White Christians and Race Relations

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus

The rhetoric is heating up. By now, people everywhere are taking sides, calling names and setting up walls of words that reinforce old prejudices, anger and hatred. The tragic shooting in the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina has brought our American racial divide to the forefront of our consciousness again.

I am grateful to see that in Charleston itself, church resumed and people from every race are standing together to promote peace and healing against the racist hatred of Dylann Roof and those who encouraged his violence with their separatist rhetoric.

I am dismayed to see so many white Christians who still do not understand the emotional world of discrimination that many blacks in our communities live with every day. Slavery was not a benign institution. It was evil. And even if your ancestors did not own slaves, they benefitted from the society built on treating some people as if they were property and not people at all. And this attitude about blacks did not go away when the South lost the war. Slavery may have been legally abolished, but society and its institutions retained many ways of treating our black neighbors as property or, at best, as second-class citizens. Many of these practices were only removed from the laws of our country and some states within the last 50 years.

Among a significant number of people, the attitudes and practices still haven’t changed. We can see that in the rhetoric of those websites that Dylann Roof frequented. Racial hatred is alive and well.

Things are better. There is no doubt about that. Because things are better, many white people want us to ignore the bigots and stop talking about race. Healing will not take place by ignoring the divide that still exists. You may be frustrated that certain politicians and pundits will use these issues to get their own name in the papers and promote their own brand. That will always be true. Stop listening to those people.

And start listening to your neighbors. Your black neighbors and your Latino neighbors and your poor neighbors. Listen to what their fears and frustrations and struggles are. And join with them to bring love and peace and healing. Jesus cares about how we treat people and how we love people. The Bible is clear: the only race in God’s eyes is the human race. And there are no second-class citizens in heaven.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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Back into Slavery?

Read Exodus 14:5-14

“It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Exodus 14:12

It’s an amazing story. God sends Moses to deliver the Hebrew people, God’s people, out of slavery in Egypt. They were groaning to the Lord because of the hardship and the oppression they had to endure as slaves. But they had barely made it to the borderland before they were screaming at Moses, “we were better off as slaves!”

Really?!

But this story plays itself out all the time among God’s people. We beg God to deliver us when our sin and the tragedies of this fallen, broken world grab hold of us and won’t let go. God sends Jesus to be our Savior. God comes to our rescue. God frees us from the slavery of sin, offers us forgiveness and new life. We receive it gladly when we are desperate.

But as soon as the crisis is over we start to complain. “There is no food.” “I miss my old ways.” “We were better off as slaves.”

We are glad to be pulled out of the pit of our sin, but like the Hebrews, we want to be able to choose our path from then on. If we are going to have to endure hardships to make it to God’s Promised Land then we want to go back.

If you find yourself thinking that God’s ways are not comfortable or convenient and that you would rather go back to who you were before, the time is now to repent and once again trust that God’s path is the right one. It may not be the easiest and it will never be the most comfortable. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom” (Luke 9:62).

When the Hebrews complained, God gave them manna and quail to eat and the miracle of water from a rock. Even when we grumble and complain, God patiently provides our needs. God will not lead you any place that He cannot provide for you and sustain you. He’s better than slavery. He really is.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

What’s On the Inside

Read Mark 7:14 – 23

“Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Jesus (Mark 7:15)

I was having a conversation with someone at the local country store in which he told me that you could really tell what a person was like at their children’s ball games. He noted that in the heat of those moments, people are no longer able to keep up the pleasant face that they normally show. Their emotions can get the better of them.

Jesus was saying something similar in these words. What is really inside of us will come out in how we behave. A liar might be able to fool some, but his lies still define who he is. And God is not fooled.

We sometimes have a tendency to define a truly spiritual person by superficial actions. He doesn’t curse. She always goes to church. Jesus was talking about the belief among God’s people that certain foods could not be eaten or it would render them unclean. He told them that such superficial practices did not matter. They are not a good measure of spiritual health.

A heart that is right with God will produce behavior that honors God. The gospel changes us from the inside out as God sends His Spirit to live within us and make us new.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Relentless Prayer

Our cat Oliver is relentless. When he wants to be snuggled or petted, he will climb onto your lap. If you put him back on the floor, he will return over and over again. When he smells food cooking on the stove, he will start to jump onto the counter. We have to watch constantly. Sometimes I have to shut him up in the laundry room while we eat so he won’t jump onto the hot stove.

Right now he is lying beside me on the sofa and trying to get me to put away the computer and pay him some attention.

What if our desire for God’s attention were that single-minded? What if we hounded God until God gave us the attention that we want from Him?

Jesus told a parable that suggests we should do just that. In Luke 18 he tells the story of a widow who wants justice but the judge doesn’t care about her or her case. But after a while, the judge gives her justice just to shut her up. Jesus says that we should pray with that kind of perseverance.

God longs to bless us, but sometimes He has to get us into the right position to give us what we need. We don’t persevere because God doesn’t want to hear us. We persevere in prayer because it takes repeated conversations with God for us to be in the right place to receive what we need.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC