The title is pretty bold. But pretty true too.
Racism is an issue that has been on my heart heavily lately. I now work for an organization which has “eliminating racism” as part of it’s mission statement. I’ve been reading through a book by Francis Chan lately called “Erasing Hell” which is a great read so far! I debated trying to go into an extensive blog post on MLK day about how racism doesn’t mix with Christianity, but I couldn’t quite find the words and knew that this was an issue that needs the right words for people to continue reading. In talking with a friend, we’ve both concluded that it can be quite difficult to speak on ‘controversial’ issues without offending people to the point where they quit reading. Well read on or stop, but the text below from “Erasing Hell” might rock your world, in a much needed way. I’ve found Chan’s words to be some of the most fitting on the topic. Racism is wrong in all sectors, but especially and ultimately in the community of Christians, so I encourage you to take these words to heart, and please leave your thoughts. I’d love to start a conversation about this.
Racism. The Christian church in many ages and in many places has stood on the wrong side of this issue, and its damnable-literally. What’s racism got to do with hell? you may ask. According to Jesus, it’s got everything to do with it. In Matthew 8, Jesus smuggles a warning about hell into the context of racism and ethnocentricism (the belief that one ethnicity is superior). The entire context of Matthew 8-9 depicts Jesus reversing all of the cultural and social assumptions of the Jews f that day. One assumption is that the Jews as the “people of God” are much more fit for the kingdom than all those other nasty sinners – those Gentiles, those Greeks, those Romans. But in Matthew 8, Jesus is absolutely floored by the faith of a Roman Gentile military leader. This leader of high standing had the faith and humility to submit to the authority of Jesus. And Jesus accepted him as he is, a Gentile. From this encounter, Jesus spins out a short message about many people of all nations and colors and ethnicities that will flood into the kingdom. And it is here that Jesus says that the “sons of the Kingdom” who think that God values one ethnicity over another (in this case the Jewish people) are damned to hell: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12 NASB). The teeth that once gnashed at the person of another race or color will gnash in the agony of eternal torment.
Why is it that only 5.5% of the American evangelical churches could be considered multiethnic (where no single ethnicity makes more than 80% of its congregants)? Why is that? 5.5%! And we’re supposed to be living in the melting pot, the place where hundreds of languages and colors often live within a few miles -or feet- of each other. What’s so sad about this is that many pople outside the church are FAR less racially divided. Consider the military, our places of work, or athletics. Yet there are three places where racial division still persists: bars, prisons, and the American evangelical church.
We need to see the glaring contradiction in saying we believe in hell making no effort to tear down the walls of racism and ethnic superiority. If we are going to take Jesus’ words seriously, we have to make more of a concerted effort to forge the avenues of racial reconciliation and unity under the banner of the Gospel of Christ.
One day, Christ will come back and there will be an amazing worship celebration – with African bongos, Indian sitars, and an ensemble of Mariachi trumpets – where every tribe, tongue, nation, and color will bow to the knee of the King and celebrate!
If this sounds irritating, go back and read Matthew 8, its written for you.