Summary: We want to be a place of grace for discussions about race.
Counter-Cultural Christianity: Racism
Rev. Brian Bill
January 31-February 1, 2015
Opening Video: A Perspective on Prejudice
Do you feel some discomfort right now? Me too. And it’s about to get worse. Let’s admit upfront that there’s racism in the room and its not all Anglo.
One of the reasons I am so compelled to preach this series on controversial issues is because the church has largely been silent on these topics. But my motives are deeper than that. I want us to be like a group of people called the Men of Issachar. Listen to what is said about them in 1 Chronicles 12:32: “…who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” The context is the time period between Saul’s leadership and David’s reign. In the midst of upheaval and uncertainty…
• They understood their culture. The word “understanding” means, “to have skillful insight.” It’s important for us to have insight into what’s going on in our society. This word also has the idea of “turning away from evil.” We must not cave into our culture but instead live counter-culturally.
• They engaged their culture. They knew what Israel “ought to do.” This phrase refers to a “moral obligation or purposeful response.” We must be engaged with people, not enraged at them, moving from understanding to action. God is calling us to revolutionary love not reactionary hate. We’ve analyzed and now we’re going to act. We’re urged to discern our culture and then we must deploy into our culture as ambassadors of Christ. Here’s a simple prayer: “Lord, help me to understand my culture and then enable me to engage with people in order to share the gospel.”
To my shame, I have never preached a sermon on racism. But I’m convinced and convicted of the need to do so. In my preparation and research I found it difficult to find sermons on this topic from other white evangelical pastors. That says something, doesn’t it?
There is raw racial rancor in our country and community. That’s why many pastors hesitate to preach on it. I realize I will probably offend someone today because I won’t say something totally right and I’m sure I’ll leave out some things that should be said. And, since I’m still in process with my learning and understanding I know I will not be able to enunciate every nuance. While this is my first sermon on racism, it won’t be my last.
Having said all that, I’m not afraid to jump in and see what God’s Word has to say. Three weeks ago we tackled tithing and giving, two weeks ago was abortion, and last week was homosexuality. That’s quite a line-up, isn’t it? Next week will be suicide. Again, our aim is to not be politically correct but biblically correct. We can’t be silent when God has spoken, can we? John Piper urges pastors to not be cowards in the pulpit and to not think of racism as a temporary crisis that will eventually fade away, but as a sinful reality that will remain until Jesus returns.
According to a December Gallup poll, for the first time in more than two decades, more people are now saying that race is the most pressing issue facing our country. The only thing that more Americans named as a problem was general dissatisfaction with the government and politicians.
Some of us may think that we don’t see color when we look at others or that our hearts are color-blind. According to an article on CNN.com entitled “The New Threat: Racism Without Racists,” research over the past 50 years shows that we’re more racist than we think we are.
• One study conducted by a Brigham Young University economics professor showed that white NBA referees call more fouls on black players and black referees call more fouls on white players.
• Professors from the University of Chicago and MIT sent out 5,000 fictitious resumes in response to 1,300 help wanted ads. Each resume included identical qualifications except for one variation – some applicants had Anglo-sounding names while others had black-sounding names. Those with Anglo-sounding names were 50% more likely to get interviews than their black-sounding counterparts.
It’s good for us to admit right up front that we tend to absorb racial bias without even knowing it.
Let’s start with a definition of racism. I like the one that John Piper adopted in his excellent book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.” Or to say it more simply: “The heart that believes one race is more valuable than another is a sinful heart and the behavior that distinguishes one race as more valuable than another is a sinful behavior.”