September 30, 2018
Pastor Jason Rogers
Over the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about racism and racial reconciliation. We’ve given some definitions about racism and what it means to be racist. We are excited because together we are speaking boldly, declaring that for the glory of God, we are one race of people and that we do not belong separated and divided. We all have biases, and the problem with biases is when we don’t talk about them. When we refuse to have the conversation, we don’t acknowledge them. They’re real. It doesn’t matter if we want to deny it or not, but denial isn’t going to help fix any problem.
In the video we showed at the beginning, the man was a good man. He adopted a little girl; he was good husband, good father, and still is a good man. But he realized (as we all should know) that being good does not exclude you from being sinful. Being a good person does not mean that you won’t make mistakes and that there aren’t things about ourselves that we can change. We all have biases. Hopefully we’re going to be able to readily admit that to ourselves so that we can begin to move forward together. We’re going to be looking in our Scripture today, from Galatians 2:11-16.
I. Good people can be racist
Good people can be racist. I know it sounds like an oxymoron; I know it doesn’t sound right. It sounds weird or strange. Oftentimes, when I have the conversation about racism with people, especially with people who may be a little different from me, they say, “Well, I understand what you’re saying, but I’m a good person.” I always want to explain to people that I assume they’re a good person. That’s the first assumption. I assume that every person in this room who’s looking back at me is a good person. I assume that you love your family, that your family loves you, and that you’re a hard worker and dedicated Christian. I don’t know these things for sure, but I assume that. That is the base level that I start at. What we have to understand and explain to all of our brothers and sisters, our friends and family, is that good people can be racist. Good people can do wrong things. Good people can have bad thoughts.
We are going to start here in Galatians chapter two where Paul has come to Antioch. We can see here that he is a little frustrated. You’ll see Cephas several times in these verses. Theologians say Cephas is actually Peter.
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
What we find here is the understanding that racism in itself is a hypocrisy. Like Paul did, every time we see racism, we have a responsibility to call it out and to call out people who are not acting the way the Gospel tells us to act. Peter had learned to accept the Gentiles. Peter had developed a good relationship with the Gentiles. He had become accustomed to their society. He was part of the family. He was going to the local soccer games and cheering for his friend’s children. He was at the bake sales and going to the PTA meetings. He was part of the family. Some old friends showed up who knew him back in the day. This group of people were Christ followers. These were Pharisees who were converted. They were now living the life of Jews following the Lord. When they showed up, Peter withdrew himself. He became afraid of what they may think. He became afraid that people may look down on him in the same way that they look down on the Gentiles.
Racism is very alluring. It provides this idea that you are better than another person. It’s very attractive because it makes you feel good to believe that you’re better than someone. If we’re not careful, even though we know the Gospel, we can still be deceived and led astray by the hypocrisy of racism. This is true, because we see Peter and Barnabas, who we could call pillars of the Gospel or pillars of the faith, were led astray. This idea that we’re better than anyone else is a false gospel. Knowing Jesus and accepting him into your heart does not make you better than anyone else, but it does make you powerful. The power of the Gospel is something not to toy with. -something not to take for granted.
II. Ending racism is our responsibility
Several weeks ago, I talked about how racism might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility. The power of the Gospel makes it our responsibility. We cannot simply ignore it, not talk about it, or pretend as if it doesn’t apply to us.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
I’m going to paraphrase a great philosopher. You know him as Spider Man’s uncle. He says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a Christian, we have great power, and we are to use that power responsibly. As a Christian, if your only goal is to make yourself better or your life better, you’re not living up to your responsibilities. As a Christian, we have a responsibility to tell other people about Jesus. We have a responsibility to take the Gospel to all people. We have a responsibility to take the power of the Gospel to people who need help. As Christians, we have a responsibility not to look down on others. We have a responsibility to care about more than just ourselves.
In this particular passage, instead of being concerned about the welfare of the Gentiles or making sure that the Gentiles knew who Jesus was, Peter was worried about what other people would think of him. He was worried about his past life and how people used to see him. For some reason, all of a sudden, he became ashamed of the people he was hanging out with. Not only did he become ashamed, but in this passage, we find that Paul is telling him, “Who do you think you are? What are you doing? You’re a Jew. You’re living like the Gentiles. You’re hanging out with the Gentiles. You’re spending time with the Gentiles. Then you have the nerve to try to tell the Gentiles that they need to live like Jews.”
As Christians, we have a responsibility to tell people about the Gospel and introduce them to Jesus. What we should not do is try to tell people who don’t know Jesus that they need to live like us and be like us. They cannot do that because they don’t know Jesus. They need Jesus first. Oftentimes, as Christians, just like Peter was doing, we can find ourselves telling people about their lives and who they should be, what they should say, and how they should act, but they haven’t received the revelation of Jesus Christ yet. It is Jesus who changes everything. These people see our lives, and we have to make sure that we’re living the truth of the Gospel. They need to see the example of our lives and how we treat people, how we talk to people, how we engage people. That is their view into the Gospel. That is their view into the Bible. That is their view into Christianity. If we don’t do that right and mess that up, we could be the reason that they aren’t introduced to Jesus and don’t follow Christ. So, we have to be ever so careful with the power of the Gospel. We have to be ever so careful to understand our responsibility.
You see, the practical application of not being racist or of not supporting racism may mean that we have to do some things differently. We may have to change the way we think about certain things and certain groups of people. It may mean that even though we’re good people and not racist, when we see racism, or when we hear racism, we have to speak up. We have to say something. We cannot be silent. We may have to consider where we spend our money or the type of businesses that we support. -things that we may have never even considered before but because it impacts groups of people that may not be like us. We need to think about the welfare of others and how that affects them. We may have to consider our voting patterns and who we look at to lead us. Most of all, we will have to think about how we advocate for those who need it most. We have to think about the poor. We have to think about the widows. We have to think about the sick and how we, as Christians, can help them through the power of the Gospel.
Let me talk to just the men in the room. We don’t get to hide behind taking care of our families as a reason for not loving our neighbors. We can take care of our families, be good husbands, be good providers, protectors, and claim that is our sole responsibility so we don’t have time for anything else. If we use that as a reason not to love our neighbors, we’re not doing it right. We don’t get a pass on everything else because we’re good providers. If we’re good providers but we refuse to associate with people who are different from us, different color from us, or a different religion from ours, then we’re not doing it right. If you love your family but you have no love left over for the lesbian couple that lives a few doors down from you, if you love your family but you have no love left over for the Muslim couple that shops at the same grocery stores you, if you have no love left over for those who vote differently than you, then you are diminishing the power of the Gospel in your own life.
If you have no love left over for those who may kneel during the national anthem, or you have no love left over for the Latino family that is in this country illegally, or if we have no love left over for those who may protest police brutality, or we have no love left over for the woman who believes it is her right to have an abortion, then we diminish the power of the Gospel in our own lives. Those people are no less deserving of the love of Christ than you. Those people need the same Jesus that you have. It is all of our responsibility to take the Gospel to every single one of them, no matter who they are, what they look like, how they vote, or what their lifestyle is. We all need the same Jesus.
III. The Gospel is powerful
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
The power of the Gospel goes further than the work of our hands. It goes a lot further than the things that we can do. The power of the Gospel is found only in our faith in Jesus Christ. It is Christ that holds that power. I believe that the Gospel is powerful enough to defeat racism. If you are a Christian, that means that that power lives inside of you. If we are a Christian and find ourselves with racist thoughts or racist actions, then we diminish the power of the Gospel in our lives. It doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you are no longer a good person. It doesn’t mean that you are no longer a Christian. However, the work that Jesus can do through you, that power becomes diminished. We never want to find ourselves unable to take the Jesus we love so much and share him with everyone.
If you are Christian and the only thing that you have to offer to the fight against racism is opposition to the fight against racism, you diminish the power of the Gospel in your life. I understand sometimes we get tired of talking about it. Sometimes we don’t want to keep on having the conversation. With those fighting against the sin of racism, we have to make sure that what we’re not doing is just simply questioning whether or not the racism they saw was real, or whether or not their experience was legitimate. Instead of always asking the question, “Are your feelings legitimate? Are you sure?” Sometimes we have to offer to pray for people.
If you don’t have a record of fighting against racism, if you don’t have a record of speaking out against it, those people that are fighting want you to join the fight, but they don’t want you to join it kicking and screaming. That’s just painful for everybody. That’s not helpful to you or them. We don’t want you to be walking around without joy in your life. However, if ignoring sin is what causes us joy, then we have to look in the mirror and check our motives. We have to examine ourselves to make sure that we are truly loving our neighbors the way the God has called us to love our neighbors.
Pastor Alan taught us a couple of weeks ago that we should walk the walk or just be quiet. I tend to think that is great advice. Sometimes we need to speak up a little more. Sometimes we need to join in on the conversation. And sometimes we do, in fact, need to just be a little quieter. Sometimes we say things too quickly or too loudly and it leads us down a path that we didn’t intend to go. Sometimes our thoughts get away from us and we don’t realize that those thoughts are wrong. -like the gentleman in the video who first thought that he was protecting someone, that he was helping, and that he was doing something that was good; he realized that it was a mistake.
I know that oftentimes we are eager to move on from the conversation about racism. Trust me when I tell you that no one is more eager to move on from the conversation about racism than the people who suffer from it. As Christians, we must take the power of the Gospel, the power to defeat racism, the power to defeat sin with us everywhere we go. God desires for us to live among all of our brothers and sisters peacefully with love. If we are not taking the Gospel to every person, to people who don’t look like us or don’t think the same way that we think, we’re not handling our responsibilities as Christians. We must do more. We must go further. We must push the conversation so that people will experience the love of Christ, knowing that we’re not the only ones who deserve it and knowing that those conversations will be difficult.
As we go out and have those Gospel conversations, always try to remember what Pastor Jeff tells us all the time. Go out and tell people about Jesus, even if that conversation just bombs, even if you feel like it was a terrible. Do it anyway. Do it anyway! We know that the word of the Lord never returns void. It has power. You without Jesus is nothing, but you with Jesus is everything. It is exactly what people need.
Let us pray for those who don’t look like us or those who don’t vote the way that we vote or serve the Jesus that we serve. Let’s pray for them, knowing that they need the same Jesus that we have, with love in our hearts, knowing that Jesus loves them. He doesn’t love them any less or any more than he loves us.
• Today I realize I need to surrender my life to Jesus for the first time.
– I don’t want to be a hypocritical Christian, I will work to show the love of Christ to all of my neighbors.
+ I will pray for courage to confront my own biases.
1. Do you believe that one culture or people group is superior to another?
2. What is your contribution to the fight against racism?
3. Why do you think it’s so hard to talk about racism?
4. What do you think you would do if you personally witnessed racism?
5. How do you think God wants us to respond to racism?