Qualification: This post deals with the gospel of racial reconciliation as defined by men like Jarvis Williams, Russell Moore, and others over at The Gospel Coalition. You can either read the argument outlined in this post and weigh it against Scripture or you can decide that I am just a trouble-maker looking to stir things up. The choice is yours.
Recently The Gospel Coalition posted an article entitled “Jesus is not Colorblind.” Now, the article is poking fun at a mindset that I think is actually impossible to reject without running the risk of being a melanin-centric bigot. Yeah, my expression. I coined it. Credit me when you use it, please. A melanin-centric bigot is someone who forms attitudes about others based solely on melanin as their criteria. The “colorblind” mindset is a mindset that says I refuse to define you based on the absence or presence of melanin I see in your skin. That is a good thing since the opposite position says I am going to define you based on the absence or presence of melanin I see in your skin, especially if that means you will make moral judgments about someone based on that criterion. That is like me defining you by your ear size or hair and eye color. It’s the kind of thinking that should be dispensed with these days.
Now, to be sure, Jesus is not colorblind–at least not in the way TGC has framed it–but he is also not obsessed with melanin in the way that modern Americans are either. He just wasn’t. In fact, one has to look no further than God’s rebuke of the prophet Samuel to understand that God does NOT look on man’s outward appearance. God told the prophet point blank: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).” So, if TGC means the colorblind mindset, then Scripture offers a harsh contradiction to their claim. Jesus actually is colorblind. Sounded good when you said it. Lots of things do. Trouble is, it isn’t true. And who better to tell us that it isn’t true than God himself.
Now, the reason I reject the racial reconciliation movement is not that I like division. It is not that I am a racist. It is not that I just want to disagree with people for the sake of being disagreeable. The reason I reject it is because it is not the gospel. And, more than that, it isn’t even a gospel issue. Racial reconciliation is not a gospel issue. If it is anything, it is a sanctification issue. The New Testament shows us how the early church viewed the human race. First, the early church viewed the human race as one race. Paul said, And he made from one man every nation of mankind. The Greek says, he made from one all the nations of mankind and then he determined their allotted times and boundaries (Acts 17:26). The New Testament recognizes nationality, but it nowhere categorizes people based on physical features like melanin. For this reason, it is a bad argument to claim that since modern culture has created a category arbitrarily based on melanin that we must accept it. The Scripture does not support it. Science does not support it. The Church should decide not to support it and teach its community accordingly. Just like I refuse to acknowledge that the man who has had a sex-change operation is now a woman, I refuse to acknowledge that it is appropriate to class human beings into groups based on skin tone and refer to them as “races.” I will not use the feminine pronoun with a boy who wants to self-identify as a girl.
The NT focuses its classification on people much differently. The focus is on Jews and Gentiles, the children of God and the children of the devil, the righteous and the unrighteous. Since we are the church, why not eradicate this modern nonsense and replace it with biblical talk? Perhaps that kind of talk doesn’t really support someone’s pet agenda. Who knows? So, there are black people, brown people, white people, red people, and yellow people. But there isn’t a yellow race or a red race, etc. There are English, Irish, German, Africans (of numerous people groups), native Americans (of numerous people groups) etc. I have no problem saying that this person is a black or brown German or Irishman, etc. This becomes an issue when a society starts to flock together around certain physical characteristics for whatever reason and then that group begins to form a culture within a culture. This is actually the area where the Scriptures have something to say about people groups coming into tension with one another. (This will be addressed later in this post.)
In an article published by National Geographic, Elizabeth Kolbert writes, “Over the past few decades, genetic research has revealed two deep truths about people. The first is that all humans are closely related—more closely related than all chimps, even though there are many more humans around today. Everyone has the same collection of genes, but with the exception of identical twins, everyone has slightly different versions of some of them. Studies of this genetic diversity have allowed scientists to reconstruct a kind of family tree of human populations. That has revealed the second deep truth: In a very real sense, all people alive today are Africans.” Now, this is exactly what we would expect to find as we read the Bible. Of course, the article is written from a philosophical standpoint that flies in the face of Scripture, but that does not change the fact that the data itself, apart from that philosophy, agrees with the basic claims of Scripture regarding human origins. Human beings are descended from one man and one woman created by God a few thousand years ago.
As it turns out, nearly everything most modern Americans including Christians believe about race and even skin tone is wrong. The last time I checked, when your view reflects bad information, you adjust your view to reflect the new, more accurate information. What you don’t do is defend a practice or behavior that has been always based on bad information. Science suggests that skin tone, where it is geographically related, more about the health of the individual than it is anything else. A darker tone protects humans who live closer to the equator where they are exposed to more Sun while people who are located closer to the poles have lighter skin to help promote the production of vitamin D. Additionally, it is the white skin tone that reflects a mutation in the gene known as SLC24A5. The difference is tiny. The point is that no two human beings, outside of identical twins are identical. That society would classify humans based on this tiny mutation in this gene and formulate all sorts of crazy theories around this difference is absurd. My suggestion then is to change the conversation regarding racial reconciliation because, for starters, it only serves to reinforce past ignorance. I believe it is a bad practice to reinforce past ignorance. It is a bad practice to provide fodder for such ignorant thinking. Some will say that they want to preserve their culture. I think its fine to preserve cultural practices that are based on legitimate family traditions. But the desire to preserve cultural practices that are based on pseudo-science deserves a good deal of scrutiny. Additionally, if a cultural practice is contrary to the teachings and ethics of Christianity, it must be rejected regardless of the culture it comes from and regardless of the age of that tradition. So, I reject racial reconciliation because it reinforces thinking that is the product of pseudo-science. And I reject racial reconciliation because it is not the gospel issue its proponents claim.
A third reason I reject racial reconciliation is that the work of reconciliation is complete. Here is why I think this way: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:17-19). The language is explicit. This is how Paul describes us and it is how we should describe ourselves. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). Only when we embrace this mindset will we begin to experience a community of believers that are united in the truth of the gospel! The racial reconciliation movement has latched onto the wrong end of the dragon.
We have fellowship with God and with one another: but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). The Greek word koinonia means, close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship. We are already in close association with one another. We are not estranged. And if we are not estranged, we do not need to be reconciled with one another. The kind of fellowship John is talking about is the fellowship that exists in Christ which means that I am joined with my brothers and sisters in far-away places in the world even though I have never physically seen them or personally met them. I am joined with them in fellowship as members of the one body of Christ.
We are all one chosen race, meaning people group: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). This is what the church actually is. We are now a chosen race, chosen by God. Isa. 43:21 says “The people who I formed for myself will declare my praise.” That is who we are and what we are to do!
We are one body and as such, even legitimate people group tags, such as Jew and Gentile, or English and African, no longer define us. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal. 2:26-29). What makes us the same? We are all sons of God through faith in Christ. That is what makes us the same.
In Romans 8:15, Paul says we belong to the same family: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” In Christ, through the power of the gospel, both Jews and Gentiles are now one family, having been adopted by God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Being in the same family now, we are one new man. Even if you wanted to talk about this in terms of reconciliation, we have been reconciled. The work is complete. There is no division.
Does this mean that it is impossible for some Christians to think improperly about other Christians based on the gene SLC24A5? Of course not. There are people who profess to be Christian whose only reason for hating another person is precisely this gene. Any person guilty of this kind of behavior is guilty of sin. Any person guilty of sin must be confronted with that sin and corrected. If that person refuses to repent, one or two witnesses must confront the person regarding their sin. And should that person persist in that sin, that church should be informed. If that person refuses to listen to the church and repent of their racism, they should be excommunicated and treated like an unbeliever. This is the biblical way to handle racism in the body of Christ. It is a repugnant sin just like adultery, fornication, other forms of hate, lying, etc., that has no place in the body. In 1 Cor. 5:11 Paul writes, But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. The English word translated ‘reviler’ in the NASB is loidoros in the Greek. It means one who engages in slander. All racists fit this category just as all adulterers fit the category of pornos, or immoral. The church has no business tolerating such behavior in its community. But we are talking about a community where, according to one recent study, 68% of men watch porn regularly. Where illicit divorce is as common as it is in the ungodly culture in which it finds itself. Think about this: when was the last time someone in your church was actually excommunicated? Have you ever observed anyone actually being removed from the body unwillingly because of their obstinance? Most Christians will likely answer, never!
The obsession in the church with racial reconciliation is the product of leaders who have failed for years now to involve those whom God has given them in anything remotely resembling quality biblical discipleship. The leaders who are barking racial reconciliation are the very men responsible for the conditions they claim they are trying to fix. The irony is that these very same leaders are the men who continue to neglect the practice of making disciples and equipping the saints to this very hour. Do you really want a healthy, unified church with the right focus? Then start making disciples and stop managing your kingdom. Put as much energy into equipping the saints as you do other activities and you will be shocked at what happens. Actually, no, put more energy into making disciples and equipping the body than you do other activities.
All this means that I should take my focus off the gene SLC24A5. Now is a great time for the church to repent and lead the way forward where this topic is concerned. Now is always the best time for repentance. We begin by adjusting our thinking to match the teaching of Scripture on this subject. We reject definitions that are determined by the pagan culture. We embrace a biblical view of the church. We are one man in Christ. We acknowledge that social constructs such as race are usually contrary to Scripture and in this case, it is even contrary to science. Then, and only then, can we begin to teach our children to think properly about how society defines race, why it is wrong, and how it contradicts Christian principles. I am not interested in the past. And no, this will not solve mistreatment by others in this godless culture. But you are misguided if you think that church can or should strive to solve the issue of racism. I prefer to work on the problem of how we react to such mistreatment. That is something you can control and you must.
Does this mean that Christians who have darker skin tone have not and do not suffer from ungodly attitudes in society? Of course, they suffer from such attitudes. There are all kinds of ungodly people in all kinds of different positions of power and influence in this society and in every society, who form opinions of others based on a variety of different criteria. Do we, the church, have control over those attitudes? No, we do not. Should we? No, we should not. Does the black Christian have control over those attitudes? No, he doesn’t. But he has control over his own attitude. Should he be able to control that situation? No, he should not. But he can control how he thinks about it and responds to it. God has determined the boundaries of our existence. Paul tells us this in Acts 17 as clearly as it could be told to us. Discrimination based on skin tone, gender, religious beliefs, ethnicity, and a number of other factors is a product of the fall and a fact of reality with which every Christian has to grapple. How you decide to respond to such discrimination and mistreatment says volumes about the nature of your faith, your view of the church, and even the sort of gospel you embrace. True Christians have been the most marginalized people group the world has ever known throughout its entire history. Modern racism has nothing on the marginalization of true Christians for the last 2,000 years.
In summary then, are white Christians and black Christians estranged from one another? According to Scripture, all genuine Christians are one new man, one chosen race, one holy family in Christ. Therefore, we are not estranged from each other. If we are not estranged from each other, why then do we need to be reconciled? The proponents of racial reconciliation will make the following statements as proof that we are estranged from one another.
First and foremost, most white Christians attend predominantly white churches and most black Christians attend predominantly black churches. Follow the thinking here. The proponents of racial reconciliation want us to believe that this fact means there is a problem in the churches. But does it? How does this practice in and of itself demonstrate that there is a racial (SLC24A5) problem in the churches? The truth is that it doesn’t. I drive by several white churches to get to my church. I do not believe this makes me divisive or estranged from the Christians in those churches. There is a church about a mile from my house. It is Baptist. I am Baptist. But I prefer NOT to worship there. I am a Reformed Baptist with deep convictions about Reformed theology. That Baptist church has deep convictions that are antithetical to Reformed theology. In Christ, we are one. But my preference is to serve under leaders who share my theological perspective. Does that mean I hate the other church? Not at all. I don’t worship in a Lutheran church or a Presbyterian church. I could do so. But I choose not to. Does that mean that I am estranged from Mike Kruger or Chris Rosebrough? Absolutely not! To say that our churches ought to be SLC24A5 diverse has no basis in Scripture and it does not mean we are racists if they are not. People select the church they are in for numerous reasons, some of them good, some of the not so good. We should exercise care in how we approach this conversation. There are music styles, preaching styles, and personality styles and theological beliefs that drive this decision. Like I said, some of these are acceptable and good, and others, not so much.
Certain practices, attitudes, and beliefs are going to create division, and because of the fall, that is unavoidable. The racial reconciliation movement, as far as I can tell, never talks about theological unity and what makes for legitimate godly division. For instance, is the gospel really about ending oppression in this world? Is the resurrection of Christ, as MLK said, about good overcoming evil like civil rights putting an end to segregation? These beliefs about the gospel are bound to clash with the true gospel. And when they do, tension and division are inevitable. Take the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration for instance. As great a civil rights leader as he was, and that he was, Martin Luther King was nowhere close to being orthodox or evangelical in his views on Christ, the gospel, or the Bible. These are heartbeat issues in evangelicalism. Yet, men who should know better, men like Jarvis Williams and Russell Moore, are leading an event that celebrates Martin Luther King as a great Christian leader. It feels like his wonderful accomplishments in the area of civil rights are ipso fact accomplishments in the realm of the church. They were not. This is being done in the spirit of racial reconciliation. King was surely the wonderful civil rights leader, but he was certainly not a wonderful Christian leader. The problem here is that those who know the truth about King’s theology will make judgments about Williams and Moore. I cannot join hands with someone who believes that King’s theology was acceptable and that because he accomplished so much as a civil rights leader, that makes up for what amounts to outright heresy in his Christian beliefs. If one of the necessary conditions for me to be “reconciled” to black Christians everywhere is the endorsement of King as a great gospel preacher, then for me, division is unavoidable. If I were a black Christian and someone said that I had to endorse say, Andy Stanley in order to be reconciled with white Christians, I would respond in exactly the same fashion. On the principle of truth, I cannot be joined to Martin Luther King on his theology even though I agree with his civil rights principles wholeheartedly. Where is concerns men like King, I follow Paul, who said, Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them (Rom. 16:17).
What is racism? Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Does it exist in our society? It exists in every godless society throughout the world. That is pretty much all of them. But racism is only one form of hatred and discrimination among many. God will judge the world for its racism. We must judge those who are brothers and sisters, so-called and remove them either through repentance or excommunication. (1 Cor. 5:12-13)
God does not look on the outward appearance of man. Neither should we. If you think that idea means not seeing the real you, then perhaps you don’t see the real you either. The real you is the person God sees when he looks at you. God sees your values, your principles, your ethics, your beliefs. God sees the real you. What you see in the mirror is not the real you. When you see yourself breaking the law of God revealed in Scripture, that is the real you. God, as our creator, is the only one qualified and authorized to provide us with our identity. If you want to know the real you, become better acquainted with Scripture. It is there that you will find your true self.
“Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.”