Righteousness and Racism

by Abraham Cremeens

It has been a tumultuous week in our country. The wrongful and tragic death of George Floyd (and others) caused a ripple in our hearts and our homeland. I’ll never forget the video of his ignored plea to be allowed to breathe.

Many good godly minds have commented on the issues of racism in our country and these most recent events. I commend John Piper’s prayer to you if you have not read it. 

I write the below words with quite a bit of trepidation because, frankly, I humbly and readily admit my ignorance and inadequacy. I also ask for some pre-emptive forgiveness because I am sure to not say enough or to unintentionally offend. I consider this just one more piece of a very long conversation with multiple parts. (I look forward to Gami’s post next week that will fill in some gaps below.) My simple aim here is to draw us as a church to the gospel and ask some questions in light of it. Any significant change will come only as a gift of the Spirit through his Word, and I believe that begins best by giving him access to our hearts. So I invite you to put your heart on the table with me and ask him to shape it. 

Believing all problems in our world somehow come back to a misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I’ve wondered this week how the gospel speaks to ethnicity and racism. The Lord has brought the word "righteous" to mind several times. It may seem an archaic word to some of you but it is loaded with relevant truth. At its most basic form, it means to be right according to God’s standard. Only God is completely right all the time. He is always right in who he is and in what he does. Further, no human being can be right with God nor act rightly unless he is transformed on the inside through faith in Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 112:3-4, we see that a person who fears the LORD (verse 1) has a righteousness that endures forever (verse 3) by God’s grace. That is not only an internal quality, though. This internal righteousness causes him or her to live righteously (verse 4). This means that righteous hearts breed righteous acts. This relates because racism is one of the many expressions of sin or unrighteousness. God is building a new community of faith in this world, though, that will ultimately be completed in the new heavens and the new earth at Christ’s return. The church, today and in eternity, is to be an expression of a multiethnic and righteous spiritual community, united in Christ, that celebrates its diversity rather than silences it. We should hate racism, then, because God does. That should certainly cause some reflection in light of recent events. With the gospel in mind, here are some questions I invite you to consider along with me.

Do you hate the unrighteousness of racism? Racism spits in the face of God’s good design. God made all people equal (Genesis 1:26) and affirmed it again in light of the gospel (Colossians 3:11). This is not to mention the multiethnic worship gathering to come in the new heavens and the new earth, where all nations are present (see Revelation 5:9-10). God is disgusted with prejudice and racism because it counters his design; we should see it the same.

I am sad that George Floyd’s life was taken from him. I am grieved by all of the sufferings of racism African Americans (and other minorities) in our country have endured for generations. This has caused me to look inside my own heart for any traces of it there. It makes me want to be part of the solution, to learn and change, because what is on God’s heart should be on our hearts.

Do you celebrate the righteousness that opposes racism? Since righteous hearts breed righteous acts, then there is much to celebrate and hope for. When God changed your heart by his grace, he empowered you with a new lifestyle. There are many Christians in our country who are choosing to be part of the solution rather than the problem of racism. There are many in our own church family. We need to celebrate that.

I am so proud of the police officers here at Kossuth. They walk with God, know his grace, and represent Christ well in our community. I celebrate them because I know that given the same situation as took place in Minneapolis, they would have acted differently. I know this because they do it every day. We need to pray fervently for them that they would continue to exercise godly wisdom on the job especially as the scene becomes more and more heated.

Do you desire to combat racism? I don’t know your heart, but I know mine; and I am aware that prejudices exist that show up most often in indifference and apathy. I also know that the issue is significant and that I am often blind to all of its roots. The primary solution to racism is the gospel of Jesus Christ by which he changes us and our actions. It involves the “put off” of hate and also pursues the “put on” of actively loving, embracing, and celebrating those of different ethnicities. Consider police officers who choose not to exercise violence and who also take a knee or march with protestors to show they hear and want to help. As a church, it looks like continuing to love God and people not only by killing our prejudices but also by embracing, celebrating, and learning from the diversity of people God connects us to as we seek out those relationships.

I admit being short on the list of potential solutions, but that is why I am writing this. I have a lot to learn, but I know it has to start somewhere, even somewhere so basic as acknowledging the problem. Yet again, my confidence isn’t in me or us but in our Good Shepherd who leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). Jesus is ready and eager to lead us. So, join me in asking him to show us some things. You might ask any one of these questions:

  • Where do prejudices lurk in my heart?
  • Do I hate those prejudices enough to fight them, or am I content with them?
  • Have I ever asked a friend of a different ethnicity to share their experience with me? Am I willing to listen and learn?
  • How do I contribute to the problem of racism?
  • How could I better contribute to the solution?
  • Is there anyone I need to ask forgiveness of whom I have treated wrongly through either aggression or indifference?
  • How should I pray against racism?
  • How can I train my children and make disciples in a way that combats racism?

This is a small step, but I believe that fruit comes when we seek God on such matters. In this topic, ignorance is not bliss. By God’s grace, I believe Kossuth can continue to be part of the solution. We need the heart of God, so ask him to give you that needed grace and insight. Let’s ask him together. Righteous hearts breed righteous acts. Will yours?