As evidenced by the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case—America is a long way from being post-racial. This case has pealed back layers of deep-seated emotions—raw and on full display 24/7 on various news outlets.
Folks from all sides have seized this unfortunate series-of-events to posture; profit; accuse; and vigorously fuel the racial divide. On one level this should be a huge disappointment for our nation. Shouldn’t we be beyond this? On another level maybe this should be expected. After all, we live in a broken world and racism remains an entrenched part of it.
Caught up in this furor is, of course, the church. If ever there is to be a place that is post-racial it is God’s kingdom. Scripture is clear:
I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34)
For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11)
On the surface both of these texts demonstrate God’s plan and desire is for all people to be embraced equally and fully share in the blessings of God’s grace regardless of racial, social, economic, or gender status. And certainly it is in his church where this ideal should be most evident.
But unpacking both of these texts and understanding their context demonstrates the challenges embedded within this- both for them and us.
The apostle Peter spoke the first sentence as he was first beginning to realize that God’s kingdom extended beyond just the Jewish community. He had a struggle with his own racism to overcome (see Galatians 2:11-13) before he could finally fully embrace a post-racial church.
The second sentence was a part of the apostle Paul’s preamble in his correspondance to a Roman church strictly divided along racial lines. Throughout most of that letter he presented a thorough theological treatise revealing God’s original plan to have a fully integrated church before finally urging them to, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).
“In order to bring praise to God.” If I understand the nature of the church as the present manifestation of God’s kingdom this is foundational to all we do (see 1 Peter 2:9). What better way to accomplish this now- in the sound and fury of a racially divided America- then to truly love and accept one another regardless of skin color?
A post-racial church? Absolutely! Clearly this is who God has called us to be. It is heaven’s alternative to the harmful emotions and actions that result from racism. The church as a place of refuge from this is God’s desire.
But let’s be honest. This can remain as challenging for us as it was for the first century church. None of us have escaped the social and racial conditioning influence of our culture. So we must remember that only in Christ is racism really and completely solved.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want the angry, partisan, self-serving, race-based politics of our culture to influence the church. I want the post-racial ethic of a church that looks and acts like Jesus to influence our culture.