Racial Tensions in Christianity
© 2021 by Philip A Matthews
Recently, a quote regarding “critical race theory” from an article, "Several Black pastors break with the Southern Baptist Convention over a statement on race," in the Washington Post: "Few Americans even know the meaning of the concept of critical race theory, a term coined by academics to help describe the pervasive and entrenched nature of racism. Some religious critics of the theory see it as inherently flawed because it doesn’t focus on sin as the problem and God as the answer."
It is a definite fact that greater racial tensions now exist throughout Christianity. People are leaving, churches are splitting, and Christians everywhere are falling out with each other. Once again, it brings up the age-old debate: Is it God's will for the church to preach a social gospel or a gospel focused only on sin? Should the church seek to change unjust social structures and practices mainly by social activism, or should the church seek foremost to change individuals through the preaching of the Gospel and thereby effect change in society?
We must acknowledge that social injustices do exist, they ARE sinful, they DO hurt people, and people of conscience in the church MUST do something about them. We need to acknowledge that the church THROUGHOUT THE AGES has been greatly affected by the social and cultural environments it has existed in, and when this resulted in wrong, sinful positions, we must repent and restore to the best of our abilities.
But none of this means that the correction of social and cultural wrongs should supplant or replace the main mission of the church. Some of us must acknowledge that correction of social and cultural evils is NOT the main mission of the church. We have NO examples of Jesus and His apostles, the founders and promoters of Christianity, ever concentrating on the social and cultural evils of their times or allowing such to distract them from their primary purpose: “To seek and save the lost” INDIVIDUALS of every society (Luke 19:10).
The problem Christianity in America has is its own fault. We have failed to be filled with the Spirit, to maintain a biblical foundation for many of our doctrines and practices, but, most of all, to concentrate on evangelism and discipleship. That is, we have failed to save the lost and disciple the saved. So now we are left with millions of “CHRINOs,” Christians In Name Only, thus failing in our duty to be the salt of society and the light of the world. What people have fallen out of love with and no longer respect or believe in, is a Christianity which, when scrutinized under the light of the Word and Spirit, is barely authentic, quite hypocritical, and nauseous to the world. It has become just as Jesus warned: “You will be good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet!” (Matthew 5:13). The world is not seeing Jesus—His love, power, and glory—in us at all. When the church evangelizes and truly disciples and transforms people into loving Christ-followers, a huge portion of the society is transformed, thus revolutionizing its values, institutions, laws, behaviors, and attitudes. This is what we have been hoping to achieve through political clout and social activism. But it is a spiritual problem with a spiritual solution only.
The racial, cultural dispute in the early Jerusalem church addresses this issue, where the "Grecians" or “Hellenists,” thought to be Jews from the Greek world who didn't speak the Aramaic that Jesus’ society spoke, were being discriminated against during the daily food distributions. The Apostles resolved the matter wisely. They said, "It wouldn't be right for us to leave the Ministry of the Word to serve tables" (Acts 6:1-7). The implication is that, “True, feeding the racially-disadvantaged, the hungry, and the homeless is indeed a great and noble undertaking that definitely should happen, but not everyone in the church is specifically called to this work.” Therefore, these social tasks were assigned to the first "deacons," allowing the leaders of the church to concentrate on the PRIMARY, UNCHANGEABLE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH: EVANGELISM (“GO and TEACH,” the spreading of the Gospel to the whole world) and DISCIPLING of the nations (“TEACHING them to observe everything I taught you”—Matthew 28:18-20). Our main problem is that we haven’t really been doing what we were supposed to be doing!
TRUE BIBLICAL DISCIPLING includes enabling believers to (1) experience God’s LOVE within and thus to be HEALED, MADE WHOLE, and TRANSFORMED, (2) to FEEL and HEAR His Spirit directly, and (3) to become mature enough in their faith that they in turn are empowered to make even more disciples. Jesus’ grand vision—The Master Plan—was for the church to be the first “network marketing” institution, where “each one reached two” until the whole world was saved! If everyone who claims to be a believer in Jesus were really to be discipled in such manner and to this extent, the church wouldn’t need ANY political power or pet politicians at all! The original promoters of Christianity “turned the world upside down” with nothing more than the glorious LIVING presence of Jesus Christ in their midst (Acts 17:6)!
For the church leadership to NOT be directly involved in or concerned with this social ministry is not always negligence, racism, apathy, failure to be "woke," lack of spirituality, social blindness, etc. THAT is not our chief purpose for existence. In our zeal to right obvious social wrongs and injustices, let us believers not be distracted from our eternal, Jesus Christ-given vision. This is not an excuse to let racism and injustice rule the church, but merely a recognition that racism in the church, and in society as a whole, is a direct indication of the lack of true biblical discipleship. We need to work on that.
Thus, the body of Christ should not be at each other's throats, separating and debating over these issues, accusing one another of failure to care, etc. EVERYBODY is not called to do the same thing, have the same emphases, or be blessed with the same giftings. As the spiritual salt and light of society, we need to do it ALL, and the Body is big enough, differentiated enough, gifted enough, and blessed with enough people individually "burdened" (i.e., called) to take care of ALL our responsibilities. Can we all do this in the name of our Lord?