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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How Should the Local Church Respond to Ferguson?

If anything, the many recent tragedies of Ferguson and subsequent protests and riots across the country, have shown us how divided this nation still is on the issue of race.  Yet my hope and I believe God's hope, for the Church at least, is that we realize we are not of this world. We are not black, we are not white, we are not Hispanic, we are not Asian, we are not Middle Eastern. We are not Jewish, we are not Gentiles... We are the Body of Christ, one new man, the redeemed, a Holy Nation, the hope of the Earth -through Jesus.  We are, together, members of His body, diverse in appearance and function yet one in essence.  We are all necessary to complete the diverse-unity that is in Christ.

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:26-29) 

Sure, we all have different heritages and that is not objectionable.  On the contrary it's wonderful!  Individually, we should consider our heritage as very important to us.  It's what makes us who we are.  We are the sum of all of our parts!  You are unique and special to God just as you are!  

I believe that we should all personally celebrate our heritage. It's not wrong for African Americans to celebrate their identity, such as is the case with 'Black History Month'. But neither should it be considered socially unacceptable for those of white European descent to celebrate who they are.  The same should be acceptable for the person of Asian descent, or Native American, or any other. I have a friend who nearly every day, reminds me with pride that he is Italian. I think that his pride in his heritage is admirable. Yet our personal celebrations of our national or racial heritage should never be at the expense of someone else, by tearing others down, or by exalting our racial group over any other.  I should be open to celebrating your heritage with you too, while relishing the fact that we are different and yet the same.

My family and I don't talk too much about our ancestry.  We are not ashamed of it, yet it isn't something we feel the need to be boastful of either. I am of German/Irish/Cherokee decent. My wife is a descendant of people who were English/Melungeon.  (Melungeon is a racial mixture of European, African, and Native American.)  We are very much the product of the American Melting Pot. So, does our ancestry even matter? Yes, but it only matters to me, my wife, and our children.  It doesn't matter in the church because, in the Church, our identity comes from Christ. We have 'put on Christ', therefore it's Him we should look and act like.

When it comes to the Church, as a corporate entity, we need to stop being 'black church' or 'white church' and start being "The Church".  We need to first be Christians.  We need to hold tightly to our spiritual heritage as sons and daughters of God, spiritual descendants of Abraham through faith.  We should NEVER allow our differences in heritage to divide us, and certainly our skin color should have no effect on us whatsoever.  The Church is one.

So how should the local church respond to Ferguson and other similar issues?  Certainly not with silence: I think our response should be completely non-racial, but rather wholly spiritual.  Remember, we're Christians first. Hatred, prejudice, rioting, bigoted talk, all stem from one root cause, that cause is sin (See Romans 13:13 & Eph. 5:1-4).  Through hatred, sin divides us... but WE have been washed.  We are new creatures in Christ, those old things are passed away and the new has come (See 2 Cor. 5:17).  

Racism in any form is a manifestation of prejudice, or 'pre-judging based on a generalization'. Prejudice is most often a form of hatred.  Sure, it manifests itself from white toward black, but just as commonly from black toward white, from Asian toward Hispanic, and so on.  But that is not who WE are... We are the Church!  We are one (worldwide) nation of believers who are begotten by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  We are one people, of one blood, with one Lord.

A natural response would come from the flesh, but spiritual response must come from our spirit man which has been clothed in Christ. Just as the root cause of prejudice is sin, our spiritual response must have a root cause too. In the Church, our cause is Love.  If I'm forgiven, I'm required to forgive.  If I have received God's forgiveness, I will love.  Through that love and forgiveness we are unified.

As the Church we should be manifesting the love of Christ in such a powerful way that the world around us sees no division.  That's what Jesus prayed for (John 17:21). That's who we are called to be. They will know we are His disciples because of the love we have for one another (See John 13:35).  If love is manifesting correctly, my African American brothers and I will be standing together for Christ, and together against hatred.  I urge you reach out to people of other races and show them you love them in Christ.  This could do more to heal than you can even imagine. That's how we, The Church, should respond in Ferguson, or to any other example of racism... with love.

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