How can local churches work toward racial harmony?
- Know the history of the problem. In order to understand present racial tensions, one must know something about the history of race relations in one’s context, the history of the church’s involvement in racial oppression, and the particular historical experiences of different minority groups.
- Recognize our mutual culpability. Some people view racism exclusively as a sin of the powerful. As Christians, we must reject this definition and recognize that racism is a sin of the heart which Christians on all sides of racial divides can, and sadly too often do, commit. At the same time, we should recognize that the Scriptures do place greater responsibility for injustice in the hands of the powerful.
- Consider your church’s neighborhood. Churches in highly diverse neighborhoods should themselves be more diverse. Churches in more demographically homogenous areas might expect to be more homogenous. One is not necessarily more spiritual than the other.
- Consider the real gospel tensions. Evangelism often occurs most naturally and easily when we evangelize other members of our own cultural group. At the same time, we want to build churches that reflect the spiritual and covenantal unity of the people of God across all cultural and ethnic barriers. In other words, there can be a tension in this fallen world between outreach and unity. Does that mean we forsake unity and so cater to a specific group? No. Does it mean we forsake outreach in order to cultivate unity with what we have? No. It means we need to carefully and thoughtfully pursue both outreach and unity.
- Think biblically and theologically. If we want to avoid being driven by trends and mere pragmatics, we must learn the hard discipline of thinking biblically and theologically about race. This means not only applying individual texts that touch on race but also thinking through how the Bible’s entire story line bears on racial issues. It means considering broader themes such as man’s creation in God’s image, the social consequences of our depravity, our unity in the body of Christ, and the redemptive-historical trajectory from Eden to Babel to Pentecost to the multinational audience around God’s throne in Revelation (5:9-10, 7:9-10).
(This material has been adapted from D.A. Carson’s article, “Five Steps for Racial Reconciliation on Sunday at 11 a.m.”)