Have you ever been talking to someone and they preface a statement with: “I’m not a racist, but…”? Yeah, when I hear that, my first thought is: “You may not consider yourself a racist, but I know that what you are about to say is going to be racist. Therefore, you might be actually be a racist.”
Let me begin this post, which I intend to use to talk about a few different things, with the bottom line: racism has NO place in the church. Keep that in your mind as we walk through some topics together.
First, something else I hear from people is that they “don’t see color” or “don’t notice race.” That is honestly not the correct approach. God created us and we are all created in his image, so to ignore the expressions of his creative work is wrong. Instead of ignoring, we should celebrate it. Some call this being diverse. This is when people from different cultures can come together without forsaking their cultures.
I am married to a Spanish woman, Nicole. Her families’ culture and customs differ a little bit from my southern white culture and customs. It’s taken a little work and understanding to be able to adjust to each other’s culture and customs. But the differences are just part of the beauty of our marriage and the beauty of how God created people. So don’t ignore the fact that someone is racially or culturally different than you; celebrate it. They don’t have to conform to your way of doing things, and you don’t have to conform to theirs. Both can thrive in the same place!
Second, we need to quit generalizing people based off of their race or their culture. All white people are not racist. I am white, and I am not racist. I go back to the statement I mentioned earlier: “I’m not racist but…” What usually follows is a racist statement, generalizing an entire race. I have heard entire races classified as lazy, criminals, terrorists, etc. Here’s the reality: racism, laziness, crime, terrorism, and whatever else you want to classify are present in every race.
Following along that thought, can we not just refer to people as that? Just people. One of my good friends from college taught me this lesson. He heard another roommate refer to his two friends and his black friend. The question arose, why does anyone need to be referred to in that way? Can they not just be your three friends? The answer is yes. We celebrate the diversity, but we should not separate or generalize someone because of their race or culture.
Third, racism in any form should be condemned. I have already made the statement that we are all created in God’s image. Do you remember the children’s song: “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” We may realize that this is not really a politically correct way to refer to people today, but the thought is present that everyone is equal in God’s eyes according to race and culture. There is no supreme race. There are no inferior races. There are, in God’s eyes, people of the Kingdom and people not of the Kingdom, saved and unsaved, Christian and non-Christian. Every race and culture can be a member of either.
With that in mind, I have nothing in me that is worthy of treating someone else differently just because their skin is a different color or they come from a different culture. This includes my thoughts, my words, and my actions. Sometimes we tend toward racist comments when we are together with people of the same race as us. This is wrong. Sometimes people say things to people of other races and it is just hateful. This is wrong. Sometimes people do things to other people of other races. They make them go to different schools, live in different areas, put them in prison camps, and even kill them. This is wrong. We may, from our human perspective see each of those as an increase in intensity, but I want you to understand that they are all equally wrong. Why? The people who end up doing the things I mentioned and more had all of it start with a thought. So racist thoughts, words, and actions are all wrong.
Fourth, racism is too important of an issue to use as a political weapon. If you watch the news, you will hear a lot about racism: “The president is a racist.” “The cops are racists.” “The mass shooters are racists.” But, to quote something I saw on Facebook one time, if we turned off the news and talked to our neighbors, we would find that we have more in common than the news says we do.
It breaks my heart every single time I hear of unnecessary deaths. Mass shootings get the majority of the press, but there are so many more violent crimes that happen throughout our country and the world. We should constantly be in prayer, not just for those who experience mass shootings, but for the families and communities of all those who lose their life because of senseless violence.
But here’s the thing: racism is not always the motivator! Yes, it sometimes is. I admit that. But just because someone is a certain race and some of the victims are of another race doesn’t mean that the crime was racially motivated. Just because someone supports or doesn’t support a certain political figure doesn’t mean that they commit their crimes with a racial motivation.
Finally, I want to conclude where I started: racism has no place in the church. I have grown up in churches that are primarily made up of one race. I’m not going to lie, every church I have ever been in until now has sat in the middle of a city or community that had different races and cultures present, but none of them had any of those races or cultures represented within the church. I didn’t think much about that when I was younger, but I have realized something now: if you are reaching and impacting your community or your city, then your church should look like your community or your city. Are there white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, etc. people in your community or your city? Then your church should have people from those races or cultures.
This doesn’t mean that we have a token person of that race or culture and say, “We’re diverse!” No. As one article I read recently said, we need to be actively involved in reaching those races and cultures that make up our community. This means having the leadership on board and having people who are able to represent those races and cultures within the leadership of the church.
When I was a kid, I heard the statement that Sunday morning at 11:00 was the most segregated time in our country. Church, this should not be! There’s no reason that this should be taking place in the church! So look first at your heart: is there any hint of racism there? Ask God to help you remove it! Then look at your church: does the makeup of your church look like the makeup of your city or community? Take the steps needed to reach everyone in your city or community!