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The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

Am I Racist? (Part 2)

Last week, I told you my first memory of noticing skin color … and of questioning the difference. My Mother’s wise and Biblical answer set a good direction in my life.

Today, I want to tell you my first experience with feeling the weight of racism. Growing up in small-town Kansas didn’t give me many opportunities to examine my own feelings about ethnic difference. There just weren’t that many minorities. I only realized after high school that some of my friends were Mexicans. I encountered more ethnic diversity in my work life and college, but again I don’t remember feeling any different towards people based on their skin color. It just wasn’t an issue for me.

Then we moved from Kansas to Chicago and encountered a palpable difference. Two things shocked me: hearing racial slurs among older members of the church I was serving, and I feeling a coldness from black people that I had never experienced. The sense of division was undeniable.

Shocked and uncertain how to respond, I felt myself withdrawing. I would not offer a greeting when a black person approached unless I was spoken to first. I began avoiding eye contact. I wasn’t pleased with how I felt, but I didn’t know how to remedy the situation.

One day I was in the check-out line with an older black woman. She regarded me without expression and then diverted her eyes. I suddenly knew that I had to speak to her … no matter what response I received. It took one comment (which I can’t even remember) and she came to life. We talked all during the checkout process, exited the store together and talked like old friends all the way to our cars. I began making a point out of breaking the ice … and I honestly can’t remember a time when my attempts to be friendly were rejected by a member of the black community. I believe the coolness I felt originated from their uncertainty (or perhaps their certainty) about how they would be received by me.

So … am I racist? I don’t believe so. But, “Do I act like a Racist?” I am capable … it is in me. So, when world events present the chance for self-reflection on this subject, I need this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23–24

I also need to go back to the basics of how God has called me to treat all people. If I find that the color of a person’s skin affects those core Christian behaviors … I need to take that to God in repentance and ask for healing. I heard a preacher say, “If we will not be subject to God … we will always want someone to be subject to us.” Here’s a good place to check your own heart …  “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Am I Racist?

My first memory of noticing that someone had a different skin color is so early as to make the setting vague. All I know is that my mother and I were in the back of a taxi driven by black man. Without any malice, I asked a perfectly innocent question, “Mommy, why is that man a different color?” My mother didn’t miss a beat. She said something along these lines … “Because God loves variety sweetie. He created people in all different shapes, sizes and colors, but we’re really all the same. God loves us all just the same. Everyone is special to Him. He loved you and this man so much, He sent Jesus to save you both.” You know … I never questioned my Mom’s answer. It made sense to me then and it still does. So, from the standpoint of thinking I’m a better kind of human because of my skin color … no, I don’t believe I’m a racist.

My mother’s theology was good. The Bible backs her up. Many people have argued erroneously for race inferiority from the Bible, but those arguments all do violence to the texts and ultimately fall apart. Paul speaking to a group of Athenians who believed they were the master race said , “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26–27  Paul also confronted two ethnic groups entrenched in racial hatred for one another with these words, “God’s purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.” Ephesians 2:15–16  My great hope as a believer in Jesus Christ is to be part of the numberless host standing in His presence. John described them as, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.” All people share a common paternity and therefore equality before their Creator. His loving goal of redemption and reconciliation pursues them all. Those who embrace His grace will one day stand side by side in His glorious presence. So, theologically, I am not a racist.

Space does not allow me to answer one more necessary question, so I’ll raise it but save the discussion for next week. Do I act like a racist? I’ve told you what I believe … but does my walk match my talk? Here’s where I’m starting with that question, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23–24

The Father Blessing

It has become my favorite picture of my Dad. The split second of the photograph coincided with his fleeting presence. His dementia had progressed so far that he wore a perpetual gaze like curios bewilderment … as if world and people around him made no sense at all. But surrounded by his family, headed out for a meal, some synapsis fired, and he was with us. Like a man suddenly appearing out of a dense bank of fog. Focus returned, eyes twinkled, the broad smile flashed … and just as quickly he faded back into the disconnectedness of his own mind. I whispered a “Thank You” to God for the gift of that instant.

My name was lost to him first; then the recognition of my face. He seemed mostly to live in a time before he had children. He was headed down a flight of stairs leading into the room where I was sitting. My Mom was whispering to him, “Go give your son a hug.” She never gave up trying to coax Dad back to the present. After several more of her quiet pleas, he said with exasperation, “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Wanting to ameliorate the situation, I got out of my chair and walked toward them. I think it must have been something in the height difference created by the stairs … but suddenly there was recognition. He threw his arms open wide, stooped as if greeting a toddler and exclaimed, “There’s my boy!” That instant of belonging, of being claimed again by that fine man, was another gift from God. My father was a gift from God.

After that incident, we traveled from Kansas back up to Illinois where we were living. That Sunday, during the worship set, we sang these words …

I have a Father, He calls me His own

He’ll never leave me no matter where I go

He knows my name, He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls and He hears me when I call

As you might imagine, I quietly ‘lost it’ there in my pew. Tears of longing and loss rolled down my cheeks … my earthly father no longer knew my name. But in that same instant, my heart pounded with feelings of privilege and peace knowing that I belong irrevocably to Another Father. He calls me His own … He knows my name!
I hope you can hear in these stories the powerfully positive impact my earthly Dad had on my life. He was not perfect … but he was present. So, Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for staying in the lives of your children. God bless you … and where you feel you’ve failed, rest in the fact that “nothing can separate you from the love of God (your Father) that is in Christ Jesus or Lord.” Romans 8:39

Getting the Right Lenses

There’s a pair of blue glasses on the market that are purported to make golf balls absolutely glow. Most reviews I’ve read claim they actually work. One negative review complained they didn’t help, “unless your ball is partially visible.” Uh … they didn’t claim to be X-ray glasses! The glasses are especially effective in one area: as soon as you put them on other golfers will presume something about the quality of your game.

There are amber glasses that are supposed to help you see at night and through fog. My late brother wore tinted glasses especially calibrated to help with visual acuity and reduce the affects of his dyslexia while reading. He greatly benefited from getting the right lenses. Filtering out specific spectrums of light make certain objects come into sharper focus or give relief.

In these strange days, it’s hard to see through the weeds. Many are consumed with ferreting out what forces are driving or influencing the affairs of our world. The bent seems to be that all government is intentionally evil or manipulated by sinister forces. I’m actually not going to argue against that point. Satan is always trying to assert his desires in the world and will use anyone who is willing and available. It is also not wrong to call out organizations and individuals who are promoting blatantly ungodly causes. I would strongly plead one caveat … that we strive to be people of uncompromising and careful truthfulness. Be sure that your personal filter doesn’t become the measure of truth. Don’t just post something because it sounds right to you … check it out. One guy, reviewing the blue golf glasses, complained, “If you wear them all the time, you’ll get a headache.”

There’s only one lens for life that’s never lets me down. In fact, most of my headaches come from forgetting to use it. Try running world events through this filter:

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His. What He tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man He imprisons cannot be released. If He holds back the waters, there is drought; if He lets them loose, they devastate the land. To Him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are His. He leads counselors away stripped and makes fools of judges. He takes off the shackles put on by kings and ties a loincloth around their waist. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows men long established. He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty. He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and disperses them. He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason; He sends them wandering through a trackless waste. Job 12:13–24

Are You Listening? Part 2:

Yesterday as I replaced some broken light switches at home, I continued listening to God’s Word on my Bible App. In Philippians, these words caught my ear … Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. Philippians 4:5  Those words come in the context of Paul trying to resolve a conflict between two believing women (Euodia and Syntyche). Both had labored beside Paul in his Gospel work … but now something had come between them. He pleads with them to agree in the Lord … to be like-minded. It’s sad, but far too common, genuine believers to divide over misunderstandings or slights and forget the central and unifying truth of the Gospel. That happens in the Church of Jesus Christ … but we can also loose sight of the centrality of the Gospel when communicating with unbelievers.

That’s where my mind went immediately when I heard, Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. I thought instantly of all the unreasonableness that I’ve witnessed in social media. We probably should call it what it has become … antisocial media. I’m still shocked at the amount of defamation and name-calling that makes it into “journalism.” More jarring is the way people approach the propagation of their Christian worldview. I have watched quite a few videos of Christian apologists and I can’t believe the titles:

  • “Ravi owns socialist snowflake.”
  • “Panelist destroys libtard”
  • “Apologist eviscerates atheist”

I could … but I won’t go on. The fault seldom lies with the speakers, but those who repost video-bites that resonate with their beliefs. I can’t imagine the ever-calm gentlemen, Ravi Zacharias, walking off the stage chuckling, “I owned that girl.” It’s true, Ravi has revealed the foolish reasoning of many a person, but I have never seen him try to “make of fool” of anyone! He always argued from love toward Jesus Christ and the Gospel. That last one really gets me … “Apologist disembowels atheist.” That’s what the word “eviscerate” really means. Are we out to destroy people? Is that what Christ has called us to? Or did He come that they might not face destruction?

We must argue with the world about the timeless truths of God’s Words. To do less would be unloving … but we cannot stoop to the tactics of the world. Whatever unbelievers think of our beliefs, whatever they say to us or about us, Christians should be known for their reasonableness by everyone.

I have underlined the word translated “reasonableness” in three other scriptures to help fill out the meaning. Also note the words by which it’s surrounded and the attitude to which we are called as followers of Christ:

1 Timothy 3:2–3 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Titus 3:1–2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

(Part 1 of “Are You Listening?” was aired Friday as a video on Facebook and YouTube.)