Is Condoning Racism a Moral Failure?
“Racial and ethnic hostility is the foremost social problem facing our world today…
Racism—in the world and in the church—is one of the greatest barriers to world evangelization.
Racial and ethnic hatred is a sin, and we need to label it as such. Jesus told his disciples to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39); and in reply to the question “Who is my neighbor?” he responded with a pointed parable about a good Samaritan, a member of a despised race (Luke 10:25-37).
Racism is a sin precisely because it keeps us from obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, and because it has its roots in pride and arrogance. Christians who harbor racism in their attitudes or actions are not following their Lord at this point, for Christ came to bring reconciliation—reconciliation between us and God, and reconciliation between each other. He came to accept us as we are, whoever we are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)…
Our consciences should be stirred to repentance by how far we have fallen short of what God asks us to be as his agents of reconciliation.” (Graham, 2018)
Billy Graham 1993
I quoted former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz extensively in MGA Vol II. To see a white evangelical pastor to be so broken about issues of race really ministered powerfully to me. It was spiritually and emotionally refreshing. The dialogue on race that he had with Bishop T. D. Jakes was so refreshing I wanted to share it with everyone. I put a link to the YouTube video session in the e-book, shared it on social media, etc.
Recently Pastor Lentz was removed from his post in NY because of an undisclosed “scandal.” I later found out it was adultery, what we’d refer to as a moral failure. Because he had such a powerful testimony about unity across racial lines my first thought was that it would all be discredited. I was grieved that people, white and black, who really needed to hear what he had to say, wouldn’t hear it because he’d be rejected on the basis of his moral failure. That’s what we do in the body of Christ we reject pastors who have moral failures, we cast them away until they have done some kind of public repentance and restoration.
What if racism, espousing racism, tolerating racism, endorsing people who support racism, was considered a moral failure? In MGA Vol I, I spent a great deal of time discussing whether racism and division were sins. I referred to Satan’s sin of sowing division in Heaven as likely the second sin in Heaven after pride. Racism is a form of hatred or the absence of love. The Bible specifically commands us not to hate our brother or neighbor in 1 John 4:20: If a man say, “I love God,” and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? Luke 6:27-33 conveys a similar theme:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”
Luke 6:27-28, 32-33
If you have ever read the Bible account of Miriam and Aaron speaking out against Moses, you know that the Lord heard it and was angry. God struck Miriam with leprosy and commanded that she be shut out of the camp for seven days. Num 12:13-14. But did you know that Miriam’s impetus for speaking out against Moses was based on the race of Moses’ wife? I addressed this in MGA Vol I:
“Num 12:1-2 (NKJV)
‘Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, ‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’ And the LORD heard it.’”
In this passage, it may seem that Aaron and Miriam are divided over the issue of whether Moses is the only person that hears from God. Later in the passage, God does make it clear that He speaks to Moses more frequently and intimately as His chosen leader. However, the first verse reveals that Aaron and Miriam are upset that Moses had an Ethiopian, black wife.
Aaron and Miriam are not upset because Moses’ wife, Zipporah, worshipped other gods. They were all of the same faith. Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro, “the priest of Midian” (Exo 3:1). (Edwards, 1989) We know that she agreed to follow Hebrew customs as she circumcised Moses’ son (Exo 4:25). Her father mentored Moses in the customs of the Hebrew faith.
Though Aaron and Miriam’s words disguise the issue as one of authority, the real issue was race. Satan was using the issue of race to try to divide the future leaders of the Hebrew nation. God did not have an issue with the race of Moses’ wife. He made no mention of it when He spoke to the three of them about her in Num 12:5-9 or in Exo 2:21 when Jethro gave her to be Moses’ wife.” (Thompson, Vol I)
It never occurred to me that if Moses was raised in Egypt, as an Egyptian, that he might naturally develop an affinity for darker-skinned women. The point is that God did not have a problem with it. We see Moses rebuked by God when he tried to use stuttering as an excuse not to speak to Pharaoh (Exo 4:10-13) and when he smote the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:10-12). But nowhere in Scripture do you see God correcting Moses for marrying the daughter of the man that mentored him in the Hebrew faith. We tend to give the Bible a European makeover instead of acknowledging that many ethnicities, even outside of the Jews, were used to fulfill the plan of God. That in itself is a subtle form of racism that I can’t fully address here.
In Aaron and Miriam’s actions you see both the sins of racism and division. We see God’s swift reaction culminating a discipline and restoration process for Miriam. She was allowed back into the camp after seven days.
What if we treated the sins of racism and division like that today? What if we considered them moral failure and required even leaders, as Aaron and Miriam were, to openly repent and go through a restoration process? I have witnessed several religious leaders go through this public repentance and restoration process, usually for some kind of sexual misconduct. I have never seen it for the sins of racism and division. When I say division, I mean sowing or supporting the sowing of seeds of division along racial lines.
I opened this chapter with a quote from Billy Graham that said, “Racial and ethnic hostility is the foremost social problem facing our world today…Racism—in the world and in the church—is one of the greatest barriers to world evangelization.” (Graham, 2018) Graham went on to say in the same message that:
“We must not underestimate the devastating effects of racism on our world. Daily headlines chronicle its grim toll: divided nations and families, devastating wars and human suffering on an unimaginable scale, a constant downward spiral of poverty and hopelessness, children cruelly broken in body and warped in heart and mind. The list is long, but for the sensitive Christian, it is even longer: whole peoples poisoned by violence and racial hatred and closed to the gospel as a result; indifference and resistance by Christians who are intolerant toward those of other backgrounds, ignoring their spiritual and physical needs.”
Billy Graham confirms that the body of Christ must begin to treat racism and division along racial lines as serious sins with “devastating” consequences. But Billy Graham is gone. Dr. King is gone. Who will lead Christians to move beyond “indifference, resistance and intolerance?” Who will stand up and speak out against racism and counter the president’s narrative? Eze 22:30 says, “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”
While we are not on the brink of civil war over issues of race as we were before, we are at a level of tension over race that I have only witnessed in movies from the 1950s and ‘60s. Unresolved tensions over the presidential election tend to split severely and evenly across racial lines. With the president in an unyielding and unending quest to prove that his victory was stolen it is easy to see how his continued persistence to stir up his followers could result in physical clashes and further division within the body of Christ. I believe that we should be praying for national leaders to be raised up that can stand in this “breach,” America’s racial divide, and “build up the wall” of unity in the body of Christ before God. I believe that the new mantle of Christian leadership will rest on leaders that can close this breach in the body of Christ.
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