Every human being at the moment of conception is created in the image of God. This means that all lives have immeasurable value and are deserving of protection and of celebration as part of the perfect creative expression of the Father.
Scripture’s command to love others compels all followers of Jesus Christ to uphold such value. While there are many applications of this for the children of God as His ambassadors in this fallen world, one such item that continues to be a source of great division in both our country and the Church is that of ethnic and racial reconciliation. It is on this item there is much to be said and upon which our church desires to give some specific guidance at this time.
Ethnic and racial prejudice has a deep and complicated history which is seen in the Bible and still exists in the United States. Issues surrounding this span spheres that are governmental, legal, economic, social, ethical and, most importantly, evangelical. Yes, racial and ethnic injustice is in fact a Gospel issue. What must be understood is that it is not simply a matter of the content of the Gospel but equally important the scope of the Gospel.
If we focus only on the content of the Gospel in bringing people to salvation, our human temptation might be to simplify this to a sin issue and limit our interaction with the topic to prayer and personal evangelism. While both of those are necessary expressions of our faith, if we stop there, we allow ourselves to disengage with the personal, multi-generational hurt that has been caused by ethnic and racial prejudice in our communities, further widening the race and ethnic relations gap that continues to cause great harm across our land.
Therefore, we must venture forward with contextualizing this issue in terms of how it is woven within the fabric of the scope of the Gospel mandate for all Christians. In doing so, we believe it is helpful to offer a framework for approaching this issue in a comprehensive fashion. Given that each of us has an “area” of impact that we can have regarding this, we will use the acrostic A.R.E.A. to better understand how we can individually and collectively begin to engage with this issue. This stands for:
E ducation and
These four concepts work in an ongoing relationship in concert with one another.
Awareness begins with two primary aspects. The first is an awareness that ethnic and racial prejudice and injustice are real, active problems in America. The second is an awareness that very few people in all cultures have an adequate level of understanding of the issues and sensitivity to the impact of the issues. Without a greater awareness of these realities, progress is unachievable and hearts are not softened.
Relationship is where the foundation for long-term change must be built. Most people live and work in homogenous communities as opposed to diverse communities, and far too often our closest relationships are limited by this reality. It is only through increasingly living in vibrant relationships with those of other ethnicities that true reconciliation can happen. A particularly important aspect of this is doing ministry together. It is in the intentional pursuit of people of all ethnicities and races where sincere relationships are formed.
Education is another component of this issue in which significant improvement can and must be made. Too little effort has gone into gaining an accurate understanding of the complicated factors that created the current environment and contributed to it throughout the history of our country. We cannot assume that what we learned, or thought we knew, always painted the correct picture of history. We must pursue truth as a life discipline that must be the mark of any follower of Jesus Christ, and that extends throughout and beyond God’s Word and into the fullness of His creation.
Action is the fourth component, and it must not be viewed as the “end state” but as a necessity and getting educated prior to part of an ongoing strategy of progress. Also, it is advisable to spend time increasing awareness committing to a series of actions; doing so helps to ensure that as individuals and a church, we create and sustain momentum toward ethnic and racial reconciliation in our land.
As we consider various actions, a comprehensive approach would be to focus efforts on ensuring that as individuals, we develop a heart for everyone; that as families, we are instilling and embracing values mirroring God’s heart for righteousness, acceptance and justice; that as a church we admit partiality and prejudice, that we have failed God in eradicating this sin and recognize the systems within our culture at large that promotes or fail to guard against inequity; that as citizens we enact our duty to challenge those in leadership toward words and actions that are healing and unifying instead of destructive and divisive; and that as children of God we pray fervently and authentically for Him to intervene through His people and heal our land according to His will.
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We encourage you to take time to engage with the recommended resources on our website as you allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and mind on this important issue. Click Here to go back to that page.