The Gospel and Racism

The ultimate tool to end racism in our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us that apart from Christ we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and deserving punishment for our sins (Romans 6:23). However, every person, regardless of racial background, has the opportunity, upon hearing the gospel message preached to them, to accept the truth of Jesus Christ and turn from their sin (Romans 10:13).

Nevertheless, racism abounds in our churches today. I have heard people say that Sunday morning is “the most segregated time in America.” This should not be.

However, we must remember that the problem of racism in the church is not something that came about during colonial America. The problem of racism stretches back to the first church in Jerusalem. In Acts 10, Luke describes how Peter was sent by the Holy Spirit to Caesarea to share the gospel with a group of Gentiles (non-Jews). As a result of hearing the gospel, this group of Gentiles accepted the message of Christ and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation had now been extended to people outside of the Jewish nation – Gentiles were saved!

One would think that this would be welcome news, however, this is the response that Peter received upon his return to Jerusalem: So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:2-3 ESV) In other words, they were saying, “You ate with them?” You shared the gospel with them?” This was racism. Such men, having a heart towards themselves and not necessarily toward God, found it hard to accept that God would indeed provide salvation for people outside the Jewish race.

Then Peter drops the bomb – the Gentiles had not only accepted the gospel message, but they had also received the gift of the Holy Spirit, who later Paul would describe as, “the guarantee of our inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:14 ESV) Peter then states, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17 ESV) The response by the circumcision party: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'” (Acts 11:18 ESV)

Truly, when we recognize the work of God in the lives of people who are “different than us,” our only response can be to give glory to God. After all, he saved us. Why should he not save others? This leaves no room for racism in our churches today.

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