How do we build up our brethren? By sticking to the milk and meat of the Word – what is clearly taught and profitable:
· As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions… For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [and of quarreling over opinions] but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:1, 17, 19; ESV)
While everything that Scripture contains is profitable, some of its meaning is now uncertain. Therefore, elsewhere Paul warned against teaching myths and genealogies:
· Which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:4-7)
If our teachings and discussions do not promote “love…and a sincere faith” but dissension, we have to question whether we are going in the right direction. However, sometimes dissension is unavoidable. The Church cannot tolerate sin without the leaven of sin corrupting the entire loaf (Gal. 5:9).
However, other issues are not so critical or clear. I’m thinking about discussions over racial reconciliation. My experience is that these discussions upset the unity of the Church rather than bringing harmony. In this area, our politics, experiences, and the news we follow are so different that my experience with attempts to bridge the gulf has been disappointing.
Nevertheless, I must admit that the performance of the White Church during the years of segregation has been a great embarrassment to me and to other sincere Christians. I continue to hurt when I read the words of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”:
· “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, ‘Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.’”
Are we still confronted with the “blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro?” This is the critical issue. We cannot close our eyes to victimization without incurring the displeasure of our Lord. However, I think that the situation has been reversed. All of the laws that had supported segregation have now been struck down. From my perspective, laws that favor one race above another now serve to favor people-of-color through affirmative action initiatives.
However, this is where we will experience severe contention. Whites are told that this is still a racist society characterized by “White privilege” and “systemic racism.” However, many of us do not see this at all. Instead, we see the progress. Yes, we see divisions, suffering, and even racism, but these occur among all peoples.
Meanwhile, many Black people regard the White refusal to acknowledge “White privilege” as denial and a sinister attempt to hold on to this “privilege.”
To pursue this debate further seems to inevitably result in bad feelings and divisions. As Christians, I now think that we can make an end-run around these divisive issues. How? We have the resources to overcome these divisions without laboring in hope of reaching agreement. What resources?
· Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
It is my prayer that we will fulfill Jesus’ prayer:
· “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
If we are Christian, we know that there is something greater in our lives than our ethnicity. As a Jew, I had wanted to even-the-score with Germans. However, my Lord has opened my heart to sincerely love my German brethren. All the praise belongs to Him.