Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the emancipation of slaves. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, and announced to enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and they were free — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Unfortunately, racism against the black community in our country continued since then. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (as well as the December 1865 passing of our Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment which officially abolished slavery), freed slaves. They made it illegal for an American to own another person. However, it could not abolish the sin of racism in the heart of many.
As followers of Christ, we should never espouse slavery. We, of all people, should understand what it means to live in freedom. Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Likewise, followers of Christ, of all people, should never harbor racism in our hearts and lives. There is absolutely no place in the church for racism. Why? Let me mention four biblical principles of why the church, and individual Christians, should be free of racism, and how we can apply those principles to our lives.
1. We’ve been commanded to love. If you are even faintly familiar with the Bible, you will know that it commands us, over and over again, to love. We are to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We love because we know the love and grace that God has shown to us through Christ. Jesus commanded us to love, and demonstrated that love to all, including those who most Jews vehemently despised, such as the Samaritans.
In what is known as the Great Commandment, Jesus declares that we are to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). He did not give us limits on that love; He simply told us to love. Here’s the bottom line truth for us believers: we are commanded to love, and should be characterized by love. Anything less falls short of God’s standard for His people. When we love all peoples, God’s love is seen through us.
What should we do? Love. Accept. As Martin Luther King once said, “judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” Don’t pre-judge a person just because their skin color is different from yours. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best.
2. We’ve been created in God’s image. All of us, regardless of the color of our skin, have been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). So, when we see someone of a different race, we should not focus on the color of their skin, but that they have been created in God’s image. And that God loves them. And that Jesus died for them. And He wants them, just like you, to know Him.
As you know, I am 100% pro-life, which means I am anti-abortion. But it also means that I understand that God sees all people as special. Every person is valued and valuable in God’s sight. No one—no matter their race, class, gender, etc.—is less than. As the old saying goes, “God doesn’t make any junk.” We are all valuable to Him. And He proved that by dying on the cross (Romans 5:8). Therefore, the black community matters to us. And we should be concerned about systemic racism that has been a scourge on our society for far too long.
What should we do? If you view any particular race of people as less than you, repent. Confess that sin and ask God to forgive you. They are God’s creation. You are no different than they are. Ask God to enable you to see others as He sees them.
3. We’ve been called into one body. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews and Gentiles, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). There’s only one body of Christ. There’s no white body, or black body, or Asian body. There’s one body of Christ that is comprised of every one who has trusted in Christ, regardless of their race.
When you read the New Testament, it’s apparent there was much confusion about this particular issue in the early church. The Apostle Peter struggled with the question of how Gentiles would be included in this new church. In Acts 10, we read of how God spoke powerfully to Peter about this all-important subject. In Acts 10:34-35, Peter declared: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
The book of Revelation is also clear that Christ’s body is for every one and every race and nation. In Revelation 7:9, it describes the future scene in heaven, as believers are gathered around the throne of God. Notice who will be there: “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” Diversity within the church is a beautiful picture of what will be. And it displays the beautiful unity that can ultimately only be found in Jesus.
What should we do? If applicable, allow yourself to get to know others who are different from you. Pray for them. Welcome other ethnicities when they attend Swift Creek. Let them know you’re glad they’re there! Invite them to Swift Creek. See your fellow believers of other races as your brothers and sisters.
4. We’ve been commissioned to tell all peoples about Christ. As Jesus declared in the Great Commission, we are to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). We’re to share God’s love with them. And because Jesus loves them, so should we.
What should we do? Go and share the good news with every one you can, regardless of their race. Know that the gospel will save them, just as it has you.
Church, let’s be a model of love and acceptance to a hurting world. And finally, on behalf of Swift Creek Baptist Church, let me say to our black brothers and sisters in our church that we love you. We are so grateful to be called your brothers and sisters. And we count it a privilege to serve alongside you for the sake of Christ and His gospel. Thank you for investing in our church! We love you!