Our, ‘What About?’ series, aims to answer the most common questions we get asked as a Christian Church in Texas.
Watch the sermon or read the manuscript to find out where we stand on Abortion.
What About, Racism?: Sermon Manuscript
This morning we are continuing our series called, “What About?” You can look through the devotional to see where we are going over the next 5 weeks.
The first week we talked about the role of women, second, we talked about abortion, then we talked about those who have never heard about Jesus, and last Sunday we talked about sex before marriage, all of which you can find on our YouTube Channel, and this morning we are talking about racism.
Now, talking about racism is incredibly difficult, because this conversation is loaded with explosive language, but keep in mind we’re not trying to solve racism in the world over the next 30 minutes.
We’re just seeing if we can have these conversations with one another in our church family. By God’s grace we have some ethnic diversity in our church family, which means we’re not all coming into this conversation with the same experiences in life.
Which means it is easy to misunderstand one another, therefore, we need to remember to lead out with humility, patience, and a commitment to one another as we enter into this conversation.
I know for me personally, I grew up in Dallas, TX in the 1980’s. My parents divorced when I was 3-years old. I primarily grew up in apartments, which means from a young age I was exposed to different ethnicities, and economic structures.
My friends were white, black, brown, and everything in between, and we were constantly talking about the differences in one another, and we definitely made derogatory comments about one another’s culture and ethnicities.
Therefore, when the conversation around racism started to work its way into our everyday conversations around 2016 my natural impulse was, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Racism was something that happened in the 1950’s, it’s 2016, why is this such a big deal?
But, over the last 5 years I have seen I have more to learn in this area, still learning, and hopefully we can take one step forward together this morning by focusing on these three sub-points; 1. Define The Conversation. 2. How Does God’s Word Respond? 3. How Do We Respond Practically? Let’s look at the first sub-point; 1. Define The Conversation.
- Define The Conversation.
Like many of our conversations it is really easy to get lost in communication, so let’s frame our conversation with a definition to help us all stay on the same page.
Definition: Racism is when we violate (thought, word, and deed) the divine truth (Genesis 1:26-27) that all humans have equal dignity and worth.
There are many ways this can take place in our lives today, but probably the conversation that is taking place the most often in our culture today is the tension between white people (majority culture) and people of color (minority culture.) Does that make sense?
This phrase “majority culture” might be a new term for some of us this morning, but the reality is that every context we walk into every day has a majority culture influence, and if we aren’t aware of the “majority culture” influence it is because we are the “majority culture” influence.
Illustration: I was in Bogota, Columbia a number of years ago teaching a seminar on pastoral training, and during the break I made my way to the shopping district by myself, and at one point in my journey I got a little turned around.
I started looking for landmarks that might be familiar, people that might be familiar, listening for someone speaking a language that might be familiar, and in that moment, I was reminded that I am the minority culture.
That’s a small example of what it might be like for a person of color (minority culture) who is living in the U.S. (majority culture.)
The landmarks are a little different, the social cues are a little different, and they are having to exert a little more energy to navigate the majority culture.
Now the good news is, this isn’t just a challenge for people based on the color of our skin. We are all constantly navigating majority and minority culture in a variety of areas of our lives depending on the context we find ourselves.
We might be a man in a room full of women, majority / minority. We might be a little overweight in room full of six-packs, and as a result there are many opportunities for us in humanity to “violate (thought, word, and deed) the divine truth (Genesis 1:26-27) that all humans have equal dignity and worth” but for the sake of our time this morning we are going to specifically apply it to the color of our skin, and specifically to the tension between black people and white people.
We could talk about the experiences of Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, but we only have so much time, and the focus in our news today is primarily between black people and white people, and the black person’s experience in the United States historically.
We could spend time going through charts and graphs to highlight those tensions, but I think it might be easier to simply look at a timeline for black Americans in our country.
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1525-1860) – 12.5 million Africans are shipped to North America against their will, so that an entire group of people are launched into our nation’s history.
Emancipation Proclamation (1863) – In the 1700’s the Abolitionist movement, largely established by Genesis 1, that all humans have dignity and worth, but in 1863 lets just imagine what life would have been like for the black person’s new found freedom. Incredibly difficult life. Very little education, no net-worth, no social network, life turned upside down. Work?
First Generation (1888) – There was a brief period known as the Reconstruction Era where we see our first black lawyers, doctors, and educators, but that ends in 1877 and I am guessing the primary focus is survival.
Second Generation (1913) – Your grandfather was a slave, and I am guessing that thought never left your mind. In addition, the Jim Crow laws of the south are in full effect. If you haven’t read about the Jim Crow laws, you should. The oppression at this time is so bad that we see the Great Migration where 6 million black people migrate from the south to northern parts of our country.
Again, you have to assume at this point that the average black person recovering from slavery has very little education, very little net-worth, very little social network, so basic skills in life like health care, parenting, marriage, budgeting are at a bare minimum.
Third Generation (1938) – Jim Crow laws are in full effect. An average black person might be getting some education, but again you have to assume that it is incredibly challenging to create stability. Perhaps there is a part of us that is thinking, “But that was in the past, why does it matter?” Listen, we’re not trying to feel sorry for people, but it would be naïve to say to ourselves, “Their story is just like my story.” We’re just trying to understand the unique challenges that are in our history and seeing the broad scope can help us understand the tension of our conversation today.
Fourth Generation (1963) – We are on the verge of the Civil Rights Movement. Jim Crow laws are about to be dismantled in legislation, but we know human beings don’t change overnight, so good things are happening, but still likely incredibly difficult to get a good education, growing net-worth, and a strong social network.
Fifth Generation (1988) – Better access to education, some net-worth, and some social network, but it doesn’t take a strong imagination to assume that there are going to still be challenges at the parenting level, marital level, and judicial level.
Sixth Generation (2013) – Current generation.
What does all that mean? So many times today we assume if a person has problems in life it is because a person made decision that created those problems.
There are some truths to that statement, but it is overly simplifying the greater complexities of life, and as followers of Jesus we would do well to try to understand everyone’s story and background, because everyone has dignity and value in life. Let’s look at where this begins in God’s Word; 2. How Does God’s Word Respond?
- How Does God’s Word Respond?
Now, let’s talk about God’s Word. How does a follower of Jesus respond to this conversation? Before we read God’s Word, I want to acknowledge how easy it is for our hearts to push back on this conversation.
None of us want to see ourselves as racist. I think we all like the idea of pointing the other finger at how others are racist, but in God’s Word we see this isn’t a 2021 problem, it isn’t a United States problem, it isn’t a white person problem, it isn’t a slavery problem, but a humanity problem. Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-27:
Genesis 1:26-27, “26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
God’s Word makes it clear, all of humanity is valuable, period. Our culture says humanity is valuable if we are attractive, popular, wealthy, compassionate and caring, and it changes based on the trends of the day.
Illustration: In the 1950’s it was the war heroes of World War 2 who defended our country. In the 1960’s it wasn’t war heroes because of Vietnam, but it was social activism, but that didn’t last.
In the 1970’s it was indifference after Watergate eroded confidence, and people started disco dancing. In the 1980’s it was pop culture. In the 1990’s it was making money. In the 2000’s it was patriotism after 911. In 2010’s it was social media influence.
In 2020 it’s social activism again, so that the value of our day is constantly changing, but God’s Word teaches us in chapter 1 that our value in humanity is because we are made in His image.
Being made in “His image” means humanity carries royal and relational implications as we share in God’s stewardship over creation, so that in Genesis 1 we see it isn’t just kings and priests who are crowned with this glory and honor, but all of humanity is crowned with glory and honor, because we are made in His image.
That’s why we care about life, how people are treated at the border, how many children are in orphanages, how many children are aborted, because all of human life is valuable. This is God’s design from the beginning!
But we know Genesis 3 is coming where sin enters into the story, so that all of God’s creation is fractured and broken, and as early as Exodus we see racism enter the story as God’s chosen people (Israel) experiencing enslavement and oppression, so that the idea of one group of people overpowering another group of people is not just in our nation’s history, but a pattern throughout human history.
Illustration: Sometimes in our culture you will hear people make the observation “Is it a few bad apples, or does the whole tree need to come down?” Have you heard this phrase?
Then, someone on Tik-Tok rants and raves about how we need to burn the whole country down. Listen to me, Genesis 3 makes it clear it’s not just a few bad apples. It’s absolutely the whole tree, but are we under the impression the next tree is going to be better?
Young people, listen to me, deconstruction is very popular today. The trend today is to deconstruct systems and expose how they are broken. The police are broken, education is broken, the church is broken, our country is broken, your family and it’s easy to deconstruct.
What’s hard is to construct, and we can be sure that no matter what we construct in humanity we will see brokenness, racism, and oppression as one group of people overpowers another group of people, because this is a pattern throughout humanity.
It doesn’t mean it’s okay, but we need to clear on how easy racism slips into humanity, and probably the clearest picture of this in Scripture is in the life of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter. Look at Philippians 3:4-6:
Philippians 3:4-6, “4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
This is how Paul sees himself before Jesus, and he is describing himself as a prideful person based on outward accomplishments.
He is drawing attention to his ethnicity, nation of Israel, Hebrew of Hebrews, so that before Jesus, Paul sees himself as superior in his ethnicity.
This is what we do in humanity. We find something in our lives to give us significance (career, appearances, intellect, finances, family, color of skin, ethnicity) and then we tell ourselves, “At least I am not like those people?” and it’s destructive.
In my life personally, I am a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, and when I read about the Cherokee Nation, or interact with the Cherokee Nation, I find it easy to stir up feelings of isolation.
This might not make sense, but the more I focus on my heritage the more I see myself creating division between myself and another people, and it doesn’t mean our heritage, background, or ethnicity is wrong, but like Paul we need to see how easy it is for us to look for significance in our outward accomplishments. Does that make sense? Look at 1 Timothy 1:12-15:
1 Timothy 1:12-15, “12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”
Do you see his change in perspective is because of his faith in Jesus? Before Paul is full of pride, tribe, background, education, ethnicity, outward, and he meets Jesus his mindset changes so that Paul’s confidence is in Jesus alone!
Listen, that doesn’t mean culture, ethnicity, and background isn’t important. It is important. Sometimes people will say, “That’s right, in Jesus, we’re all the same.” No, we’re not the same.
Our cultures are beautiful and important, but they aren’t what is most important, and that’s why all of us are susceptible to elevating ourselves over one another based on the color of our skin, and falling into racism where we violate thought, word, and deed the divine truth that all humans have equal dignity and worth. Lets look at Peter’s life. Look at Acts 10:
Acts 10:13-16, “13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”
This is a little complicated, but in Acts 10 Peter has a vision from the Lord about foods that use to be unclean to a faithful Israelite, and now, in Christ, those foods are clean and free to eat.
The Lord says to Peter, “Eat!” But, Peter’s initial response is, “No way.” Do you see that? Peter’s culture has influenced him so greatly that when God Himself is speaking to him Peter’s natural impulse is to say, “No.”
What does this mean? Peter has walked with Jesus. Peter in indwelled with the Holy Spirit. Peter is talking to God, and still bias, prejudice, and impartiality is slipping into his thinking. Look at Acts 10:25-28:
Acts 10:25-28, “25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up; I, too, am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner; and yet God has shown me that I am not to call any person unholy or unclean.”
In the context of Acts 10 we see Cornelius come to faith in Jesus, but Cornelius is a Gentile, non-Jewish person, and Peter shares with Cornelius what the Lord has just taught him, that the God of Scripture doesn’t show favoritism based on ethnicity. You with me?
Listen, these two examples in the life of Paul and Peter are reminders that we can be walking with Jesus, walking in the Spirit, and still not see the dark destructive layers of partiality, racism, and prejudice that we might have towards other people.
It doesn’t mean we need to walk around in shame and guilt, but it does mean that we can’t dismiss how racism might have crept into our hearts and minds in ways we could never have imagined.
We assume we can drift toward layers of greed; we assume we can drift toward sexual immorality, we assume we can drift toward gossip and slander, therefore, might we also be on guard at how we might drift toward racism as well. Let’s look at our last response; 3. How Do We Respond Practically?
- How Do We Respond Practically?
How do we respond?
- We pray. There is power in prayer. We want to pray that our hearts would be softened to how racism might show up in our lives toward others.
- We empathize. Bearing one another’s burdens is to understand the pain of one another; therefore, we want to listen to other people’s experiences. Especially if you are the majority culture in any setting. The more we can become aware of other’s experiences the stronger our relationships will be with one another.
- We want to share our stories with one another. Yes, it’s slow to share our stories with one another, but it is great to hear from one another about our experiences.
- We want to submit our experiences to God’s Word. Our personal stories are powerful, but there’s nothing that has happened in our lives outside of His will, therefore, we can submit our greatest pains to Him and trust Him.
- We can’t freak out when people don’t agree. We are going to disagree on certain things, and there is going to be an impulse to shut down, cut off, push away, and post something on social media. But, instead let us focus on where we agree and celebrate those things. We can all rally around growing in God’s Word, the cross of Christ, the love for people, and the 100’s of areas where we do have agreement.
- We want to stay in the conversation. When we talk about racism it is easy to feel isolated, different and misunderstood, but the answer can’t be to seek out people who look like us and think like us and tell ourselves, “I am seeking out diversity.”
- What about groups like Black Lives Matter? God’s Word absolutely teaches us that black lives matter, so that isn’t a debate. And, at the same time, there are values in the organization of Black Lives Matter that don’t align with God’s Word, so as a church family we’re not going to align with organization that don’t align with God’s Word.
- What about Critical Race Theory? Perhaps some of us have never heard that term, but it is in the news more and more these days, so I did want to respond quickly. Critical Race Theory is often characterized as either the hope for humanity, or the downfall of our country, and it’s both. There are things in Critical Race Theory that can help us empathize with others, and there are things in Critical Race Theory that are contrary to God’s Word, so now more than ever we need to be on the alert, leaning in, and filtering the ideas of our day through God’s Word.
- We want to be agents of reconciliation. We Look Around! The God of Scripture is for justice, therefore, we want to look for ways to reflect His heart in this world. We can volunteer, we can vote, we can run for office, foster children, mentor / tutor, care for the elderly, but do something to cross racial barriers to extend His heart toward others.
- We need to seek out opportunities of diversity. We can’t settle for our own little circle of familiarity.
In the end, I wish I could tell you that at North Village Church you will never feel misunderstood, never feel out of place, never feel marginalized, but we know that’s not true.
We know we are going to hurt one another, and the gospel is that Jesus has come to take all of our hurts upon Himself at the cross and conquer them in the resurrection, so that by grace through faith in Jesus we are called His.
We don’t have to look for outward accomplishments to add value to our lives, but Jesus says we have value, because Jesus created us, died for us, and purchased us at the cross.
This is the beauty of the local church. Our culture is looking for justice, hope, transformation, and there’s no greater answers for the hurts in our world than the life we know in Jesus.
North Village Church
This sermon is brought to you by North Village Church, a non-denominational church in Austin. established in 2009 and built around Jesus and Bible teaching.
Are you looking for a church in Austin? At North Village Church we put Jesus at the center of our church family. We worship together every Sunday at 10:30am, encourage Christ centered fellowship through groups, and host special events such as Bible studies and Theological Training, to ensure that we are rooted in in God’s Word. We also serve our local community in association with several Austin based organizations.
North Village Church is made up of professionals, married couples, singles, and families who are wanting to experience the life-transforming power of Jesus. If you are a family with children or teens, we can support you with either or both our Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry.
You are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.
Unable to attend this Christian Church in Austin? Don’t worry, because, through God’s provision, we have created NVC online, an Online Church streaming a worship service every Sunday from 10:30am Central Time. You can also watch our short, powerful sermons on demand and follow us on Instagram for daily Christ centered content.