Grace > Race

As if our country weren’t facing enough challenges with COVID-19 and the economic downturn it caused, racial tensions have again erupted. I say “again,” because they never completely disappear, and perhaps they won’t on this side of heaven; they just retreat for a time until another event causes them to boil over. Watching the needless death of George Floyd is both heartbreaking and maddening. It’s also frustrating and frightening to see the damage being done through violent responses. As a Christian and as a pastor of an increasingly diverse ministry, I grieve over it all.

  • I worry for police officers and other first responders. Most of them serve us because of a sense of duty and a deep desire to help people. All people. I thank God for them, and I pray for their safety. They put themselves in harm’s way for our protection. I also pray for the brave firefighters and political leaders in our congregation to have wisdom in how to move us forward.
  • I empathize with people of color, especially those whom I pastor. I love them, and I try to feel and share their fears and frustrations. I’m learning to listen and empathize, by God’s grace.
  • I pray for our country to return to internal peace today and to then deal with deep-rooted and systemic justice problems in a way that makes such events a thing of the past.
  • I am determined that the tensions all around us must not spill into the church. I pray for a Spirit-produced, Spirit-preserved unity and that the church will be, in this way and others, “a city on a hill” to show the world the radical difference that the gospel makes in how we relate to each other. 

The book of Genesis has drastically shaped my thinking on the topic of “race.” I believe the Bible is clear that there’s only one race, not many. But there are many ethnicities. Scripture gives absolutely no sanction to racial (or better, ethnic) prejudice. Bigots ignore and twist the Scriptures to reach their conclusions. It saddens and angers me. But make no mistake, Scripture says we’re all the same. How so?

According to Scripture, we’re all the same

First, we are all the same in our origins. The first dagger in the heart of prejudice is creation. Scripture says with absolute clarity in Genesis 1–2 that we all come from Adam and Eve. For those inclined to discount the historicity of Genesis, Paul says in Acts 17:26 that God made all humanity “from one man.” Of course, if you want to be technical, we all go back to Noah, as well. Details. But the Cliff ’s Notes of creation say that all humanity is traced back to Adam. And even more significantly, we all bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). We’re all the same.

Second, we are all the same in our sinfulness. Our common father Adam sinned, and in his sin, the entire human race was condemned (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:22). In Romans 1–3 Paul specifically emphasizes this, insisting that whether we are Jewish sinners or Gentile sinners, we’re all sinners—“there is no distinction” (Romans 3:22). We’re all the same.

Finally, we are all the same in Christ if we know Him. Paul riffs on this in Ephesians 2:11–22, where he explains that God has merged Jews and Gentiles into “one new man” in the Christian church. He teaches the same principle in Galatians 3:27–28 with even greater urgency and specificity. 

My daughters vividly learned these lessons during a “mission exposure trip” in Cleveland, led by their youth pastor and my close friend and co-writer, Joe Tyrpak. During a life-changing week, Joe took them to different faith venues to observe worship services. The goal wasn’t to teach them ecumenism. Quite the contrary, it was to expose them firsthand to “the mission.” Each day they would debrief on what they learned from Q-and-A sessions with a rabbi and an imam, from observing a Roman Catholic Mass, and from attending a liberal Protestant service (which mocked the Trinity and celebrated homosexuality the morning they were there). The last experience of the week was a visit to a black Baptist church, where the white teens from Tri-County Bible Church were welcomed, hugged, and urged to join in worship considerably more expressive than they were used to. The climactic lesson from Joe? “You look exactly like the Jews, the Roman Catholics, and the liberal Protestants. But they’re not your spiritual family. The only brothers and sisters we met all week were the Baptists in the black church—the ones who look the least like you, but they’re the same. They’re your family!” The lesson took. Just ask my daughter Bekah and her godly Christian husband, Ray Holden—himself a black Baptist. Prejudice is precluded by creation, by the Fall, and by redemption—the new creation. God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34; Romans 3:11; Galatians 2:6), and nor must we ( James 2:1, 9). We must align our thinking with God’s!

Prejudice is precluded by creation, by the Fall, and by redemption—the new creation

As God’s people, united by Jesus’ blood and by the indwelling Spirit, let’s utilize this current pressure in our society as a force to drive us even closer together rather than a force to pull us apart. Let’s be a striking contrast to the chaos all around us so that the words of Christ will be beautifully fulfilled in our churches: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Grace to you. And remember: Grace > Race!

This post was compiled by Paul Keew for Church Works Media from several things Chris Anderson has written recently on racial tensions, including material written for Gospel Meditations on Creation.