A Father's Heart on Race, the Gospel and the Home1
Kyle Davis (with Jacob Phillips)
Last week Benny and Jake wrote about the issue of race, racism and the church, including Benny’s heart for the church to either start or continue formulating a practical theology that addresses issues of race-relations, racism and discrimination. They gave many examples of the problems in society and the church as it pertains to racism and racial reconciliation. Assuming we accept that racism and discrimination are issues that need addressing, what is the solution? As Benny pointed out, acting with compassion and humility, and seeking out the opinions of those who have a different skin color, socioeconomic status or position on the issue is necessary. But once we accept that it’s an issue worth addressing, and that compassion, open-mindedness and humility are prerequisites for any meaningful discussion to take place, where do we go from there?
I have been very slow to say anything in regards to race being the defining issue in regards to police profiling and discrimination because this is a slippery road to go down at best. Biblically, we are called to love everyone regardless of race but we all know that we are living in a fallen world that has seen the unfair treatment of groups of people based solely on what color of skin they have. While I can’t wait until we get to heaven and this issue is at last resolved, there are everyday issues all of us face and choices we have to make.
I believe that what we are seeing in public cases of racism and local police is more of a reflection of our society as a whole than most would care to believe. There are no news cameras present in family’s living rooms documenting what is being taught to our children about this issue, but there certainly is the fruit of that teaching on full display on TV’s around the world. Discriminatory attitudes are not determined at birth (plenty of studies have shown that children are generally examples of how not to judge someone based solely on the color of their skin). Our perspectives on race and race-relations are instilled in us by society at large and by our community -- but especially by our family. What ever happened to the home being a place of instruction and rearing? What has happened to family values? Do we as parents discuss these issues with our kids and teach them how they should act in the face of such a growing epidemic in this country? Is this an issue that we fear talking about? What our children choose to stand up for is what they will be taught to stand up for.
Our call as Christians is not relegated merely to the causes we feel strongly about. We cannot become a people known only for our commitment to advocating on behalf of the unborn or as a reliable voting bloc for conservatism or for being anti/pro-vaccinations or our defense of biblical marriage (however we define that) or our views on abstinence (from whatever vice we hate the most) or fill-in-the-blank. All of those issues are important, and we need to develop convictions on those issues based on our consciences and the Word of God. But our call is more than that. Our call is to preach Christ and him crucified. That message has implications – it means our worth is not determined by the color of our skin but by our status as image-bearers of God. It means that all life is precious, and should not be aborted or thrown away for any reason. It means that we are called to holiness. But the implications of that message should never overshadow the message itself. And the message is a gloriously simple truth: We are great sinners and Christ is a great Savior (John Newton).
Christians must speak out against racism, discrimination and prejudice, but we also can’t miss the root of this issue. It’s not enough to simply identiy a problem; we must also seek to implement a solution. I believe that the main deterrent to racism is the gospel and its good news that is available to everyone regardless of their skin color or ethnic background. The fact that all have sinned and nobody is perfect doesn’t allow for any bigotry. We can’t dismiss examples of profiling and discrimination because mistakes made in an individual’s past causes others to label them as a “thug” or a “prostitute” or somehow undeserving of our compassion and action, because the Gospel teaches us that we are all thugs, prostitutes and whatever other negative labels we can think of. Although it’s important to teach our children about the history of racial prejudice and the continuing problems of discrimination, when we begin teaching about race as the most important problem of our society (divorced from the solutions of the Gospel) I believe we are missing the point. Race isn’t the most important problem in our society; the most important problem in our society (and in every society) is sin. Yes, racism is, at this point in history, a significant blemish on our society; but it pales in comparison to the fact that we are not teaching our children the importance and need of a Savior. Our biblical mandate as Christians requires that we not ignore racism and its effects; but I pray that I can teach my children to stand up for equality based on a conviction that Christ died for all and not only equality for its own sake. Those subject to discrimination have the best Advocate they could ever have, but He is not only an advocate for equality; He is the Savior of the world.