We live in a divided nation. I do not think all of that is by accident. But I also think some of the division is because our country never fully dealt with the original problem of racism. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but the tentacles of racism reached deeply into our culture.
And, sadly, the one institution that could have shined brightly and demonstrated unity and love instead formed “white churches” and “black churches.” This is a paraphrase that has been described to me by individuals with light and dark skin: “Basically Brad here is what happened. The whites didn’t want blacks in their church buildings. So they paid for a cheap building and a black preacher in a poor section of town. Likewise, the blacks didn’t want to be with the whites. So they took the money, and then made the preacher their pastor. Today, the black ‘pastor’ preachers don’t want to give up their power and position so they have no incentive to change things. Likewise, many white congregations are comfortable and don’t have any incentive to change as well. And so we remain divided—even in the church.”
I recognize that the above scenario is a broad generalization, and I know there are some very diverse congregations out there. One of the reasons I know this is because I’ve had the privilege to speak in several of them. To me, these multi-ethnic congregations are a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like. But the reality is in too many cities you can still find a “white church” and a “black church.”
At a time when so many are rioting, protesting, and demanding we defund police departments, the church should be leading the way. We should be demonstrating unity and love. Read very carefully the words of Jesus in John 13:35 – “ By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” We should look different. We should stand out. We should not be divided. We should be recognized as His disciples by our love for each other!
But this is going to require humility on everyone’s part. The night Jesus would be betrayed and arrested He stopped and prayed for unity. Almost two thousand years later His prayer should be echoing in the ears of all who call themselves His followers. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23). Racism is a major topic in our culture right now, and we decided to confront it head on.
The upcoming issue of Think explores the topic in a variety of ways. We asked individuals of all colors and backgrounds to share some thoughts with our readers. We wanted to share some raw emotions along with how this topic affects the church. We invite our readers to carefully study these articles and prayerfully consider their own hearts. It is our prayer that this issue of Think will help in healing and will encourage congregations to demonstrate the unity Jesus prayed for.
As always we hope you will Think on these things!
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