“Overcoming Racism with the Gospel”
Today’s sermon is about racism. Or, a better way to say it – today’s sermon is about overcoming racism with the Gospel. This is a difficult topic, a sensitive topic. A white pastor talking about racism can be dicey. So I ask you for grace this morning, and for all of us to be courageous to see what God has to say about this topic.
APPLICATION: I usually have application at the end of my sermons, but here I want to share application at the start. These are three things I have been praying for God to do through our time together:
Application #1 I hope we will commit to asking God to surface our own prejudices and racial biases. Some of us are aware of them and others of us are not. I want us to find the spirit of Psalm 139:24; “Dear God, please point out anything in me that offends you.” We come to this topic with great humility, asking God to teach us and to challenge us.
Application #2. After this sermon, I hope that we will feel the need to ask God to bring greater racial diversity into our church. Our vision is to grow into a medium sized church – and we want to pray not only that we will grow in number – but in diversity.
Application #3. I hope today you will consider (if you have not done so yet) coming to our new Wednesday night class, starting this Wednesday from 7:00 – 8:30, called Oneness Embraced, a study by Dr. Tony Evans.
Those are the three applications I would like for God to accomplish – to make us more self-aware of our prejudices; to cause us to desire greater diversity in our church and to pray for it, and to consider going deep through our Wednesday night Bible study. In fact lets pray for these things right now before we continue. Bow with me.
Heavenly Father, we commit this time to you and for your glory. I pray for your help in preaching on such an important topic; help me to communicate effectively. Forgive us for judging people based on their outward appearances. Help us to see our own prejudices more clearly. We thank you for the diversity you have already brought to us – and we pray you help us to grow even more into a community that will reflect the halls of heaven – where every nation, tribe people and tongue will worship you. And I pray for our Wednesday night class. Thank you for Dr. Evans and his wisdom on this topic. Help our leaders to guide these weeks well. In Jesus name. Amen.
7 TRUTHS ABOUT RACISM:
My grandparents were racist.
They lived on the south side of Chicago, and I remember driving with them one time to go out to eat. They said of one restaurant we passed: “We used to eat there, but now the blacks have taken it over.” They said this casually, as if the tragedy of this was self-evident. “These houses, on your left – that is now a black neighborhood,” they added disapprovingly.
My grandparents were part of white flight, as they moved within Chicago and its changing demographics. As a kid this was profoundly confusing. I loved my grandparents – they were so kind and generous to me – but at the same time they were condemning an entire race of people as inferior. I remember being very uncomfortable. As we drove I sank down into my seat.
I would guess that many of you – at least those my age or older – grew up around overt racism from people you loved – parents, grandparents, siblings, co-workers, church members with strong racial prejudice. Maybe in the past you even identified with them; and this topic of racism has been something you have struggled with to this day. Others in our congregation have been on the other end of racism, feeling other people’s hatred and prejudice. As Pastor Rick Warren says, “Racism is not a skin problem, it is a sin problem.” And we are all sinners.
This morning we are going to unpack 7 truths about racism.
Racism is a sin.
The first thing we need to say, clearly, up front is that racism is a sin. Racism is sinful – it is not compatible with Christianity. It is not a gray issue. Racism is ugly and evil in attitude and in action.
James 2:1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. James 2:3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, James 2:4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
Now the topic here is not racial prejudice but socio-economic prejudice. But the underlying sin is the same. It is true that not all prejudice is race based – but all racism is fueled by prejudice. You can be prejudiced toward many things – toward democrats – toward republicans, toward people from New York, or California, or Alabama or Mississippi. You might have prejudices against certain Universities, or types of schooling. We might have preconceived ideas about all kinds of things. To be prejudice simply means to pre-judge – to judge someone only based only on outward appearances. Racism is pre-judging a person based on the color of their skin – not on the content of their character (as Martin Luther King said). And this is a sin: “How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” Prejudice is completely incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Verse four: “Doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?”
Prejudice and racism are evil.
In the Old Testament – God taught His people, specifically, to not discriminate against those of different races:
Lev. 19:33 “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. These would have been people of different races. Lev. 19:34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
When we come into contact with people who do not look like us, who do not don’t talk like us, who come from different culture; we are to: “Love them as we love ourselves.”
Mother Teresa said: “If you judge people you have no time to love them.” Racism and love are mutually exclusive. A racist person cannot love those they are prejudiced against – and a truly loving person cannot be racist.
And this sin of racism is not new – it has been around from the beginning. Paul spoke to the divided churches in Galatia:
Gal. 3:26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Gal. 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
How many of us are sinners? 100%. All have sinned – every nation, tribe, person and tongue. How many of us are 100% dependent on God’s grace for salvation? The Gospel is the ultimate equal opportunity faith. There is no place within Christianity for any group to feel they are superior to or to judge any other group.
2. Racism is a big problem in America
First, racism is a sin.
Point #2 – this sin is a big problem in America. Let’s put some context to the time in which we live. In a May 2018 survey, NBC news reported that 64% of Americans today feel racism is a major problem. 30% feel it is a problem, but not major; only 5% think it was once a problem but isn’t any longer, and 1% believe it has never been a problem. In our country today, right now – 94% of your neighbors, co-workers and fellow Americans see racism as a problem. If you are here today and don’t feel racism is a problem – I’d ask you to reconsider because as a church we must be speaking to the realities in our culture. The civil war did not end racism; civil rights did not end racism – racism is alive and well in America.
A PEW research study documents how concern about racism has been growing worse over the past decade. In 2009, only 26% of Americans viewed racism as a major issue, but as of 2017 that number had increased to 58%. Today its 64%. Racial tensions in this country today are intense. We are tinder box of racial conflict – waiting to explode. And the church in America has a responsibility to show the American culture what true love and acceptance looks like.
3. Racism is a big problem in the Church.
Point one – racism is a sin issue.
Point two, racism is a big problem in America.
Point three: Racism is a big problem in the Church. We have a hard time changing the culture because we, too often, reflect that culture. In March of 2018, Pastor Rick Warren spoke at the National Religious Broadcaster’s annual convention. His topic was racism. He said: “Friends, we’re failing at unity. The Church is more divided, more polarized, more splattered, more fractured, there are more tribes than ever before… we’re not going to have revival if 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America.”
One of the black preaching students I went to seminary with said that he would love to be in a Bible church setting, in a suburban church. But he said that because he was black, he would never be hired into such a position in a typical “DTS church.” “White churches do not want black pastors,” he said, “and all the black students know this.”
We have – in the past 50 years desegregated our schools, desegregated our sports teams and our businesses; but we have failed – in large part – to desecrate our churches.
4. Racism is a problem in our church
#1: Racism is a sin.
#2 It is a big problem in America.
#3 It is a big problem in the church.
#4 – Racism is a problem in our church. Let that sink in. Do you agree with this? Disagree? I hope it cause you to think. There have been a few occurrences I know of where non-white people attending our church have experienced racism – some of it clear racism, and other situations where the offending person was just not aware of their biases.
Let me use myself as an example. From time to time, random people come into the church.
I remember when a really nicely dress older white man came in, and I immediately thought, “Potential church member.” Why? Based on outward appearance I judged him. I was positively prejudiced toward him without reason. We chatted and he left. I never once thought he was going to ask me for money, cause trouble, or anything like that. I never saw him again.
Well, this past Tuesday, during our staff meeting while I was asking the staff for input on this sermon – I was at the white board writing insights about racism when a young black man came into the church. He looked upset. Did I prejudge him in the same gracious way I did the older nicely dressed white man? I am ashamed to say “no.” My first thought was: “I bet he is going to ask for money.” I was, in that moment, prejudiced and racist. I would tell you all day long, “I don’t think I am a racist” but then things like this happen, and I am reminded that even those of us who abhor racism can find ourselves leaking prejudice. We all have to pray for God to reveal our prejudices in order to help us to overcome them. We all have to work on this.
“The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
By the way, this young man never asked for a nickel – he needed prayer, so we prayed for him and invited him to come back to our church. And I hope that he will.
#5) God wants us to be more racially diverse
- Racism is a sin
- It is a big problem in America
- In the Church
- And in our church
Point #5. God wants us to become more racially diverse.
This is a key point. This is very specific to where God is leading us. Our mission is to win people to Christ, to build them up in Christ and to send them out for Christ. Our vision is to grow to be a medium sized church and to be multi-generational with a next-gen lean. And if we believe God has given us this mission and vision; than it follows as a necessity that we must become more racially diverse. Why?
Texas as a state is currently the 4th most racially diverse state in the nation, behind Hawaii, California, and Nevada. And the next generation is the most diverse of all. According to the Texas Tribune, 2016, “The youngest Texans appear destined to make the state dramatically more diverse as the white share of population drops. 68% of Texans aged 19 and younger are non-white; while 64% of Texans over the age of 65 are white. These changes are not coming in the future – they have already happened. The difference between the baby boomer generation and next generation, racially speaking, could not be more different.
And so if God wants us to win, build and send out the next generation – we must (let me say it again MUST) become more racially diverse. What a beautiful opportunity God is putting in front of us.
In our church we are currently 83% white, 9% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 3% black. And we are thankful for each and every one of you. And we have made progress as we were 98% white when we started 12 years ago.
Rowlett, however, is 51% white, 5% Asian, 27% Hispanic and 11% black. 6% other. And so we still have a long way to go – to even reflect the community God has put us in. Remember application point #2. We need to ask God to help us grow in racial diversity in order to serve the entire community in Rowlett – and the Lake Cities area.
#6) Jesus models racial unity.
Now we move to point six which is that “Jesus models – for us – racial unity.” Jesus once again is our example. We need to adopt his attitude and mind. This is well illustrated by Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman:
John 4:7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” John 4:8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. John 4:9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Samaritans lived north of Jerusalem – and were the descendants of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, but they had intermarried with the Assyrians who had conquered them. They still kind of believed in Yahweh – but they had added other foreign Gods to their worship.
The Jews in the south, in Judea, saw themselves as pure and the Samaritans as compromisers, half-breeds and reprehensible. They called them “dogs” and avoided them at all costs. The Jews when traveling would carefully not set one sandal into the land of Samaria. And this intense racism had been going on for 800 years.
Jesus models racial reconciliation through the Gospel message.
John 4:10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
Jesus leads this woman to believe in Him as the Messiah, and it sparks a revival in their town. He met racism, deeply entrenched racism, with love.
Black poet Maya Angelou, wrote about defeating racism with love:
“We, the most hated,
must take hate into our hands
and by the miracle of love,
turn loathing into love.
We, the most feared and apprehensive
must take fear and by love,
change it into hope.”
This is what Jesus does and what we must do. Remember Leviticus – people different from us?
Lev. 19:34 “Love them as you love yourself.”
The seventh truth about racism is that the Gospel alone can bring about this type of racial unity. Paul tells us how this works:
Eph. 2:14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… Eph. 2:17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Eph. 2:18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Eph. 2:19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
All hatred, every ounce; every last word – every thought – is abolished in Christ; and this is where everything is heading. John saw this up in heaven:
Rev. 7:9 “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb…”
That is the end game. That is where we are going. The most frequent description of people heaven is their diversity. EVERY nation, every tribe, every people and every tongue will be there together. Why? Because that is the power of the Gospel. Only the Gospel has the power to unite us, to heal us, to reconcile us, to restore us and to transform us.
- Racism is a sin
- Racism is a big problem in our country
- Racism is a big problem in the Church
- Racism is a problem in our church
- We must become more racially diverse
- Jesus models racial unity
- The Gospel alone can heal our racial divide
Will you join me in prayer?
Take a moment right now and ask God to reveal to you any prejudice you still have in your heart? Just talk to God now in the quietness of your heart. Now pray that God will help us, you and I partnering together in our humble church – that we would truly reach the next generation – in all its beautiful diversity – for Christ – to win them, build them and send them. And now pray for our new Wednesday night class, that this conversation would continue and that God will continue to teach us about the healing role he want us to have in this community.
And we pray all this is the powerful reconciling, redeeming and unifying name of Jesus Christ.