The Most Dangerous Kind Of Racism

All racism is dangerous. But there is one particular strain that is even more deadly than the rest. It does more damage than the Klansman in a white hooded sheet could ever dream of. It’s deadlier than the rich, young college student fighting over a statue.

The most dangerous kind of racist is the one who has convinced himself that he is not a racist. After all, he doesn’t like the Klan. He’s never showed up to a white supremacist rally. She loves that black running back on her favorite football team. She even likes a few Outkast songs.

But deep down in her heart, there is hatred. And it feels perfectly normal. As a result, her kids grow up never really being taught what it means to love their neighbor. In word and in deed, they are taught to look the other way when an entire race of people suffers. Even worse, they’re taught to blame that entire race of people for the suffering they endure. So the racist jokes told in the church parking lot aren’t really all that bad. It’s just humor. And the segregation of the last century is most certainly condemned but it’s replaced with a much more acceptable variety of segregation.

And it all feels perfectly normal.

I’m 42 years old. To put it another way, I’ve been sinning for over four decades. Sure, I’ve been a Christian for most of those years but that doesn’t change the fact that I desperately need the gospel. Without it, my heart is bent toward selfishness, pride, envy, lust, murder, and yes, even racism.

Not one person on the earth can truly say, “God, I thank you that I am not like that racist over there” (Luke 18:11).

Rather, we must prayerfully and honestly address our sin and repent. The answer is not found in self-righteousness or life-long, low-grade guilt.

Only when we pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” will we truly know what it’s like to be reconciled to God and one another (Luke 18:13-14).

In the book of Acts, we are given two examples to help us as we try to live this out in our day to day lives. The first example shows us the importance of repentance and the second the importance of discernment or critical thinking.

The early church was growing by the thousands. And they did it without giving out free iPads to the first 100 people to show up or by mailing out risqué flyers about how the next sermon series is going to be on sex. Imagine that! Their growth was the result of God’s work but everything wasn’t perfect.

Church leaders had to care for hundreds of widows without any assistance from a government welfare program, the Internet or even phones. They failed. But they didn’t just fail. They failed in a way that looked like racism.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. Acts 6:1 (ESV)

Here’s a translation of the complaint that was made by the Hellenists or Greek-speaking Jews.

“Hey, Peter and John. I know it’s hard to feed everyone but why is it that our people are always the ones getting left out?”

The response of Peter and John and the rest of the church leaders is one that we would do well to follow today.

“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who we will appoint to this duty.” Acts 6:2 (ESV)

Notice what they did not say. They didn’t say, “Oh, you don’t understand, we have plenty of friends who are Hellenists.” And they didn’t tell the Hellenist widows to, “Pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”

Instead, they changed their system. For them, loving others was more important than saving face or doing it the way they’ve always done it. I pray that the same could be said of today’s church. May we be a people who are quicker to repent than we are to defend an old human system that hurts others.

This requires critical thinking. It means that the thoughtful Christian will not jump on every bandwagon just so he can be, “on the right side of history.” We need more discernment and less Group Think. We need to follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17.

Paul had just been kicked out of Thessalonica for preaching the gospel and he found himself in Berea. The biblical description of these people is noteworthy.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11 (ESV)

God used Paul to write a majority of what would later come to be known as the New Testament. But when he preached to the Bereans, they still wanted to measure everything he said against the Scriptures.

Such wisdom and discernment isn’t only unusual these days, it’s not allowed.

Some on the right would have us to believe that daring to question a Republican president when he is wrong means that you are a “snowflake” who hates America.

And some progressives would have us to believe that if we question Colin Kaepernick’s affinity for Fidel Castro, we are somehow blind to the injustices of the world.

Both assessments are wrong and are the result of misplaced worship and a lack of critical thinking. Many Christian leaders have soiled their garments because they worship the idea of having a seat at President Trump’s table. They have forgotten that it’s more important to have a seat at the table of their neighbor who has a different skin tone than they do. Many Progressives care more about Colin Kaepernick’s next job after he walked away from millions from his former employer than they do their neighbor’s next job after he was laid off with nothing more than best wishes.

Navigating our way through these complexities requires less group think and more of the wisdom of Christ. It requires more repentance and less self-righteousness.

Before I see that they are the problem, I must see how I am the problem.

Before I condemn their hatred, I must carefully examine my heart for my hatred.

Otherwise, I’m much more dangerous than I think I am.

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The Myth Of White Privilege

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We need to have an honest conversation about white privilege. The current one just isn’t working.

Yes, there is such a thing as white privilege. It’s quite common for a white thief to get away with simply paying back his victims while a black person who does the same thing get 3 to 5 years in prison and ten years of probation.

But the myth is that privilege is somehow confined to one particular race.

There’s just something funny about the Black Lives Matter activist drinking a $12 cup of coffee while typing away on his $2000 laptop about the horrors of white privilege. The white kid in Boone County, West Virginia where they are about to close one third of their elementary schools might wonder where his white privilege has run off to. He might even have something to say about Activist Privilege.

I did my graduate work at an evangelical seminary. During my time there, I got to know guys who were certifiable geniuses. While I was writing papers just do get them out of the way, the papers these guys wrote were destined to one day become books. It was interesting to hear what these guys were going to do next. Many of them planned on continuing their education and getting doctoral degrees. They dreamed of getting accepted to Yale or Harvard or some other prestigious east coast school.

Most of them didn’t get in. But why? It wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough or didn’t work hard enough. Their rejection was due to the fact that those prestigious schools had a quota of how many evangelicals they would accept into their school of theology. My genius, evangelical friends suffered from Liberal Theology Privilege.

That’s one reason why our current conversation about white privilege needs to change. It acts as though no one else is or can be privileged.

The current remedy to white privilege is guilt. Beat yourself up for being white and avoid commenting on any social issues for a while and maybe, just maybe, you can appease the political correctness gods before it’s too late.

The Bible gives us a better remedy.

 

Contentment.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Contentment is the enemy of greed and the opposite of guilt. When I am content, I rejoice with my neighbor when he works hard and saves wisely to pay cash for an automobile that I can’t afford. Contentment prevents me from looking down on him and from thinking that I’m somehow better than he is simply for having less.

But we aren’t content. We don’t know how to live when we are brought low. We think that everyone else needs to be brought low with us and that if they don’t they are evil. And we don’t know how to abound. We place our identity in what we have and we always want more. Without contentment, whether you’re poor or rich, white or black, male or female, you will always be greedy. Always.

There is a secret to successfully navigating our way through failure, success, privilege and greed.

Christ.

Doing all things through Christ’s strength wasn’t written to help football teams win state championships. It was written for entitled people who think that they deserve more and who are tempted to hate others who have more. It was written for you and me.

In one way or another, we are all privileged. And we’ll do anything we can to both deny our privilege and keep it.

Jesus took a different approach with his privilege.

He gave it up. He didn’t give up being God. He didn’t give up his personhood or the essence of who he is. He just gave up his privilege.

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. Philippians 2:4-8 (ESV)

Maybe if we followed that example, instead of living in a perpetual state of guilt or self-righteousness, we would all start getting along a little better. All of this guilt and self-righteousenss is preventing us from loving one another. It’s a breeding ground for hate. But if we live with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:4), we can begin to love our neighbor and pursue his good. Otherwise, when injustices happen to him, we’ll just think that he got what he deserved.

If you want to play the I’m Bigger, Badder, Richer and More Important Than You game, you’ll never win. There is always someone with a little more. Even Donald Trump can’t win that game. The same is true of the other game, the one called, I’m More Abused, Harassed, Rejected and Poor Than You Are. There is always someone with a little less. You’re not going to win.

So instead of basking in your privilege or seething at the privilege of others, be content with who you are and where God has you. Come to grips with the fact that, no matter your color, you are privileged. But instead of comparing your privilege to others, follow the example of Christ.

Put it to the side.

And move toward others in love.

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Jesus And The Black Lives Matter Movement

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If I was a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, and I actually cared about peace, I’d start thinking seriously about a name change. We wouldn’t be able to go with All Lives Matter because we’ve already been informed that such a name is racist. And we couldn’t use Life Matters because it might offend the folks over at Planned Parenthood. I’ll keep thinking about a new name and get back to you.

There comes a time when every movement finds itself at a crossroads. For Black Lives Matter, the options are many at this point.

a.) They can carry on with their mission and persevere through times of trouble, danger and even obscurity.

b.) They can sell themselves out to the very people who are a part of the initial problem.

c.) They can allow the troublemakers to take over.

The people at Black Lives Matter have chosen options b and c. That’s why you see people burning down cities in the name of justice. And it’s why you see members of the Black Lives Matters movement delighting in the execution of a Texas police officer.

I know that there are bad police. Just like there are bad pastors, bloggers, teachers and lawyers. History has shown us that it’s best to address such injustices on a case by case basis. Many in the Black Lives Matter movement have decided that it would be better to just blow up the whole system.

This is a critical time for the Church. Thankfully, we’ve been here before and managed quite well.

It was shortly after Jesus had risen from the grave. More and more people were deciding to live their lives for Jesus. Thousands, to be exact. And the 12 men who had spent the previous three years following Jesus had quite a challenge. With no Internet, phones, or automobiles, how were they supposed to take care of everyone? How were they supposed to make sure that everyone was fed?

The short answer is this. They didn’t. And their neglect looked like racism.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. Acts 6:1 (ESV)

The Aramaic-speaking Jewish widows were being fed but the Greek-speaking ones were not. What gives? And there you have your first legitimate church fight.

The 12 men leading the church chose to address the problem. Their decision, under God’s plan of course, is a big reason why the Church is still around today. They didn’t blow anything up. They didn’t assassinate anyone.

No, to fix this problem, they started acting like the Church.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect unbelievers to act like the Church. There will always be unbelievers burning things down and saying stupid stuff. The problem comes in when the Church starts falling in line with that. We would do well to follow the early church’s countercultural approach.

My fear is that we won’t. I’m afraid that he constant news coverage of another execution, another crowd blocking traffic or interrupting brunch and another group of marchers spewing hate in the name of justice will cause the Church to retreat.

Christian, if you care anything about God and his gospel, you cannot let this happen. At least not in your church. Pastors and church leaders, before you punt the football and focus all of your energies on budget meetings, you need to consider the example of the early church’s response to a racial dispute.

You need to know your Bible and teach it.

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” Acts 6:2 (ESV)

For some reason, a lot of Christians who care about doing good in the community do so at the expense of the Bible. It’s as if they believe that you can’t do both. You can. In fact, you can’t do just one. A cup of soup for the belly and a jar of air for the soul is not what the world needs. The early church knew this. In their effort to meet physical needs and heal racial wounds, they did not neglect the teaching of the word.

But it doesn’t stop with the Bible. You need to serve too.

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. Acts 6:3 (ESV)

The church selected seven men who would oversee the serving of others. But these weren’t just any men. These were men who were wise, filled with the Holy Spirit and who apparently cared about people. Even in the face of a major and potentially lethal dispute, the early church did not forget its mission. What about your church? Is your church more concerned with the numbers on the budget sheet than the pain down the street? Your new building, while important, is not likely to change your community. Your presence in the schools and over at the Housing Authority will.

So Christian, do not retreat. Do not hand over your responsibility of promoting peace (Matthew 5:9) to those who want the exact opposite. Keep doing the backyard Bible clubs. Don’t stop the bus ministry. If you’re not doing anything, start. Sitting in front of the television and worrying about when the race war is going to start is not your mission. Loving in the name of Jesus is. Get to work.

Finally, the early church prayed.

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 (ESV)

Anyone can complain. Anyone can worry. But true followers of Jesus Christ will pray. And when true followers of Jesus Christ pray, things happen (Romans 8:26; James 5:13-16).

Pray for peace in your community.

Pray for your local law enforcement leaders to do their job in full submission to the authority of Jesus Christ.

Pray that God would raise up people in your church, on the police force and in city hall who are, “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”

Pray for the kind of racial peace that only Jesus can bring.

Forget what I said about changing the name of Black Lives Matter. If I was in that group and I really wanted change, I think that I’d let them keep their name. I’d let them keep their name and I’d leave to join another group.

One that actually cares about peace.

One that has a track record of reconciliation.

I’m happy to already be a part of that group.

It’s called the Church.

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