Racism and the Glory of God

It’s safe to assume that all of us are aware of divides and tensions between subgroups of people in our country today. There’s a wide range of responses, however, to that awareness. There are countless men and women who have labored bravely and tirelessly for unity, healing, and reconciliation in our nation. I am so grateful for them and their voices!* 
Temptations arise right on the heels of this gratitude and admiration. Temptation toward the warm, hazy, lull of apathy, ushered in by thoughts like, “They’ve got this; maybe advocacy is for the select few.” Or, “My experiences are too limited to really be of help. I’ll never be on their level.” Then, because we tend to be a people of pendulum swings, it’s equally tempting to allow genuine zeal to mingle with false entitlement and speak out of ignorance in ways that harm or further divide. So, what is the answer? What is that “gospel third way” that keeps us steadily centered? It’s dying to self and living for the glory of God alone. It can be difficult to know how to glorify God when there seems to be so much confusion and division coming from many of the people claiming to serve him.

God has been lied about in churches and Christian institutions since they’ve existed. That may sound like an overly critical or pessimistic statement, and I know there are faithful, Bible-literate church leaders who labor to cultivate a gospel culture, fueled by gospel doctrine, within their sphere of influence. I know there is a sea of saints, serving unseen, who have hearts regenerated by the Spirit of God and striving daily, by his grace, to make His true character known and worshipped. But there are also many, many “churches” that tragically exist for the glory of man and have found amazingly effective methods for growing their idol-worshipping audience. In order to build their tower higher and higher, they babble about God’s character in ways that contain only grains of truth, and whole stalks of deception. 

One of the saddest, most divisive lies about God is that he is willing to share his glory with any man. The Sovereign God of all creation has chosen to reveal himself in his Word, for his own glory and for our joy. Whenever we opt out of studying his Word to learn who he is, settling instead for the myriad of more convenient and palatable sources of biblical-esque “truths,” we presume to know more than God about what is best for us and the world around us. When we submit to his gracious design, however, we’re able to know who he is, what he has done, who that makes us, and how we get to live out of that identity. Being grounded in the Word, we won’t be susceptible to lies about the Creator, which conceal his true character and are used by created men and women in attempts to glorify themselves. 
Lies like God hates diversity and condones overt or covert forms of racism. Lies like comfort is priority in the Kingdom we were instructed to pray would come. Lies like he is most interested in our moral behavior, our political party, or our financial donations, while our hearts can be filled with any manner of idols and unrepentant sin. 

The truth of God’s story is exceedingly better than these lies! The Revelation to John gives us a sneak peak of how this story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration will ultimately end. “…day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’” Revelation 4:8b-11

God created all things. God created all of the human race, choosing to breathe his life into skin with every level of melanin and set us all on the earth to know him rightly, make him known to others, and enjoy him forever. 
Notice what the living creatures do in this text from Revelation. They give glory, and honor, and thanksto God! One of the most important ways we can do these same things is to look at the crowning jewel of his creation, humanity, the same way he does- as wonderfully made, dearly loved, and stamped with his very own image (Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Psalm 139:14; Acts 17:25). No one can usurp God’s authority, and nothing removes this Imago Dei from a human being- not their background or financial status, not a criminal record, not their age- inside or outside the womb- not their country of origin or the color of their skin. If we dismiss the inherent value of every man, woman, and child, what an opportunity we miss to give thanks to God for his creation and enjoy meaningful, transformative relationships with others who are different from us!

Later in Revelation we see more about the glorious future that awaits us: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ’Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10 
God redeems the confused languages of rebellious people who tried to make their own way to heaven, and transforms it into a beautiful symphony singing his praises! (Genesis 11:1-9) 

Every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages. Gathered together and worshipping God in unison. Something has gone very wrong for us as Christ followers if his eternal Kingdom sounds a lot like a gathering in which we wouldn’t be very comfortable.

In a sermon delivered on October 14, 2018 at Immanuel Nashville, the great John Perkins discusses the origin of his latest book’s title, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race(Moody Publishing, 2018). He references the KJV translation of Acts 17:26 which says, “And hath made of one blood all nations of men.” Dr. Perkins’ commanding baritone is heard emphasizing, “All nations. I’m glad they didn’t say ‘all races.’ That would’ve made an assumption there’s more than one.” 

The ESV translation of the same text says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” 
So that’s what we do. In the face of division and injustice, we seek God in his Word, feeling our way toward him and finding him as we submit to his design. We repent of our own sins of unbelief, pride, and racism. We give him alone glory, and honor, and thanks. We humbly step out with gifts and voices that God has given us, for his glory and the good of his people. 

*Please check out Truth's Table, The Witness, and The And Campaign just to name a few.

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