The discourse on race in the church has been ongoing since time immemorial. People have wondered whether issues of race, discrimination, and oppression ought to be challenged in the church, considering the fact that the church is considered a sanctuary where people from every
tribe, tongue and nation ought to be at peace and at home to worship. It has been contended over the years that despite racism and the challenges associated with it, the church is a safe space for all. After all, Jesus prayed in John 17 that “all of them may be one…” Is that really the case?
The Bible is replete with accounts of racism and God’s perception of it. The story of Moses’ sister, Deborah, and her attitude and reaction to Moses’ wife, Zipporah, is a case in point (Numbers 12:1). Also, the disdain expressed by the Jews against Samaritans and vice versa is another example worth noting. However, during Jesus’ ministry, he preached against divisions based on cultural differences and emphasized the importance of love, unity, and affection for one another as one body of Christians. If the foundation of Christianity is based on love, why is it
that there are divisions among Christians in the church?
Why do we have exclusively Black and White churches?
Why can’t we all get along as the body of Christ?
What then is racism?
Why is racism prevalent in our society, including the church?
The question is, are individuals born racists or it is a social construct? Based on research findings and the teachings of the bible, it could be argued that none of us is born a racist. However, we are shaped to exhibit racist tendencies by our environment. If we have had the opportunity to observe
children of all ages interacting over a period of time, we realise more often than not that most of them do not care whether the other party is Red, Brown, Black, or White.
The Bible talks about the old nature. I believe we all have the old nature which is obviously sinful; nevertheless, after salvation, I believe the old nature gives way to a new nature guided by the spirit of God (2 Corinthians 5:17; Eph. 4:22-24). If we as believers have the new nature, why then do we exhibit semblances of marginalization and stereotyping? Why do we entertain fear or prejudice against other races or groups of people, if we are supposed to walk in love? Could it be because our salvation is imperfect in Christ? According to the scriptures, we are to owe man nothing but love
(Romans 13:8-10), we are assured through the scriptures that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Why then do we entertain negative thoughts about others or feel uncomfortable around people who do not look, speak, or act like us?
This is the time for each of us to search our hearts and ask the difficult questions (Psalm 139:23-24). How is my interaction with people of other races? Does my community of friends or acquaintances include people of other races? If not, why? What efforts am I making to reach out to people of other races? (Romans 10:12) We should bear in mind that we are likely to be the Jesus people from other races see in this world. How do we make our lives a reflection of Him?
Let’s bear in mind that Christ died that we all may be one.
“We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family” Desmond Tutu.