The Gospel and Race

The Gospel is the answer. It sounds like a cop-out, like something a Christian would say when they…

The Gospel is the answer.

It sounds like a cop-out, like something a Christian would say when they don’t know the answer to a hard question. Obviously, it’s not the answer when I’ve lost my keys or when I’m wondering which cereal to choose, but for life’s deeper questions it often seems overused by the bulk of evangelical Christianity.

It is overused for a reason. It is most often right. Though it sounds trite, the Gospel is the answer to most of society’s problems. Including racism.

Simply put, the Gospel is the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. In these acts, Christ was our sacrifice. He conquered sin and death and gave man a path to God. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (1 Co 15:55 ESV)?” This is good news, and the effects of the Gospel are far-reaching and should penetrate every aspect of the believer’s life.

One of the important details of the Gospel is reconciliation. The Bible is clear that people were made in the image of God. Humans disfigured that image when Adam and Eve ate fruit from the forbidden tree. Our natures changed. We were meant to be mirrors of God. We were meant to reflect His selflessness, kindness, and love. Instead, our pride and sin created discord between God and ourselves.

Our sin also creates hostility between us and other people. We see this hostility when a cop chokes a black man with his knee or when riots destroy the property of those who were not to blame. We see this hostility when a black man is chased down by thugs with shotguns and killed while on an afternoon jog.

When Christ died on the cross, He was reconciling us to God, giving people the opportunity to have a relationship with God. But the Gospel goes further than having peace with God. For those who believe the Gospel, His work on the cross also reconciles us with other people. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:13–14 ESV).”

For the Christian, racism is completely off-limits. Every one of us are images of God. None of us are “more” or “less” the image of God. To act as if someone is less human is completely contrary to Christ’s work on the cross for all people.

Racism should break the church’s heart. If you aren’t upset by the racism that many around us feel, there is a problem. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Co 12:26 ESV).” Christians might say, “well, this verse only applies to the pain of another believer.” That’s completely correct. But what type of heart does that attitude betray? Did not Christ die even for those who killed Him? Did He not say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44 ESV)”?

And here is the kicker. The Gospel teaches us to go further than simply treating others equally. Through the example of Christ, the Gospel expects us to move into the arena of self-subjugation and self-denial. We are to be slaves to God and servants to others.

“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

(Mt 5:40–42 ESV)

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

(Php 2:4–8 ESV)

Christians must come alongside those offended ones and, “weep with those who weep.” This affects every Christian. Forget that the world is watching our response, God is watching our response.

For those who are understandably upset about the racism they personally feel, God praises righteous indignation. But He also expects His children to love their enemies. He is the ultimate judge who will declare retribution on those who are unrepentant of their sin. Leave that to His Sovereignty. And rather than make us joyful that our persecutors will be punished, we should feel pity and seek their salvation.

Christ was accused by a group of people who believed they were religiously above Him, the Sanhedrin. He was tortured and killed by group of people who believed they were “racially” above Him, the Romans. Yet through His suffering He conquered sin, death, and changed the world.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

(Mt 5:38–40 ESV)

Many people try to explain this verse away. But the verse is clear. We are not to return violence for violence. We must return love for brutality. This is radical. The command of this verse is excruciatingly hard. But that’s what Christ did for us.

Indifference is not the answer. Violence is not the answer. The Gospel is the answer. The Gospel is always the answer.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
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