02-09-2016 racismI was sitting in the airport on Sunday evening doing one of my favorite things, people watching. Here is my deep and profound observation: people are different.

Of course there are ways in which we are the same. We are the same species, Homo sapiens, and have very similar characteristics. Few people are born with two noses, for example. God has given us two eyes, two ears, one mouth (I think that was purposeful). Internally and externally, we have much more in common than we have dissimilarities. Of course, we do come in various shapes, sizes, ages, abilities, and races. These differences are, unfortunately, often charged with tension and prejudice. Age discrimination is a fact of life. People who have intellectual abilities may find it easy to belittle the rest of us. Those who are aesthetically pleasing may get opportunities that are not afforded the the average-looking person. Racial differences have often been met with horrible acts of brutality. Consider the holocaust, for example. From January 30, 1933, to May 8, 1945, nearly 6 million Jews were murdered in Europe, killed for being Jews, and another 5 million people of other minorities killed because they were “different.”

Throughout much of the world, being Arab is a huge difficulty. Even while I type these words, I know that I will be criticized by conservative Christians who are understandably weary of the threats brought by radical Islamic terrorists. And who doesn’t believe that radical Islamic terrorism is a scare upon our world. But does that make all Arabs suspect? Some of my friends in Israel are Arab Christians. I’ve heard them tell their stories of discrimination, insults, and restrictions. Racism is wrong no matter what the excuse we might use for it. Are all Caucasians White Supremacists? Of course not. Are all Muslims radical Jihadists? Of course not. Are all Jews radical Zionists? Of course not.

Some of what I read on Facebook concerns me greatly. In fact, I’m giving thought to just dropping out of it. The only thing that compels me forward with this medium of exchange is that it’s an opportunity to share life and testimony with others. But the dark side of Facebook is indeed very nefarious because it reveals so much unchristian thinking repeatedly displayed by professing Christians.

I can hear the retort, “Who are you to judge? Jesus said we aren’t to judge.” If you look at the New Testament as a whole, you will see that Jesus was talking about reviling and mean-spirited judgmentalism. He was not talking about discernment. In fact, we are repeatedly urged to have discernment. We need to be discerning about what we believe and what we say. Our guide is Scripture not political rhetoric, deep-seated racial prejudice, or fear.

It’s a good time for us to think deeply about what we hold true—what we value. In the famous passage John 3:16 we are reminded that “God so loved the world.” “World” here is the term from which we derive the concept of ethnicity. God is colorblind. He doesn’t see Blacks, Whites, Asians, Indians, Arabs, Jews, or any combination of those groups. Do you think Moses was a white guy who lived in the suburbs and drove a BMW?

My critics could say that we are under attack and have to protect ourselves. I agree that we are under attack, and it is appropriate to protect ourselves—to a point. Stooping to racism, name-calling, blanket categorizations, hate rhetoric, and threats certainly does not expand the Kingdom of God or glorify Him.

What does the Bible say on this subject? Let me start with a negative description. God does not condone favoritism (Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; James 2:4). On the positive side, we are called to love people who are different from us as well as like us (John 13:34). We are told to make disciples within all kinds of ethnic groups (Matt. 28:19–20). Through the years we’ve received some criticism about sending missionaries to reach Muslims in Belgium and North Africa. I’m always stunned when I hear such prejudice. Don’t we understand that the best way to fight radical Islam is through conversion?

Henderson Hills is blessed to have people of a variety of races, nationalities, and cultures: Africans, Jews, Arabs, Asians, Native Americans, Indians, and others. In that way, we are very diverse, but not as much as I would like. God is bringing the world to us through UCO and other institutions. A vast array of cultures and ethnicities live among us. Historically, Americans have believed that diversity strengthens us (read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty).

My prayers for our church include that God would bless us with growing diversity. Get to know your neighbors. Invite non-Christians into your life. Reach out to people who are like you and different than you. I believe that one of the strengths of HHBC is that we are multigenerational, multiracial, multicultural, and becoming more so. This is a good week to remember what God expects of us. Don’t give into the political rhetoric of hate and fear mongering. Look at the world through our Father’s eyes. And be careful what you say on Facebook. The world is looking on.

Dennis Newkirk
Henderson Hills Baptist Church