by Dr. A. Charles Ware
Racial tensions are a global challenge. Beyond cursing the darkness the church must model an alternative. As biblical counselors, we must collaboratively create paths to loving communities within diverse global contexts torn by dysfunction.
Grace (God’s Reconciliation at Christ’s Expense) Relations is a call for us to encourage one another as we develop more models of Christ’s love in the midst of a fallen and broken society (John 13:34-35).
Church leaders must equip, grow, unite, and empower the saints to contribute to the building up of the body in love (Eph. 4:11-24).
I believe the Scriptures have the answer to global racism and I am asking for encouragement and help from biblical counselors in applying Scripture to the challenge. Successful models are rare.
Racism is a Global Challenge
August 9-13, 2017 I was participating in a church conference, “Racism: When Colour Divides.” The speakers were biblical, engaging, transparent, personal, and encouraging. The subjects were thought provoking.
Personal testimonies of rejection, injustice, and abuse due to the color of one’s skin or cultural differences were extremely moving.
Then came the breaking news from Charlottesville, VA. The August 12th violent interaction between the “Unite the Right” protestors and the counter protesters was disturbing. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman, was struck and killed by a car during the protest! I was not in the US but in South Africa when I saw the report.
While many in the US are reacting to white supremacists, South Africans are concerned by the growing political influence of Black Nationalism. “Bury them alive! White South Africans fear for their future as horrific attacks escalate,” is the title of a March 25, 2017 News.com.au article written by Frank Chung.
Racial/cultural tensions and divisions are a global challenge! Racism, tribalism, the cast system, and political and cultural polarization all create environments where even Christians’ hearts are hardened toward others, including fellow believers! Can the church be a community of love in societies marked by such intense divisions?
The Need for Scriptural Teaching Resulting in Love
The color or cultural divide is a challenge for the global church! Believers need scriptural direction. Unifying loving relationships must be displayed as the Christian alternative to society’s divisive, dysfunctional, segregated, and at times violent relationships (John 13:34-35).
Many believers are hurting, fearful, and confused. What can the Biblical Counseling Coalition provide to bring healing and unity between former oppressors and oppressed people? How should we address the fact that popular biblical scholars of the past have interpreted Scripture in a manner to support racism and injustice? How do we encourage the white believer who has lost friends because he adopted a black child? What do we say to a group of minorities in a majority church who feel unsafe and unloved? Or the majority group who are discouraged that their efforts at encouraging biblical diversity seem to be ignored by the vast majority in their church? Even worse, how do you respond when minorities constantly criticize your efforts as being insufficient? What is the role of institutions beyond the church, including schools, businesses, and government in addressing racial tensions?
It would be easy to avoid the topic in faithless defeat. It is often a highly emotional and explosive subject. However, the all-sufficient Word of God points to our unity in Christ. Grace transformed the Christ-hating Saul into the unity and love-preaching Paul (1 Tim. 1:12-17). Grace leads me to the cross!
Christ, the Cross, is Our Source of Unity (Eph. 2:11-22)
The media constantly reminds us of the fallen and broken state of the world. It is easy to lose hope. We must allow grace to remind us of our source of unity, Christ.
In Christ … by his blood we have been made near (Eph. 2:11-13; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28)
Christ is our peace (Eph. 2: 14-16)
Through Christ we have equal access to the Father (Eph. 2:17-18)
We are fellow citizens (Eph. 2:19)
We are family (Eph. 2:19)
We are the temple of God (Eph. 2:20-22)
I need the body of Christ to encourage and enlighten me as we journey together toward grace relations marked by Christ-like love. I know the verses, my struggle is fleshing them out in daily life. How do we live these truths in a broken world?
The Global Question: “How Do We Live in Unity?”
Living biblical principles of love and unity within a multiethnic or multicultural environment will require commitment and collaboration. Our ultimate concern is greater than our personal ministry; it is the glory of God expressed through the body of Christ.
We must learn to listen, forgive, educate, and encourage one another. Whatever one’s race or cultural background, believers need to pray together, persevere, share, and stimulate one another to love and good works.
“It is critical that the Church pursue grace relations rather than ‘race’ relations. Grace offers a healthy foundation for dealing with the sins of the past and the alienation of the present as well. Grace relations are built upon forgiveness and the intentional pursuit of peace, trust, unity, and loving relationships because of Christ. The Church must move beyond society’s blame and shame game. The anger, distrust, and polarization of such a philosophy are very apparent today – but it need not remain so.”
Together we can do better. Speaking the truth in love we can engage in conversation that ministers grace to the hearers (Eph. 4:15-16, 29).
Call for a Collaborative Effort
I am asking biblical counselors, globally, to engage in a heartbreaking, mind-challenging, and self-sacrificing commitment to discover and model grace relationships identified by our love for one another.
At The College of Biblical Studies we are committed. Our mission to train Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic, urban world for Christ keeps us focused on modeling the message.
CBC created the course, “Culture, Race, and the Church,” to wrestle with racism and the church’s response from slavery to the present, especially in the US. To take the course online, visit crossroads.edu/nextstep.
Recently, we created a Facebook group, Grace Relations, to facilitate a global discussion group for mutual encouragement and education for those wrestling with ethnic or cultural dysfunctional relationships. We invite you to join the group.
We desire to learn with and from the biblical counseling community as we address this global issue.
A South African asked for a biblical counseling track on the challenge of global racism. He believes that biblical counseling may be South Africa’s only hope of national healing!
Racism is a global problem. Christ is the global solution. Grace relations provides a healthy alternative to the divisive, dysfunctional, and often violent racial/cultural tensions in the world.
Questions for Reflection
What are your challenges? What are you doing? None of us have arrived. We are all on a journey. Let’s collaborate!