Why Talk About Race?

Because We Preach the Cross of Jesus

August 15/16, 2020

 

We all bear God’s image.

God loves the whole world.

You can’t love God and hate your brother. 

God values and redeems all ethnicities.

 

80-90% of all churches are monoracial in America.

The question shouldn’t be “what’s easiest?” The question should be “what is in line with the gospel of Jesus?”

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So, God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:1-9 NLT)

If you have a wrong view of grace, it will justify you having a wrong view of race.

We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 15:11 NLT)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:10-14 NLT)

When Paul wrote those words, “wall of hostility,” both his Jewish and Gentile readers knew exactly what he was talking about. The temple in Jerusalem had a literal wall that separated the Jewish court from the Gentile court. The ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus tells us that written on this wall in regular intervals were inscriptions that warned the Gentiles of going beyond that partition. In fact, in 1871, when the temple site was excavated, one such inscription was found: “No person of another race shall proceed beyond this partition and this enclosed wall about the sanctuary. Anyone arrested there will have himself to blame for the penalty of death which shall be imposed as a consequence.”

“God tore up the mortgage note of our sin debt against us because Jesus paid it all.” –Dr. Robert Smith

Christ himself is our peace. He made both Jewish people and those who are not Jews one people. They were separated as if there were a wall between them, but Christ broke down that wall of hate by giving his own body. The Jewish law had many commands and rules, but Christ ended that law. His purpose was to make the two groups of people become one new people in him and in this way make peace. It was also Christ’s purpose to end the hatred between the two groups, to make them into one body, and to bring them back to God. Christ did all this with his death on the cross. (Ephesians 2:14-16 NCV)

The cross goes both ways!

In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. (Colossians 3:11)

When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles…assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:1-10 NLT)

“Variety” means “Multi-colored”

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Discussion Questions

1. The New Testament bears witness to the multi-ethnic church. Pastor John contends that God does not want “separate but equal” churches, yet most churches in America are mono- racial. Why is that? Is that always a bad thing? When is it clearly a bad thing?

2. Read Ephesians 2:1-9. Paul insists that God’s grace is the only way to be saved. What does this truth have to do with the issue of racism?

3. Read Ephesians 2:10-22. Paul argues that the cross goes both ways. Jesus’ death has vertical and horizontal implications. On what basis does he make that claim? How is reconciliation more than integration? What “walls of hostility” does the church need to address today?

4. Read Ephesians 3:1-11. Our unity is the way God displays His wisdom. How does the multi-ethnic church do this, and why does it matter?