Browsing Tag

Racial Issues

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Finally! The Exciting Conclusion)

Five Important Take-Aways

1. Forced to choose between culture and Christianity, I must choose Christianity every.single.time. Further, there’s evil woven into every culture and I must distance myself from that evil.

2. Fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) has nothing to do with a battle about social injustices.   It has everything to do with standing for spiritual truth; for Jesus Christ. That was the essence of the statement when the persecuted apostle penned it. It is still its essence. 

3. Faithful Christians referencing “my people” will always be speaking of Christians, not people who have the same pigmentation. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

4. I must reject the idea that, in the church, broad reparations can be made. A person can only repent and repair violations that he/she has personally has committed. It is Biblically impossible to repent of sins committed by someone else. If the “someone else” is dead, then preaching repentance of his sins is, at least, useless, and, at most, divisive. If we extrapolate past sins, placing them on the church today, we may be stimulating the very division we profess to reject. We should be willing to look around at the vast majority of our congregations and admit that the word “racist” is not applicable to most congregations today.

5. Finally, and most importantly, I must acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that we already have the true answer to problems involving race relations. It is the cross and the church that was purchased at Calvary. Faithful members of that body have always been colorblind.  We protect, love, and offer solace to one another (Eph. 5:21). You can surely find individuals among us who persist in wrong attitudes and actions on many subjects,  but I am convinced that the  New Testament church is the one body in which the challenge has been sufficiently met by our Savior. I must not project this cultural fight into God’s body.  The church described in the New Testament is not part of the problem.  It is the solution to the problem.

May He bless us as we love and encourage each other. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 16)

Approaching the end of what has become a lengthy series, I want to draw several conclusions to summarize: 

First, Racism is a very temporary problem. Our thinking on the subject should always be tempered by that fact that racism, or having our faith with respect of persons (James 2:9),  is sin and it will not exist in heaven. 

Secondly, we should never forget that Jesus wants unity that’s based on truth for His people. That was the subject of His dying prayer in John 17. But that unity cannot be a reality if white Christians devalue or are prejudiced against people of a different skin color. It cannot happen if Christians of color extrapolate misdeeds and mistreatment from American history and assign those misdeeds to their brothers and sisters today. 

My husband and I travel around the U.S. visiting many congregations each year. We do not see assemblies or fellowship times or relationships that are tainted by racism in our travels. We do see the opposite of racism regularly. We see Christians of all colors eating together, hugging one another, helping one another, serving side by side as elders and teachers together, and listening to pulpits that are sometimes filled by white brethren and other times filled by brown brethren. In our home congregation, we have regular singings with two other churches. Two of the churches involved are mostly white, with minorities of African Americans, Mexican, El Salvadorian and Samoan people. The third church is mostly African American. I think many folks at all three of these churches would tell you that our times together for these services are some of their favorite worship times. I believe our elders would love to merge with either of these churches if their leaderships were so inclined. I do not believe there is any correction that needs to be made by the elders in these churches with regard to racism. 

The unity for which our Lord prayed cannot be a reality today if reparations are required by any constituency in the body. This is true because Christians cannot repent of sins committed by others. Further, one Christian cannot apologize for the whole church, even if the entire body had been guilty of a sin. 

When I think of reparations, I think about Paul. He had done some awful things to Christians prior to Acts 9. Notice the reaction of Barnabas when Paul became a godly man. 

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27).

Paul could not “undo” or materially pay for his past crimes against Christians. All he could do is what all of us can do: apply the Golden Rule to all people and go forth with the gospel to save as many men and women as possible. 

Thirdly, Galatians 3:26-27 does teach us to be colorblind. We set aside all ethnic and cultural differences, realizing that God has made us all of one blood. We see only souls.

If we allow any militant fight in defense of any culture or ethnicity to invade the church, it will be met with confusion and, ultimately division.  

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 15)

The last specific passage I’d like to notice is the book of Philemon. It’s the story of a heathen slave-turned- Christian-runaway and his decision to go back to his master. You know Onesimus, as the runaway who ran into the great apostle Paul and became a slave to the ultimate Master, Jesus Christ. Notice verses 15 and 16 of this short letter from Paul beseeching Philemon to accept Onesimus back as so much more than a slave. Onesimus was Philemon’s brother in the Lord. 

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So many observations could be made. Paul, it seems to me, assumed that Onesimus would be very happy to be a brother to Philemon. There would be no resentment.  There were no cries for reparations from Paul or Onesimus.  Of course  in this case, we can also safely assume that Philemon had behaved as a Christian master to Onesimus. It’s interesting and stirring that Paul did not make a specific plea for the freedom of Onesimus from slavery. Perhaps this is because the church (Christians) was to refrain from civil disobedience as we have noted from Romans 13. Paul did expect and demand their love and respect for one another. Of course, their decisions about the master/slave relationship were to be guided by their allegiance to Christ and their love for one another. 

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 14)

But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (Galatians 2:6,7).

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? (Galatians 2:11-15).

This passage speaks for itself. I cannot think of a New Testament mandate taught more clearly through an example than this one. I cannot think of one that finds application to our  culture more aptly than this one. The apostle Paul withstood Peter, rebuking him for his hypocrisy in refusing to eat with the Gentiles when it was unpopular among the Jews for their people to have fellowship with non-Jewish people. The Holy Spirit saw fit for us to have the particulars of this incident. He graciously gave us this sample of what should happen if there’s respect of persons today with regard to race. 

From this text, we know that it is right and good for leaders in the church to promptly and firmly correct brethren who show favoritism based on externals. How vain and pompous was Peter in switching off the fellowship with Gentiles when the Jews approached! How sinful it is today if and when brethren—mere men or women— exalt themselves above or think that they are, in any way, superior to those with a different pigmentation, language or background. May they find space for repentance and may God grant them mercy. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 13)

“Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

I almost did not include this passage about the first Gentile conversion in this series of articles. The situation of Cornelius, though it speaks to race relations in New Testament times, is very different from the situation that exists today in one important way. It’s this: Gentiles had indeed been excluded from the chosen nation of God. Until a laborious process of cleansing occurred, they were yet unclean in the eyes of God and His circumcised people, Israel. This situation had persisted up until just a few years prior to the events of Acts ten.  The disparity in Peter’s mind in Acts ten, when he was called to go and teach a Gentile the gospel was real and founded in the Old Testament will of God. Thus Peter had to have a direct relation from God in Acts ten in order to free his conscience to go and tell the gospel to Cornelius. 

While God distinguishes between people based on beliefs and actions, racial problems in the history of the United States have never been a result of the will of God in exalting any particular race. In fact, the cultural and legal supremacy of white people that existed in the United States was antithetical to the teachings of the New Testament. People who were truly following the New covenant never would esteem themselves better than the other. In fact they would seek to regard the well-being of others above their own (I Corinthians 10:24; Matthew 7:12) Those, in the kingdom who used their voices many years ago to denigrate those of another race should have been ashamed to violate the code of Christ in such self-exaltation. We showed this earlier in this series. It was blatantly sinful. If someone in the body does so today, it is still blatantly sinful. 

But there is yet a point to be made with the example of  Peter in Acts 10. At this time, Peter lived under the New Covenant just as we do. His unwillingness to associate with and teach Cornelius was no longer pleasing to God. Thus, God showed Him a new way. 

We live under the same covenant as did Peter. Because of passages like Acts ten and many others, we know that none of us can bring anything to the table of communion with God that is of any relative value. We are all lost, without hope, desperately dangling over an eternal fire without the precious blood of Jesus and His invitation to commune. But my question is this: Can we recognize that the same gospel that made Jew and Gentile one in Acts ten still work on hearts today? Can we admit that, in the past fifty years, brethren have made great strides to put aside prejudices and esteem one another better than self? Although, there was never an acceptable basis for any exaltation of white people, and although it was always sinful, can we not exalt and be thankful for the gospel that has so influenced the body of Christ in the past fifty years for unity? It is the same gospel that transformed Peter and the early church in Acts ten and eleven! I am thankful that I am privileged to be a part of a congregation of His people, even in the deep South, where Christians are truly striving to serve together in the spirit of our God who shows no respect of persons (Acts 10:34).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 12)

“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things” (Romans 15:25-27)

Here is yet another passage that indirectly addresses the relationship between Jew and Gentile in the first century church. Jews had certainly not, in every instance, been kind to the Gentiles, as we have noted throughout the series. Yet here is the chance that Gentile Christians had to show benevolence to their Jewish brothers in Christ. I love the response that Gentile Christians were admonished to give when the Jews needed them. They did not demand reparations for all of the past injustices; rather, they sent them aid. 

We notice that this attitude was the one that Had God’s approval. It is important that all of us within the body look today to the Word for the attitudes that characterize our treatment of one another rather than to the various cultural movements and dissensions that may be occurring around us. Souls do not come in colors and it is quite appropriate for us to say, as children of God, that ALL souls matter. 

While I understand that what I am writing would not garner the approval of national Black Lives Matter representatives, I have considered and prayed long and hard about this issue and I believe the passages are specifically applicable in the ways I am presenting them. I further know that I am nothing and my personal opinions about race relations are so very unimportant. Thus, while I know that what I am writing would not be sanctioned by the leaders of the BLM movement, I believe they have the approval of the King of Kings Who has declared us to be one in Him. 

There was a time not so very long ago when I was stranded in an automobile with a dead battery in a place that most people in Huntsville would acknowledge is a dangerous area of town. It was a late hour of the night. My husband was out of the country and my heart was sinking fast. A man of color approached me and went about five “second miles” to be sure I was safe and on my way home on that evening when I was feeling great trepidation. Let me just tell you that, at the end of the day, I was delighted to find out that he was my brother in Christ…someone from another congregation whom I’d never met. I praised God that he had been introduced to and affected by the teachings of the New Testament. I pray that my heart has been affected in the same way by the Jesus who talked with the Samaritan woman, healed the daughter of the woman of Tyre, healed the Samaritan leper, and died for every one of every race. I know that there are many in our society who are not New Testament Christians but nevertheless have been influenced by the teachings of Christ that make us love each other without respect to color.  For those of us in the body, it is a given. We are not about gaining for ourselves some position or recognition or reparation or station. We are focused on becoming the greatest as “greatness is defined by our Lord: “Whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant.” I’m praying personally for that heart.