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Is There Incognito Racism in Our Churches?

Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, has been banned for life from NBA events and fined 2.5 million dollars due to his hurtful and racist comments recently leaked to the public. Phillip Holmes from Christ & Pop Culture notes Sterling as one public example of widespread racism still alive and well today.

“Don’t think for one second that believers that think like Sterling don’t exist,” he writes, and share his own experience as a black man in largely white church circles. According to Holmes, interracial dating and marriage is still a huge sticking point for many white parents and pastors. His own college mentor dissuaded him from interracial dating, and admitted later that “he could not bear the thought of one of his daughters marrying a black man.”

So what are Christians to make of this incognito racism in our churches and families?

First, according to Jim Denison on Christian Headlines, we must acquaint ourselves with how God feels about racism. On racial lines and other social differences in the 1st century, Paul wrote:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

"God shows no partiality" (Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34).

"There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all" (Romans 10:12).

In Christ "there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all" (Colossians 3:11).

Crosswalk author Whitney Hopler, in her article How to Turn Racism into Gracism, suggests developing compassion, understanding favor vs. favoritism, and becoming educated as ways to combat racism in our hearts and actions.

“Think about what makes you feel insecure around other people (such as your race, gender, age, weight, a certain physical feature you don’t like, a disability, etc.). Consider how you felt whenever someone you judged you based on that, before they ever got to know you. Decide to look beyond your first impressions of people and build relationships with them. Ask God to give you the ability to view people as he sees them. Invite God to pour out his love for others through your life.”

Finally, Christians (especially pastors from the pulpit) must speak out against racism and work for reconciliation. Crosswalk blogger Daniel Darling writes:

“We must preach the gospel as the only cure for racism. Racism is the fruit of sin embedded in the heart of every man. Only Christ, who crushed the serpent and defeated death can move into the racist's heart and recreate it to be a heart of love. The cross is where racism goes to die, for every man, red and yellow, black and white, is in need of God's saving grace. There is hope for the repentant racist, but it will only happen as Christ renews his mind and redeems his view of his fellow man. Let's pray for Donald Sterling to repent and turn to Christ in faith. God delights in welcoming sinners home, including repentant racists.”

Darling ends his article by encouraging believers to look inward:

“We should humbly consider our own sinful tendencies toward prejudice. Racism begins in a corrupted, sinful heart. If we were honest, we’d admit there is a little Donald Sterling in all of us. Only God’s sanctifying grace can remove the cancer of racism and replace it with a heart that reflects God’s heart.”

What do you make of the Donald Sterling situation? Have you experienced racism in your own church? How can Christians overcome these racial barriers?

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for

Publication date: April 30, 2014