This past week I had the pleasure of preaching in a Good Friday service at an African-American church. I have friends that attend there. They have invited me to preach for them at other times as well. The service was moving and powerful. I was especially grateful to see several members of my congregation attended.
One of the saddest parts of being a Christian in the United States is the terrible history of racism and segregation in the churches of our country. In recent years many books and seminars have been produced in attempts to bring people of different races and ethnic backgrounds together in the church of Jesus Christ.
In our country recently, we have seen renewed frustrations and violence around the issue of race in America. At the same time we are remembering the success of the civil rights movement in historic memorials at Selma, we are watching places like Ferguson Missouri erupt in racial turmoil all over again.
The church should always have been at the forefront of bringing people together in Christ. We still do not live up to that gospel mandate very often. But we can. Jesus makes it possible to put aside our prejudice and follow Him into love and reconciliation.
Jesus, in fact, is the model for reaching out across the boundary lines of differences. The real barrier between groups of people is not the color of skin, but behaviors and habits. It’s very hard for any of us to become real friends with people whose attitudes and habits are different from our own. The first step has to be a willingness to see things from the other person’s point of view, to try and “walk a mile their shoes” as the old saying goes.
This is what Jesus did for us, “who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself” (Philippians 2:6-7).
“Emptied himself.” To enter into the life of the other person to embrace and understand that person, this is one of the things Jesus did in his human life. As His followers we are called to do the same. This is one of the keys to racial reconciliation. Do we really listen to and try to understand what it’s like to live as someone different than ourselves? Jesus did. And that makes all the difference.
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC