In recent years, it’s been hard to miss our country’s rise in racial tensions. Or maybe we are just seeing what’s been there under the surface all along. Our country seems overwhelmed by all kinds of racialized sentiments. And in the church, Christ’s multi-ethnic bride continues to bear the scars of deep-seated racial division and hurt that goes back decades and centuries.
By contrast, the Bible presents a glorious vision of multi-ethnic worship, centered around the throne of God (see Revelation 5, 7, 21–22). And in Paul’s letters, there is a constant refrain for a diverse people to be unified in the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.
On this point, this Sunday’s sermon focused on the gospel message in Galatians and how it relates to racial reconciliation. From Galatians’ six chapters, I drew out six gospel truths. In six points, we see that Galatians
- is all about the gospel;
- identifies a kind of division (in the church) that denies the gospel;
- proclaims a gospel that is international in scope and content;
- prioritizes faith as the fundamental community marker;
- teaches those who have been justified by faith alone to be passionate about justice;
- and calls the gospel community to seek justice in love, service, and burden-bearing to one another.
This sermon marks the second time I’ve preached on this subject. (The first was a biblical theology of race). As before, this subject is an incredibly heavy one, and one that still raises more questions than I have answers. That being said, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer that can give hope and help to the body of Christ bruised and broken by racism.
My prayer is that God would use this sermon as one small step to help our church grow as community compelled by the vision of Revelation and led by the directions of Galatians (and the rest of Scripture). May God bring healing to his church and may the power of gospel be see in multi-ethnic communities of faith. You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and further resources are below.
- Read John 17. What does this prayer teach us about God’s will for the church? How should it apply to us today? How does it relate to the question of race?
- What role has the church played in racial divisions in our country? What do you know of the history of black and white churches in our country? (Take time to read some of the history below).
- How much do you know of the pain and burdens that minorities carry? How does knowing that history help you express empathy, compassion, and burden bearing?
- Why is the gospel the only hope for reconciliation? What does the gospel do to empower healing and reconciliation? How have you seen the gospel bring peace and love?
- What hinders gospel believers from experiencing horizontal reconciliation? How does dwelling on the gospel impel us to pursue reconciliation?
- What in Galatians is most helpful for thinking about racial reconciliation? What is most difficult?
- What does it mean to bear one another’s burdens? How does that relate to the race and racism? How might the Lord lead you to pursue racial reconciliation?
- A Personal Theology of Race and Reconciliation by Scott Redd
- Senators Suggest a Step Toward Racial Reconciliation: Share a Meal on Sunday by Joe Carter
- Book Review: Divided by Faith by Mark Dever
- An Evangelical Appreciation and Critique of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Bruce Ashford
- How the Country’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra
Here are some of the books I read over the last year that have helped me think more carefully about this subject.
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. (audiobook)
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith — if any book might help white Christians understand their blindness to white privilege and systemic racism, this might be it
- From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race by J. Daniel Hays — this is a strong biblical survey of God’s multi-ethnic plan of salvation; see Anthony Carter’s review
- Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins — this autobiography of John Perkins life is a powerful, gospel-centered retelling of the racism he suffered in Mississippi
- Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives edited by Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones
- Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism between the Wars by Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews
- Plain Theology for Plain People by Charles Octavius Boothe
- Where the Gospel Meets Racial Reconciliation with Jesse Eubanks, Kevin Jones, et al.
- Sen. Tim Scott (R – SC) gives his personal testimony before the U.S. Senate (YouTube)
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Power of Unearned Pain with Mica Edmonson and Collin Hansen (a TGC Podcast)
- On Race (pt 1) by Pastor’s Talk with Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman
- On Race (pt 2) by Pastor’s Talk with Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman
Here is a series of videos on race and the church that would be a great place begin: Race and the Church
May the Lord use these resources to teach us and grow our understanding of our country’s history and our calling to pursue racial reconciliation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds