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Racism and the gospel of equality

June 23, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Justice

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Last Wednesday evening, as you all undoubtedly know by now, nine of our Christian brothers and sisters were killed in a shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, one of the oldest African-American churches in the country. This past Sunday, as I was preaching on the story of Onesimus, the runaway slave, and Paul’s letter to his slave owner Philemon, urging him to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him back as a brother, I was reminded of Galatians 3:28. In that passage, Paul declares that all racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic barriers have come down in Christ, so that all are brothers and sisters. The church, according to Paul, and as demonstrated in the story of Philemon and Onesimus, is to be a place of radical equality, where a slave might worship alongside his master, men praying next to women, and different races lifting up their hands together in worship of their great God.

This truth, of course, makes what happened last Wednesday all the more egregious. Racial superiority has no place in God’s kingdom, and is an offense to the gospel. For those of us who are used to being part of the majority culture, it can be difficult to understand what it is like to be viewed by some as inferior, to be looked upon with suspicion, and to know that even a prayer meeting is not a sanctuary from racism and violence. It would serve us well to listen to our brothers and sisters who come from cultures different than ours, and to understand what their experience is like, so that we might better display the unity that is to be found in Christ’s church.

The good news, of course, is that for those who are in Christ, death is not the end. The promise is that those who were killed are with Christ, and one day He will wipe every tear from their eyes, as they dwell in a place where there is no more suffering (Revelation 21:1-5). And on that day, we also know that this will be the scene:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9-10)

God’s kingdom is multi-racial and multi-ethnic, reflecting His glory in all our many facets. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters at Emanuel Church, and in the African-American church around the country, and let us pray that God’s church would reflect the beauty of Galatians 3:28, as we show the world the radical equality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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