On Wednesday, October 26th, Mercy Hill held it’s Living Room Conversations: A Gospel-centered Conversation on Race between a panel of pastors, staff, and church members of varied backgrounds. The night was a huge success on almost all accounts, but one couldn’t help but feel that the discussion could have gone on for hours—in a good way. The panelists were only able to brush the snow off the ice that needs to be broken. Therefore, we want to encourage the continuation of this important conversation in our church and in the community by hosting a special blog series. Over the next three months we will be posting two blogs a month totaling one blog from each of our panelists on a specific topic.
At the panel, there were times in which the Gospel was referenced as the answer to racism. It wasn’t lost on me that while many people would agree, they may not understand how the Gospel works against racism.
John Piper, in his excellent book Bloodlines, describes 9 ways in which the Gospel takes the legs out of racism. I recommend reading the book, but let me offer a very brief overview of those 9 ways:
1. Satan is defeated
Satan uses as tools the 8 things that follow in this list to fuel racism. Yet, there is only one who can and has conquered Satan himself. “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus taking on flesh and defeating death has left Satan ultimately impotent.
2. Guilt is forgiven
We are all guilty before God and are deserving of his wrath. We can deal wrongly with guilt if we deny it, wallow in it, or exploit it. Dealing with it in these ways can fuel racial hostility. “[E]veryone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43b). Faith that Christ took the wrath and punishment we deserve for our guiltiness is the only way to deal with our guilt effectively and finally.
3. Pride is destroyed
Piper lists areas where pride is prominent in race relations: white supremacy, black power, intellectual analysis, anti-intellectual scorn, loud verbal attack, despising silence, false security, and hidden fear. Where pride exists, full racial reconciliation is impeded. The saving work of Jesus happened because humans had no hope of saving themselves. Therefore, no one can boast at all. We are all sinners that need grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
4. Hope comes to the hopeless
If we are only to die and the world is sure to burn up into oblivion, then why should we worry about racial harmony? Why should someone deny self and make the sacrifices necessary for something like justice and civil rights? Jesus’ resurrection provides Christians assurance that God has power over death. We can count him trustworthy to fulfill his promises of our own resurrection and his renewal of the world. The work of justice is not in vain.
5. Acceptance comes to those plagued by feelings of inferiority and self-doubt
Our elevation of the desire for worth and respect to sinful levels leads to many unhealthy behaviors. Not only does it result in depression and self-destructive acts, but it also leads us to put others down so that we can be seen as better than someone else. This leads directly to racism. But Jesus has offered us a path to be fully accepted, adopted children of God. Piper says, “The gospel gives us a new identity so majestic that we would be the most arrogant people in the world—except that we know we don’t deserve it, it cost Christ his life, and it is all a free gift of grace.” To be loved by the Creator of the universe is the only identity that ultimately matters.
6. Greed loses its appeal
It is greed that leads to enslavement. It is greed that leads to drug violence. Piper says that without greed our racial tensions might look quite different in America. Christians are freed from pursuing unhealthy monetary gain as they are promised all the riches of heaven and co-heirship in an eternal kingdom. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
7. Hate turns to forgiveness
Hate is an obvious symptom of racism. Yet, the Gospel pulls up hate by the roots. When we hate a person, we believe that they deserve to be punished for what they have done or who they are. The Gospel says that God in Jesus forgave us of our immense sin debt, and therefore we should model him as his adopted siblings in forgiving others of their sins against us. Also, God said that he will bring justice and punish all sin. Either someone’s sin was punished through Jesus on the cross, or justice will be done at the end of days. But justice will be done.
8. Fear is abolished
We have already touched on this, but we no longer fear death since Jesus was resurrected. We are free to go to the dangerous places seeking racial harmony because death is not the final word. We can enter racial tension with peace and humility, not fear.
9. Apathy is turned to Zeal
Much of this seems like we are saying that Christians don’t have to do anything but share the Gospel and sit back. That is just not the case. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
It Starts with Us
#9 sums up the whole message. We are freely saved from our sins by Jesus Christ to be his children—children who tell with both their words and their deeds about the King and his coming Kingdom. The church zealously pursues racial harmony because there will be racial harmony in the new kingdom. We zealously seek justice for the oppressed, because the King loves justice.
Considering this, the Church is the body of people that should be leading the charge in seeking racial harmony. Therefore, we want these things to be talked about at Mercy Hill. It starts with us.
I hope you enjoy the blog series,
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)