The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem.

Christians who seek to follow Jesus as he followed the Father are as earnest in doing justice as they are in preaching the Gospel. The Gospel and justice go hand in hand. The evangelical church, however, has fallen short on the justice side of the equation. The void left by the church has allowed new, competing philosophies to take over the cultural space.

Critical race theory has become the loudest voice in that arena. Many Christians who are justice-minded have gravitated toward the voices that come from a critical race theory platform without realizing that critical race theory is another gospel that runs antithetical to the true Gospel.

Critical race theory defines the problem and the solution in terms that are sometimes contrary to the Gospel and to biblical truth. That is not to say there is no redeeming value to critical race theory, or that people who espouse CRT are wicked or evil. It’s just not the Gospel. Inevitably it’s a solution that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem and doesn’t bring about true justice.

The Gospel offers true justice.

The Gospel says that all humans are made in the image of a holy God. The problem with men is the orthodox idea of sin – the tendency to do wrong and the failure to do right, which we know we ought to do. Love God and love your neighbor is a simple formula, but we want to go our own ways and to please ourselves rather than love God and love our neighbors.

Jesus offers salvation by taking on the sin of all people (of all races) on himself and setting us free from the wages of sin. Jesus does that so we can have relationship with God who, then, begins to work within us to will and to act according to His good purpose. That reality is borne out in the process of personal sanctification (vertically) and in just relationships with our fellow man (horizontally).

We do not achieve salvation by anything that we do. It’s a free gift available to all by grace. We simply need to embrace it. Salvation takes away the shame and the ultimate consequence of sin, which is death (physically and spiritually). It frees us up to live as God intended by the help of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within people who yield to Him. We demonstrate that by our love for God and our love for people.

Racism is the sin of partiality. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile; no male nor female; and no black, nor white or brown. We are all one in Christ, and the ultimate goal of the Gospel is to unite all humanity in Christ with God the Father. The picture of that ultimate goal was given to the Apostle John in a vision:

“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….” (Rev. 7:9)

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem of racial injustice.

The evangelical church, however, has had a very mixed track record on the issue of racism. Many Christians with a heart for justice are (rightfully) responding to the voices who are speaking to the issue of racial disparity, but some of those voices are preaching a false gospel that is, in many ways, antithetical to the true Gospel.

The loudest of those voices are speaking from a platform of critical race theory.  The failure of the church to step into the breach has left room for CRT to come in. We have abdicated the church’s role to the secularists, and many in the church have followed those voices out of the church.

The Bible reveals that sin is mainly a personal, individual issue, but laws can be passed that institutionalize that sin. Jesus spoke against sinful (mainly religious) systems in the first century, and we should speak against them in the present time.

Systemic racism exists, and it can be seen in cultural, legal, economic and other structures that result in unequal outcomes. For instance, black men are sentenced more often, for longer sentences and spend more time in jail than white men for the same crimes. This points to systematic injustice.

Abortion is an example of systematic injustice. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, made it her express goal to reduce the black population by promoting the abortion of black babies. Her efforts resulted in systemic racism, and the impact on the black community of that system today continues to be far greater than the impact on the white community proportionally.

When Christians express concern for racism, however, they sometimes get labeled Marxists or heretics out of fear that doing justice means subscribing to unbiblical ideas. Justice, however, is at the very foundation of God’s throne! (Psalm 89) Justice couldn’t be more biblical!

As Christians, we have to call out false gospels, but we also need to speak into the space where injustice, including racial injustice, exists. We need to emphasize the beauty of diversity and the end goal, which is people of every tribe and tongue singing the praises of God.

When we saw George Floyd being mistreated, we saw the image of God underneath someone else’s knee. It was deeply offensive to justice. We should be deeply offended by what we saw, and we should step into the arena of speaking and doing what is right to address that injustice.

Too often we find ourselves simply disagreeing with those other voices who are speaking out. This response falls miserably short of doing the justice God calls us to do.

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.” (Zech. 7:9-10)

Biblical justice on the horizontal plane includes legal justice (systems) and personal justice in our relationships with each other. We need to deal with the poor and rich, male and female, black and white, equally. We need to do this individually and strive for such equality and fairness by our influence in the broader, cultural context of the systems in which we participate.

We need to recognize that people may define racism differently. Thus, we often talk past each other without realizing it. Critical race theory frames racial prejudice in terms of power. Christians can recognize that power is a component of injustice, as injustice rarely flows in the direction of the weak to the strong, or the powerless to the powerful.

Thus, Christians should be able to acknowledge that critical race theory is (at least partially) correct on diagnosing the problem source for systematic racism – centers of power that are corrupted by some inherent unfairness that disproportionally impacts people of color.

Critical race theory, however, asserts that only the powerful are capable of racism (because only they have power and privilege), which ignores the reality of sin and personal accountability. They ignore it to the detriment and harm of individuals who need the salvation Jesus offers with the healing and transformative power of forgiveness and freedom from sin.

Christians need to empathize, but we need fix our eyes on the truth. Only God has the power to save and transform lives. Only God has the recipe for true justice.

We need to Pray!! Before we speak or do anything, we need to pray!

We must not shame each other. If that is our impulse, it doesn’t align with the Holy Spirit, and we need to check ourselves. There is no condemnation in Christ.

Still, we need to speak out. Though Jesus said he didn’t come to judge the world, but to save it, many people were self-righteously indignant at what he said and took offense to it. People still react that way today.

We can affirm that black lives DO matter. We can say that black lives matter while distinguishing ourselves from the organizations that operate on platforms of critical race theory and other principals that are antithetical to the Gospel. We can acknowledge areas of common ground without giving that ground over to heretical positions.

We can, and we must, stand for justice and stand against injustice when we encounter it. If the church won’t stand for justice and stand against injustice, other people will. If the church abdicates that space to others, the result will not be true justice, and God will not be fully represented and accurately to the world by the church.

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