[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sam Murrell of Little Rock, Arkansas]
Nothing that I am about state should be construed as my advocating for people of different ethnicity to worship separately. Nothing I say here should be understood as an advocating of what is commonly referred to as ‘racism’. The Body of Christ is one, and the Church should visually reflect the reality of that ‘oneness’ to the degree that the world yearns for what they observe that we are enjoying. It is unfortunate that, for far too long, the Church has followed the lead of the world when it comes to recognizing and addressing hatred amongst the various tongues, tribes and nations.
Years ago, I participated in my first ‘racial reconciliation’ worship service. It was a well-integrated gathering of black and white folk. The service, while very moving, left me feeling very awkward as white strangers approached me to confess their racism toward me and “my kind”. It wasn’t that I had never experienced unfairness or injustices because of the tone of my skin. On the contrary, the issue was that the confessions came from people who had never done any wrong towards me in particular. So, I was left not knowing what I should do for them in response to their confessions; I was young and so chalked my discomfort up to my inexperience. Since that gathering, I recall participating in at least two other instances of worship services that were focused primarily on racial reconciliation. And I have actually worked for a church where “intentional racial reconciliation” was part of the mission statement. Over the years, I have come to a greater sense of clarity regarding my uneasiness with such event. Here, in no particular order, are the few reasons that I no longer take part in “racial reconciliation” services:
Too often, the premise of the worship service is that Whites are guilty because they are White. This is evident in the fact that the white people present at such events are expected, even pressured, to confess the sin of racism even if they cannot recall any specific instances of racist action that they have perpetrated. The assumption is that because you are white then you must have knowingly, or unknowingly, caused offense towards Blacks (and maybe other ethnic minorities too). An example of this guilt-by-association is that, although you may be unable to find any instance of slave ownership in your genealogy, you are held accountable for the history of slavery in the United States of America. The black person stands as representative of the innocent victim of so-called racism and thus serves a priestly role for the white confessor who is guilty because of a lack of melanin in the epidermis. The white person’s pigmentation carries with it a privilege, and that is enough to require repentance.
In contemporary parlance, the word ‘privilege’ is employed by the offended group as a weapon against the other. Once someone is labeled as ‘privileged’ he is supposed to realize his rightful place in the ‘race’ conversation is as the silent observer whose liberty to speak has been revoked. The accused and the accuser are no longer equals. Recently, a major Reformed Seminary hosts a conference on ‘race’ and actually advertised that they were inviting Whites to come and to listen but not to speak or interact. Such is not biblical reconciliation but rather a warped form of penance and one that cannot be paid fully, thus being reconciled, as the person of whom the penance is required can never cease to be as God created them: white or black. He can never undo the fact of slavery or systemic hatred in America and, therefore, he must embrace a life of spiritual self-flagellation as a result of the unwarranted whiteness that has allowed him to live such a life of comparative ease. What is most disturbing is not that the world would think this way but that such thought has been embraced by the Church.
Words Matter. As people of the Word, language is important and I believe it is time the Church gave up the common use of the word ‘race’ and all of its cognates. They only help to perpetuate an untruth about the nature of mankind. In the anthropology of Scripture, race is an alien concept. Scripture does not speak of ‘the races’ as subsets of humanity, but it does speak of ‘tongues (which can be translated as religions), tribes and nation’. As long as the Church concedes to the terminology of a Darwinian worldview we will never get closer to modeling the oneness of the Body of Christ for the world that is spoken of in Scripture. The Church must not capitulate to the secular world on this matter and put words into our mouths, and in doing so perpetuate a false reality. God’s Word has this right; there is one ‘race’ and many scattered tongues, tribes and nations. Many anthropologists agree that the 19th-century idea of many ‘races’ is not a biological reality but rather a myth. My point here is not to argue the science but to emphasize worldview. When discussing biblical anthropology we should insist on biblical language, and there is no Scriptural basis for diving mankind among the so-called ‘races’. The illusion of racism is not where the discussion should lie, and as long as the Church discusses issues of pre-Christian tribal and ethnic allegiances from the perspective of so-called racism then we will not see any real progress as we are led by the nose by every new social-justice group that comes along to claim their place as the new prophetic voice of a downtrodden minority.
Identity madness is a current hot topic. People question their identity as man rebels against the boundaries of a biblical anthropology they seek in vain to invent their own explanation. This radical subjectivity results in daily re-definitions. God’s people need to understand their true identity. As a Christian, what is my preeminent identity? Am I a Black Christian, or a Christian who is black? We must not give priority to tribal or ethnic loyalties in place of fidelity to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found nothing in scripture that affirms that I am allowed to believe that old tribal devotions neither can nor should take precedence over my identity as a member of the Body of Christ, the nation of the New Israel come down from heaven. We give lip-service to this reality, but do we walk in this truth consistently? The only way is to manifest the truth of the Gospel of King Jesus. The Church cannot continue to trail along behind the world attempting to sprinkle ‘holy water’ on the latest iteration of Marxism and call it ‘social justice’.
Racial reconciliation services are founded upon a lie from Satan. The whole motivation behind them is a false anthropology. Allow me to nuance my previous point. These worship services focus on corporate confessions by the white section of the congregation. And once the service has ended it is expected that the white brother will now go forth and sin against his black brother no longer. Recall here that for many they are expected to repent of being made white which is not a sin. If the white brother does eventually cause offense against black brother, and he will and vice versa, his former repentance, based upon a false premise, will then be viewed as being disingenuous. How is that justice? The line of thought is that, had his confession been genuine, then his offense would be unrepeatable. The offended Black then may accuse the White of ‘racial insensitivity’, latent racism, ‘racial privilege’ and a host of other insults. But rarely is the individual treated as a fallen human being, struggling with a fallen nature, who is wholly incapable of living up to God’s expectation of loving his neighbor as himself. If the person were to be treated fairly, we would seek to follow Jesus’ mandate that, if you offend me, I am to forgive you. Period.
“He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.’
” ‘Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive
him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I
repent,’ forgive him.’” Luke 17:1-5
The message is clear that the offended brother must forgive if so asked. This is repeated several times in the Gospels, for example, Matthew 6 wherein the Lord instructs His followers to pray to God asking that we are judged as we judge others, to be forgiven just as we forgive. We can all relate to the apostles’ response, “…increase our faith!” In own of strength, we cannot possibly hope to be the people that God has called for us to be, nor can we love the way that Jesus says to love. So, when my brother sins against me in prioritizing his ethnic, social, political and economic tribes over mine I am to forgive him. It is not my place to accuse him and therefore all who look like him of being hopelessly lost, nonredeemable and less than me because of some new ‘Mark of Cain’ in his skin that looks different than mine. I pray for him. I talk with him. I seek to help him grow beyond the limitations of his tribe, ethnic or otherwise.
The Church of Jesus Christ should stop attempting to address the mythical issue of so-called ‘race’ as to do so would be to spend time and energy chasing after an imaginary dragon. There simply is no such thing and the Bible offers our proof. Biblically speaking, mankind is of one human race. We are all saved the same way, we will all be judged by the Christ according to the same standard of righteousness that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not one has been tested and found in the right in His eyes.
The call of the Church is to love one another. This means that I must deal with you personally when you sin against me personally. I cannot hold you accountable for sins committed by past generations, nor can I regard you as a pariah because I perceive that God has blessed you differently than He has me.
No ethnic group has the market cornered on any particular sin. The Church does mankind a disservice when she disciplines them to believe the lie that skin color makes them immune from the accusations of hating or discriminating against others of a different tribe. Many blacks have been sold the lie that their identity as an oppressed minority renders them exempt from being found guilty of tribalism. In the Marxist worldview, such may be lauded as a foundational truth, but when life is seen from a biblical perspective that simply does not pass the smell test. Christ has commanded us to love one another. That call can only be fulfilled on His terms.
[Editor’s Note: This is a post by Sam Murrell, which was originally published, here. Re-posted by permission]