June 11, 2021
Racism and the Believer's Response
By Skip Heitzig
Over the past few years and beyond, incident after incident has torn the scab off an old wound that hasn't ever really healed in our nation: the long-standing issue of racism and injustice. Instead of taking sides politically, I want to look at the issue morally and biblically. And when it comes down to it, it isn't a skin issue; it's a sin issue.
And this issue is one we see pop up in Acts 10, where we read about a transformation that took place in the heart of the apostle Peter. Let's consider this account of racism in Scripture and four steps to deal with it:
1. Acknowledge the problem. In New Testament times, Jewish people were very prejudiced against non-Jewish people. Peter himself was, by his own admission, a racist. In meeting with a Gentile named Cornelius, Peter basically told him, "As a Jewish man, I've always thought I was better than you" (see vv. 24-28). He acknowledged the problem.
And it's time for us to acknowledge that there are people in our country who often feel unsafe, unheard, and unwanted. We need to acknowledge that the history of our nation includes slavery, and the struggle didn't end when it ended; it has continued into modern times.
2. Accept redirection. God had given Peter a crash course in grace by way of a vision, destroying racial barriers that had been in his heart a long time (see vv. 9-16). And Peter allowed the Lord to redirect his thinking: "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (v. 28).
Let's do the same thing. Let's let God and His Word redirect us and reveal the truth about every single human life: we were created in the very image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Because of that, every single human being has value, worth, and significance.
3. Invite a conversation. Instead of launching into a monologue, Peter opened up a dialogue with Cornelius and the other folks present (see v. 29). He didn't come with answers; he asked questions. In the same way, irritation or consternation shouldn't be the believer's reaction to racial issues, but rather conversation: listening to others, finding out what they're feeling, and asking more questions. As James 1:19 says, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."
4. Renounce discrimination. In verses 34-35, Peter said, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." We are first and foremost citizens of God's kingdom. That means there is absolutely no place for prejudice or bigotry in the life of a Christian.
I believe many of us could stand to care more about this issue. My heartfelt prayer is that each one of us would be real, authentic lovers of God and lovers of people, every single one of whom has been made in the precious image of our Creator.
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