By Dr. Stephen Kim
It is not a profound statement to say that racism is still a problem in America. Names of locales such as Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; and Staten Island, New York are recent and vivid reminders for all of us that race is still very much an issue in these United States. And as we just saw in an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina this past June, a person would even murder nine members of another race while pretending to peacefully join them for a Bible study.
And while the sin of racism runs deep within the hearts of some, the response given by the Christian family members of the victims who were killed during that Bible study are glorious depictions of the fact that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can cleanse the sin of racism from the hearts of men and women. For example, when a family representative of Ethel Lance, the 70-year-old grandmother who was shot during the massacre, met the killer in court; the representative stood and told the killer:
“You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you.”
A family member of another victim even invited the killer to a future Bible study with the hopes that the killer would repent and be converted.
Those sorts of responses shocked the nation. “How could anyone forgive such an unrepentant racist killer?” wondered the nation. The answer, of course, is the gospel. Christians were commanded by Christ to forgive the worst sinners because in Christ, we–the worst of sinners against God–have been forgiven by God. Since God has so lavishly forgiven us, we have no choice but to lavishly forgive others. We conquer hate with love. I believe that the gospel is the only solution for mankind’s deep hatred for one another for our hatred against our fellow man is deep and it goes way back to Cain and Abel. Social programs, Nobel Peace prizes, and philanthropy are inept against the racism that lurks deep within our wicked hearts. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change the way we look at our ethnically variant neighbors.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH DEMOLISHES RACISM
The reason why the gospel is incompatible with racism is because of the doctrine of “justification by faith alone.” Justification by faith levels the field for all people. All men are sinners. The Jews need to be saved through faith in Christ, and the Gentiles need to be saved through faith in Christ. It is the same entry-point for all people. It is the same gospel for all people. In the book of Galatians, Paul vehemently exhorted the Galatian Christians that they were not inferior to their Jewish brethren simply because of this doctrine of “justification by faith alone.”
Anytime you believe in the inherent superiority of a particular race, you are adding to the gospel. The Jews that came from Jerusalem were part of the circumcision party and were asserting their Jewish superiority over the Gentile Christians. They were adding Judaism to the gospel. But when it comes to salvation, the Jews need Jesus just as much as any other ethnic group; and conversely, the other ethnic groups do not have to become Jewish in order to attain eternal life. Racism is completely incompatible with Christianity for the Bible declares:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
By being racist, you are declaring that the gospel is impotent and false. Racism declares that the gospel does NOT unite all believers from various ethnicities into one united body through Christ Jesus. Hence, racism stands in terrible contradiction to the gospel. Just listen to how the blood of Jesus demolishes racism:
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. (Ephesians 2:13-14)
Did you hear that? Jesus died for many reasons and one specific reason Jesus died was so that different ethnicities could have peace through His crucified and broken body. We often declare that Jesus died for sins, but Ephesians 2:14 specifically declares that Jesus died to demolish the ugly sin of racism. The fact that so many self-proclaiming Christians are also racists is a terrible shame to the gospel that they proclaim. It is out-of-step with the gospel and when Peter committed a racist sin, Paul stood up and declared that Peter “stood to be condemned” (Gal 2:11, which also clearly shows that racism is indeed a sin).
CHRISTIAN RACIAL DIVERSITY GLORIFIES JESUS
I fully understand that in certain settings, and in certain cities and nations, ethnic diversity is impossible. The church (in those settings) will always look uniform because the nation is comprised of one ethnicity (this however, is not the case in global cities like New York City). However, we all ought to thirst for the day when Christians of all races could not merely worship and work together; but also eat, fellowship, reflect, and laugh together. Racial diversity is something we ought to thirst for because very few things declare the power and transcendence of the gospel like Christian unity within ethnic diversity. It powerfully declares to the world that Jesus is not merely a king for the Jews, the Arabs, the Koreans, or the Chinese. Instead, ethnic diversity displays–in a very tangible way–that Jesus is King over the entire world and that the gospel is good news for all people. Brothers and sisters, rest assured, this glorifies God. I know this because one day, very soon, in heaven, God will put together a holy city with people from every nation, tribe and tongue. Listen to the apostle John in the book of Revelation:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)
There will be no racists in heaven because in that day, we will be perfected by the One who died to make us one. Yes friends, the gospel demolishes racism.