“I can’t think of a clever sermon title.” “What words rhyme with race?” “I don’t know where to begin.” I’m not an expert.” “It’s too sad.” “People won’t come to church to hear that.” “People will leave.” “I will never forgive them for what they did.” “It will make people angry.” “It will hurt. It’s too painful.” “That’s the past.” Race is not an issue here. We love and accept everyone.” “That’s not the purpose of the Church.” Excuses, excuses and more excuses.
The Church is about forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, justice, love, peace, fellowship. And race prevents, delays and denies these things from happening. So, race should be the enemy not each other.
We often say, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about that.” Or, “the Bible doesn’t say that I have to do that.” Such a statement suggests that because the offense, the stumbling block, the temptation, the sin is not listed, we are somehow exempt or excused from the consequences. We are observing and making note of the absence in order for our poor witness not to be seen.
We talk as if the Bible is a sin narrative and not a salvation narrative. The Book gives witness to, points to Christ as Messiah not us as sinners. It is a collection of God’s good works not a list of our sins. And we know what is wrong. We are born in sin (Psalm 51.5). We are familiar with sin. It is the good and the righteous that must be learned.
I have heard Christian leaders say, “When the Bible is silent, I am silent.” But, how can the Word- God ever be silent on anything? Frankly, the historic witness of the Church has been sinful complicity and silent endorsement. The Church in America supported the social construct of race, slavery and the abuse of human beings. She allow race to divide the congregation and our worship. Shamefully, we continue to practice Sunday morning segregation because though we confessed the same Christ and received the same baptism, we still believe that we are so very different. And we make excuses for it like “the Bible doesn’t tell me so.”
So, the Bible doesn’t talk about race. The word race is not apart of the Hebrew or Greek languages. It is a modern word and invention.
The Bible does not list prejudice as a sin. It does not say that we should not segregate based on the implied inferiority of the social coloring of skin. It does not say that we cannot choose our spouse or friends or employees based on their cultural background.
But, it does say that we should not hate, that we should love our enemies (First John 3.15; Matthew 5.43-48). The Bible does say, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7.1) The Bible does say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4.26). The Bible does say, “Vengeance is the Lord’s” (Romans 12.19). The Bible does say, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” “forgive,” and “be ye reconciled one to another” (Mark 12.31; Matthew 6.14; Second Corinthians 5.20). All of these Scriptures can be applied to the reality that race has created and the relationships that it has ruined.
There is much that we can say about race but it will be to its demise as there are no Scriptures that support its existence and perspective, that align themselves with its purpose or practices. To talk against race would be to go against the American empire and its systems. We don’t say what the Bible says because are afraid that the world will no longer be our friend. However, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you” (John 15.18-19). We must daily confess that we don’t belong to the world, that we are not a member of its groups or its identities. It is because we are members that we will not speak against the group.
We also don’t say what the Bible says about race because we have not fully grasped and allowed to take hold the identity of Christian. We do not want to accept all of the terms and conditions of what it means to be Christ- like. Consequently, we have yet to live Christ’s life. We still do not allow Christ to live through us– because the Bible does not say that Christ was a racist or a segregationist or a lover only of those who “looked” like him. So, whose life are we living if not our own, if not the stereotypical one handed to us by race?
Finally, the Church will not say what the Bible says about race because She, too, is invested in its the power struggle. She believes in race and its proclamations. She mixes her doctrine with its prejudices, Her worship with its stereotypes. The Church proclaims that God is supreme while serving and encouraging members who believe themselves to hold the position with mindsets and habits, economic practices and geographical allegiances that say, “White power. Black power. Red power. Yellow power. Brown Power. Beige power.”
But, She can speak up and when She does, she will talk race into silent submission because the Bible does say, “Indeed, we live as human beings but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (Second Corinthians 10.3-5). Let the Church say, “Amen!”