“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
~Ephesians 2.8, Revised Standard Version
As Christians, we are not under the law but under grace (Romans 6.14). Many of us know this truth but our understanding of its power is cursory. We claim the rights of one under grace but only as it relates to judgement and death. The power of grace in our lives is echatological in scope. We only think of grace as it relates to the end of our lives, spared from eternal judgement. But, we have grace as it relates to our temporal existence and not only when it comes to our personal sins but also the sinful world that we live in. Paul said to the church in Rome, “Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5.20-21). We have grace in this life so where the laws of race abound, God’s grace abounds more.
But, unfortunately, many American Christians continue to live their lives under the rulings of race, laws enacted by American society that judge us according to the social coloring of our skin, our flesh, our external appearance. This is another law and another judgment not to be confused with that of God’s. It is strange to me that we have continued so long under this superficial assessment and judgement, that none have thought to challenge its laws or attempted to overthrow such governing. The same people who proclaim on Sunday, “I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ” are victimized for the rest of the week by race, its prejudices and stereotypes (Romans 8.37). In living this racialized life, we are dead before we have even begun to live. We are dead in the trespasses of race. Justified by its law, we have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5.4).
The racialized life is based on the merits attributed to the social coloring of skin while God’s grace is unmerited mercy, favor and kindness. However, under the law of race, we are spared if we are the right social color; it does not matter our actions or inactions but our goodness is based on our physical appearance. We don’t have to do or say anything in order to be saved by race through the social coloring of skin. We need only be born to the right socially colored parents, here being “white”, to experience the freedom of existing without the scrutiny of race. In the racialized life, whiteness not Christ is our savior, our deliverer.
Unlike the good shepherd, Jesus, who will gather all nations to judge them according to their service in His name, the sheep and goats of race are color- coded (Matthew 25.31-46). We simply must be the right color as goodness and right- standing are based on the shape of one’s nose, the size of one’s lips, the shape of one’s eyes. There is no grace for those whose actions may be good, whose contributions are noteworthy though born to the wrong social color. Their goodness will be attributed to whiteness; some unknown ancestor from long ago is to be credited for this racial anomaly. Because the possibility for goodness to exist in any other social color is impossible as there can only be one saving color, one favored people despite the New Testament’s declarations (John 3.16; I Timothy 4.10; I Peter 3.18).
Race tells us that we are born into color and there is no redemption for those born into the wrong socially colored family. Race simply does not have enough grace for us all and as a result, God’s grace remains amazing.
The Grace Card (2010)
Israel Houghton, “If Not For Your Grace”, A Deeper Level (2007)
Chris P. Rice, Grace Matters: a true story of race, friendship and faith in the heart of the South (2002)
Charles H. Roberts, Race Over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement (2003)