It was the year 1619. Dutch pirates seized a Spanish Slave ship. In so doing they captured 19 African slaves from the Spanish. they then took them to Jamestown Virginia were they were promptly sold and in that moment slavery was born in America. What followed was the most horrifying 250 years in our nation’s history – 12.5 million slaves were shipped to America (oh and by the way… 10.7 survived the journey (nearly two million killed).
Racism is America’s original sin.
Racism is the recurring cancer that has bedeviled us nearly from the day our ancestors first set foot in the new world.
· yes, slavery was abolished in 1865 … but racism has outlived it
· yes, the Civil Right movement of the 50s and 60s prompted much institutional change but…racism remained virtually untouched.
Throughout my lifetime racism has carried on like a disease occasionally popping to the surface to do mayhem and cause misery.
More recently on February 26, 2012 racism rushed back into the news and our consciences when Trayvon Martin was killed. And since that day racism has rarely escaped the front page…
- the incidents in Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, Cleveland and other American towns…
- University of Oklahoma Fraternity racist song
- even the bizarre case of Rachel Doulazel…made us stop and debate and agonize about racial identity.
- and then came Charleston at Mother Emmanuel AME church – 9 African American bible study attendees were brutally, systematically murdered…
One proud white American, in less than 2 minutes, has killed TWICE as many Americans as ISIS has in 2 years.
It was horrific, It was maddening, it was terrifying…and felt like a last straw.
- oh but it isn’t because since then …7 African American churches have burned – 3 confirmed as arson. Salt on the still raw wound.
Racism is not just our original sin…it is a prevailing sin.
One white Christian leader said - It is painfully true that in our time, in this year, in the United States, there is still no safe place for black people in America.
A black pastor friend of mine over dinner last week “We're sitting on a powder keg. This is a watershed moment”
So, we are living in dire times…what are we to do?
I’m going to try to address that today by addressing two questions…
1. How did humanity get here? – that is crucial when you see the solution and then get to the big question everybody is asking…
2. What should we do about it?
So, how did we get here?
In the beginning there was separation from God (Adam and Eve image)
…and the world became broken. From that prime, original broken place (separation icon) came 5 other broken places…5 other ways in which this world has suffered and wrecked.
· isolation – lonliness
· injustice – poverty, human trafficking, abortion,
· pain – body and mind
· decay – of the planet
Arguably this one, hatred, emerged the earliest following the separation of God and humanity…
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:8
· people have debated why for ages but …simply he hated him so he killed him
This broken place festered and deepened to apocalyptic proportions…
Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Genesis 6:11,13
· hatred had become so bad God had to hit the reset button. And he did.
Post flood – God and Noah sat down for a tet a tet … a man/god summit …and from it came a covenant
God: OK – I won’t flood the earth any more but…
For your lifeblood I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth." Genesis 9:5-6,17
· This hate, violence, murder HAS to END!
o humans are made in my image and you will never ever kill each other again? Got it?
· I’m sure noah and his family looked at each other and said…uh…sure…got it!
…but then the world changed dramatically
…people spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations each with its own language. Genesis 10:5
· races were born
Parallel to that is the story of Genesis 11…
7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:7-9
· races and nationalities were conceived
And it was at this moment in history ethnocentricity became the norm.
Ethnocentricity = an attitude that distinguishes all other cultures or races by the values and standards of mine.
· ethnocentricity à segregation (preference for my race or nationality)
· segregation à bigotry (intolerance of other cultures)
· bigotry à superiority (may race or nationality is better)
· superiority à dehumanization (other races are less human…not in the image of God)
· dehumanization à hate / abuse / slavery / murder / genocide
From the time of Noah and the Tower of Babel on… this path of hate, racism and human destruction has been perpetuated.
…From the caste system in India, to apartheid in South Africa to the tribalism of Rwanda and Kenya to the ethnic hostilities of the Middle East…. to the horror of Charleston, SC…it goes on and on and on
So…what do we do…?
I was reminded of the futility we all feel when I heard this about similar social issue… The world is on fire and all we have is a garden hose.
Really, Is that all we have?
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
We have way more than a garden hose…
1. Prayer - The greatest moments in life are the miraculous moments when human impotence and divine omnipotence intersect. We must draw a circle around the impossible situations in our lives and invite God to intervene. Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker
2. Love - 1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
· covers over = envelopes to the point of disappearance… like a monster wave
o We love when we pay attention
o We love when we defer to others (i.e. confederate flag)
o We love when we communicate with other up close
I Had a conversation with an African American member of Grace Church about this:
“No one becomes a non-racist on their own”
“We’ll get better because we’ll talk about it”
“Change comes out loud through vulnerability, authenticity and communication.”
God does His best work in the midst of unity. Tony Evans
The reason why we haven’t solved the racial divide in America after hundreds of years is because people apart from God are trying to invent unity, while people who belong to God are not living out the unity that we already possess. Tony Evans
· 11:00 is still the most segregated hour in America.
· this is why I still pray for a far more diverse Grace Church. We are all richer the more diverse we become.
So…Prayer, love and unity … of course you know all that – right?
But, there is one more divine weapon in our arsenal …one more tool in our tool bag for fixing this broken place…it is the big one.
· but I’ll warn you…this long-term solution is harder and more courageous
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
And therein is the most powerful racism busting, hate obliterating act we could do – make disciples of Jesus Christ.
· Let me be painfully detailed about this…
o Jesus is saying to you – I am conveying my authority to you. You will possess superhuman powers of persuasion and communication.
o So, go to those who are lost (have not surrendered their life to me)
o Love them, pay attention to them, Talk to them and persuade them to repent and surrender their life to me.
o And when they do surrender to Jesus, they will be filled with the Spirit of God – they will be transformed, new people.
· I believe when a person is under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit – sins like racism are, in time, eliminated from that person’s conduct and attitudes.
Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren’t anywhere near as successful as those that focused on changing hearts. Cal Thomas
We can take the path that will lead us to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or we can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One we claim to follow. Cal Thomas
(note: the same is true about all social issues including the ones related to the Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality…for which I am crafting a response soon)
Here’s my point about evangelism and racism:
· If someone would have gotten to Dylan root – 9 people would be alive today.
· We must start somewhere…yes, pray, yes, love, yes experience unity…but we must burn with a white hot passion for evangelism.
· We must get people saved…transformed…one after another after another…
· We will eradicate racism one convert at a time. And along the way solve a lot of the other broken places.
Gear up grace Church – Evangelism is coming to Grace and each of you will be on the front lines of our mission to persuade people to surrender to Jesus.
And if we do…if we can break these chains…if we can overcome…if we can tear down these walls of racism…let me give you a picture of what can be…
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Revelation 21:23-26
This is what can be!
Every people and nation together, each with it’s racial identity fully intact but fully integrated in worship and love under the banner of the Lamb, Jesus Christ and around the very throne of God.
May God give us eyes for THAT prize!