that yes, we are to be law abiding citizens as much as possible, but if there are laws of the land that come in conflict with our Kingdom call, our allegiance is to be clear.