I’m not a fan of buzzwords. If a word becomes such you can pretty much bank on it that I’m not likely to use it. I’ve used the word missions a handful of times in recent years but I avoid it because it’s both nebulous and omnipresent.
Unfortunately, the word “gospel” has become such a word in some circles. I have come to the point where I almost never use the word unless I am specifically referring to the gospel story of Christ’s salvation. If I enumerated my specific complaints it would be counter-productive and we would most certainly find ourselves on several tangents. But chief among those complaints is the tendency to make every issue a gospel issue. “This touches on the gospel.” “This is at the heart of the gospel.” There are many issues on which we can disagree and the gospel isn’t touched.
But race, racial reconciliation, and the combating of racism in any form in the church is a gospel issue.
1. In the early church, race was THE issue.
It wasn’t black or white, but it was Jew or Gentile. If you read the book of Acts, it is essentially a book about how the church, which started as a racially monolithic church, became mixed-race and predominantly Gentile.
Jesus commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations, and said the church would go to the ends of the earth, but the apostles stayed in Jerusalem ministering to the Jews. It took persecution to cause them to leave. Still, they kept their focus on evangelism to the Jews until God sent a vision to Peter, saved Cornelius, assaulted Saul on the road to Damascus, and established the interracial church at Antioch that became a mission-sending church. At every step along the way, the Jews resisted, but God forced the doors open until by the end of Acts the church was more Gentile than Jewish.
2. This was why Jesus died.
It is a gospel issue. It’s not extraneous or secondary. If you read Ephesians 2, it is absolutely clear that Jesus died to break down human walls of separation and to create “one new man” out of the crumbled refuse of human division.
If this is part of why Jesus died, it’s a gospel issue.
Jesus did not just die to save a bunch of individuals. That’s an American idea – we tend toward the rugged individualist viewpoint. He died for the church, and that church is meant to be a racially unified whole.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:14-17
Unless you want to argue that the Jew-Gentile racial division was different qualitatively that the Black-White divide of our day, or the White-Native American, or another other, then you cannot read Ephesians 2:14-17 and escape the conclusion that the death of Christ was intended to create racial unity.
Racial unity is part of the gospel.
Many of the things we’ve attributed as gospel issues arent’, but this is.
3. Racial harmony is the destiny of redemptive history.
We hear so much about “being on the right side of history.” Well, those of you who resist racial unity and reconciliation are most assuredly on the wrong side of it. Revelation 5:9-10 describes the praise of heaven.
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
The Lamb steps forward to receive the scroll of judgment and is declared worthy for several reasons, but one is that “by (his) blood” he had “ransomed people for God.” What people? People from every tribe and language and people and nation on earth – a rainbow coalition. The purpose of Jesus Christ is redeem not a white church or a black church or a brown church but an all-nations church.
There can be little doubt that a simple reading of the New Testament establishes two things:
1. Jesus died for the racial reconciliation of the church – it is a gospel issue.
2. The greatest failing and the deepest stain of shame on the American church has been racism.
It still exists today, as much as we would like to pretend it is gone. I’m not saying everyone who defended the Confederate Flag was a racist, but you should have seen some of the shameful, disgusting comments left here that I refused to post. If you doubt that racism still exists in Southern Baptist pews, perhaps I erred in not posting those disgusting comments. I just couldn’t do it.
Remember the story of Joshua and Achan? Israel was defeated at Ai and he fell on his face before God, calling out in agonized prayer. God told him to get up off his face and stop praying! Can you believe that? He said there’s sin in the camp and until the sin is dealt with all the sanctimonious prayer in the world will do no good.
Is it possible that God would say the same thing to us today? Oh, prayer is noble and good. But if we pray and we do not also get up and deal with our sin, if we do not rise up and take the Achan of racism outside the camp and stone him and all his family with stones, the prayers will do no good.
Achan and his family must die and until they do, maybe nothing else we do to jump start the SBC will be effective. Since that is our besetting sin, maybe that needs to also be our rebooting act?
Do not kid yourself that electing Fred Luter fixed anything. Let us persist in repentance and in action until racism has no more part in the Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s make this a place that no one feels comfortable telling a racially insensitive joke, where racists feel more uncomfortable than minorities did 25 years ago!
By the power of the Holy Spirt, let’s deal with this GOSPEL issue. We cannot be a Christian denomination blessed by God if racism holds any significant place among us.
Let’s kill Achan. Dead.