We have to distinguish between what is right for us, as individuals, and what is right for the Church. We are free to minister to whomever we might feel led to minister. We do not have to minister to everyone equally. We can minister to the homeless, developmental disabled, or to Eskimos. However, it is another thing to insist that the Church must minister to one particular group of people. In fact, Scripture even argues against showing favoritism:
· My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism… If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:1, 8-9; NIV)
Although James had used the poor as his example, this same principle applies across the board to people of different races, nationalities, languages, and skin colors. Nevertheless, we do discriminate when it comes to categories where the Bible demands that we discriminate – choosing elders and deacons, judging between guilt and innocence, and even according to age.
Let me give you another example where what might be right for us, might not be right for the Church. We are free to eat whatever we want and to opt for vegetarianism. However, we do not have the freedom to impose vegetarianism upon the Church or to impose anything else that Scripture does not impose (Romans 14:1-4; Colossians 2:16-17):
· The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons…They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
While, I can abstain from certain foods, I cannot impose my preference on the Church. Likewise, if someone feels led to not marry, this is entirely acceptable as long as he does not impose this on others, as if it is God’s Word.
Let’s apply this to racial division. A racial specialist spoke at our church and insisted that racial reconciliation depended upon racial preference. He claimed that we should chose church leaders and elders based upon race in order to compensate for the depravations that people of color (POC) have experienced in the past.
I can appreciate his concern. I too am deeply grieved that we remain racially divided and long to see Jesus’ prayer for oneness and unity (John 17:20-23) fulfilled. I also long to show the world what Christ can accomplish in terms of breaking down the barriers.
Personally, I even feel led to “discriminate” in favor of POC. I try to make a special effort to greet them warmly, even as I pass strangers on the street. However, my preference should not be made into Church law. It shouldn’t be made into another entitlement, where one group demands ministry from the Church over another group.
I want to be able to give freely, as I feel led, without it being imposed upon me as a requirement. I do not want to be robbed of my joy of giving, even less to be required to give, because my alleged guilt and complicity with a “racist system” has made this an obligation.
This would institute racial discrimination as the norm, replacing our equality in Christ:
· 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, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
To institute racial preferences into the Church would undermine our unity in Christ. Besides, it is just another form of racism – reverse racism. Shouldn’t we instead return to M.L. King’s ideal to not judge others according to the color of their skin! Racism only begets more racism.
Nevertheless, if we are guilty of this sin, we must confess and repent. All forms of reconciliation require no less than this. Consequently, I applaud the fact that the Southern Baptists have confessed their guilt in regards to segregation. I think that many other parties also need to confess their guilt. However, guilt is not the exclusive property of just one skin color. Biblically, we are all required to examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28-32), a truth that is often neglected.
However, the concept of “white privilege” or guilt-by-skin-color has entered the Church, requiring whites to privilege POCs because of their alleged sins. However, guilt-by-skin-color is not a Biblical concept. Instead, it is a concept that violates Biblical teachings.
Consequently, I charged the racial specialist of importing racial standards into the Church against Scripture. However, he could not justify this Biblically. Why not? His solution is not a Biblical solution but a failed progressive solution, one that seems to have actually contributed to the increasing racial divide.
What is the Biblical solution? In love, maintaining the unity of the Spirit bought by the blood of Christ, in whom we are all one:
· Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)