One of my favorite things to do during this quarantine, is to watch multiple church services on TV, either recorded or live stream. I have two that I am most attracted to. There is Dr. Duane Brooks, pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church, Houston, TX . His preaching is always inspirational and helps me keep my focus on Christ and my neighbors instead of myself. The other is Dr. Bill Waddell, pastor of Island Baptist Church, South Padre Island TX. His preaching teaches me from, and grounds me in, the Word. After listening to one of his sermons, I feel prompted to look up all the Bible references I can find about his topic of the week. Both men are completely different in their style and delivery and both are wonderful preachers from whom I am learning all the time.
This week Dr. Waddell was discussing, among other things, disease in Jesus’s time and its similarities to the pandemic in which we now find ourselves. This got me thinking, about disease in general. In Jesus’s time leprosy was rampant (and still is apparently), just like Covid-19 is rampant now. As far as I know, there is no cure for either. But as deadly as both of these diseases are, they are not the worst disease we face in our lives. There is a disease of the soul and of the mind and it is a disease of pandemic proportion. People are being hurt and even die as a result of this disease. Fear of this disease is creating panic, rioting, political unrest and protesting . This disease is called racism. Now I know I promised you I would not go political in any of my blogs, and I intend to live up to that promise. What I have to say about racism is not politically motivated, but rather comes straight from the Bible. What does the Bible say about racism? How would Jesus handle this tragic affliction that is destroying lives?
First let us look at what God the Father has to say about the topic. (Yes I am aware the actual word racism is not in the Bible). The first premise is that of creation. If you are a Christian then you know that one, we were created in the image of God himself; and two, we are created to be children of God. (Genesis 1:27, Galatians 3:26). There are many other verses that support this premise and I encourage you to google the topic. My question to you is: if we truly are brothers and sisters (children of God), created in God’s image, how then can racism exist in our communities? When did we decide that one color of skin was better than another? Or decide that one Christian denomination was better than another? Or that one group of people who share a common ideology are better than another? Says who???
Next, God the Father has given us an instruction book on how to treat our brothers and sisters. For me the Ten Commandments which are referenced in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 take top billing. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The fifth is the first of the commandments that deal with human interaction, and also the only commandment with a promise. Namely “Honor your mother and father, that your days may be prolonged…” The last five all are about our relationship to each other. Also, let us not forget Matthew 7:12 that says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Golden rule right? Do you know that almost every religion in the world has some form of the Golden Rule? If we all lived according to the Golden Rule there would be no racism.
Unfortunately, in today’s world there are many who believe that one race is better than another, one belief system is better, one political ideology is better. I would say to them, if we think we are better than another human being for any reason, we are not following the commands of the Father. If you follow the Golden Rule there is no room in your heart, mind or soul to harbor a single racist thought.
Next, lets explore how Jesus would handle racism and injustice. Jesus was asked at one point to tell someone what was the greatest commandment. His reply is perfect. He says, “Love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, this is the great and first commandment. And a second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40) (Remember, neighbor does not refer to just the family next door, but to every human being.) Try following that line of thought and tell me where you think racism is justified.
.Jesus broke through the barriers of racism in his day. Take for example the woman at the well, found in the Gospel of John chapter 4. She was a Samaritan woman, a different race of people and they were held in very low esteem by their Jewish counterparts. So Jesus sits down at this well, and asks this woman to give him a drink of water. She challenges him with the question of why a Jew would ask a Samaritan for anything, much less a Samaritan woman. Even the disciples were astonished that he was speaking to her. Jesus needed to teach them how to “love their neighbor.” He used the Samaritans again in his parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite (those in the priestly line) passed by an injured man and left him laying in the road. Then a Samaritan comes along, a member of that hated race. But even though he was hated, he did not show hatred in return; instead he showed compassion and love to the victim. (If you need to read a feel good story, this parable is one that will lift your spirits.)
Matthew 5:23-24 has Jesus telling us to reconcile with our neighbors, paraphrasing–if you are presenting a gift to God and remember that you and your brother have a disagreement, leave your gift and go make up with your brother first. Go Make Up, don’t hold a grudge, forgive. We must forgive each other, even when we think we are the injured party. The Lord’s prayer found in Luke 11:1-4 teaches us about forgiveness. We know this prayer so well we often overlook a very important clause. We ask God to forgive us our sins, exactly the same way we have forgiven others! Now that should give you pause for thought. If I have not forgiven others, then I will not be forgiven. We need to let go of petty jealousies, mean thoughts and the idea that we are better than anyone else.
I am not one to carry a grudge, because they just get too heavy to be bothered with. However, I hate to admit, that for many years I held one grudge. It was a grudge against a family member, I won’t go into why, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is, the longer I held that grudge the unhappier I became. Living with unforgiveness in our hearts makes us soul sick. When I finally admitted to myself and to God my sin of unforgiveness, God lifted it from my shoulders and healed my heart. I no longer have any animosity toward this person. I have learned that we must forgive everyone even if they don’t ask for forgiveness. It is not ours to judge, but it is ours to live in a Christlike manner, and Jesus was all about love and forgiveness.
In God’s eyes we are all the same. Galatians 3:26-28 says “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t care about the color of our skin. If you look around you see more shades of color than one can imagine. But that is irrelevant. It is not what’s on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside. In the words of a current popular Christian song, “we all bleed the same.”
For me a lot of this is a flashback to the sixties and early seventies. Protests, riots, looting, police brutality, innocents murdered. I thought we had gotten past this but apparently not. Let us stop history from repeating itself. Let’s find answers to create change. Let us spread the Gospel of love. You cannot be a Christian and a racist, you must choose one or the other. For we cannot live in Christ’s love and not have it overflow to those around us. God is love and we are his children. Let us show love to all the people of the world. Love is the cure, the only cure for this disease.
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Clare Herbert Woolston.