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Racism - It's Cause & Cure

Civil Rights Movement

By Dennis Pollock

I normally do not create devotional articles based on current events. But the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, riots, and looting has highlighted the problem of racism in our nation to an extent that I feel like I have to say something, and being a Bible teacher, whatever I say on whatever topic or controversy will always be within the context of the Scriptures and Christianity.

I won’t say a lot about George Floyd because I want to get to the deeper and broader issue of racism. But I will say this much. Anyone who has seen the video of his death, and that includes almost everybody in America, should come to the same conclusion. It was wrong, it was senseless, and it was evil. But I want to address the deeper issue at play, and that is racism itself. And make no mistake about it, racism is not simply a matter of whites disliking blacks. There are black racists, who despise whites, white racists who dislike blacks, and racists of every race and culture. I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa, and I can tell you that there is even a form of racism there. You say, “How can there be racism in Africa; they’re nearly all black people?” The major form of racism in Africa is not really about race; it is about tribe. A few years back Kenya had a presidential election which many Kenyans believed to be rigged and unfair.

This set off something almost like a civil war there. It was not north vs south, like the civil war in America. It was tribe vs. tribe. Gangs from various tribes controlled the roads and highways, stopping cars and buses, and if you were from the wrong tribe, they would pull you out of your vehicle or bus, and either beat you savagely or kill you. It became so dangerous that it put an end to almost all highway traffic in Kenya for a time. I had two pastor friends who had some terrible experiences. One Kenya friend was pulled out of his car, forced to the ground and given a severe beating. Another pastor friend was married to a woman who was from a different tribe than he. When he saw a gang of men stopping every car, he knew that his wife, who sat next to him, was in serious trouble.

They were looking for people from just her tribe, and he knew that she might well be killed. Since they had the road entirely blocked, he pulled his van off the road and they approached his van to make sure they both had the right tribal roots. But before they could open the doors of his van, he suddenly hit the gas, drove around the barricade, and sped on his way, probably saving his wife’s life. And this was not just an isolated incident; this was happening all over Kenya. Most Africans in nearly all the African countries, especially those who are not Christians, are not at all fond of people from other tribes. Although they may look like each other, they dress differently, they speak differently, and they have many different customs. And every presidential election becomes a potential disaster for that nation since whoever wins leadership will nearly always favor the people from his own tribe.

The Heart of Racism

At the heart of racism or tribalism, is the thought that the people who look like me, eat like me, talk like me, and have the same customs and habits as I have, are superior to every other people who are different from me. And behind this concept are the twin evils of pride and fear. We despise others because we are certain that we are the best, and they are less than us. But simultaneously we fear them because we assume that they probably think the same way about us as we do about them. They surely don’t like us very much, and they are probably scheming to do us harm. When they treat us nicely, we suspect their motives, and when they treat us poorly, we say to ourselves, “I knew it all along. They cannot be trusted.”

So behind racism is pride and fear but if we go deeper still, we find something far more sinister. That is the sinful nature that resides within us all, and that includes every white, every black, every Hispanic, and every Asian. Jesus declared: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 5:19). This heart He was talking about is the unredeemed heart, the fallen, sinful, selfish, greedy, fearful, proud, rebellious nature that comes pre-packaged within every single baby, black, white, or brown, who comes into the world. This heart, or in other words, this sinful nature, must somehow be replaced by a new heart, which the Bible calls “the new man.” Paul writes: “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and… put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-23).

This is the ultimate solution for racism and every other ugly outgrowth of a life lived apart from God and Jesus Christ. It is not that every person who is not a believer in Christ is a terrible racist. The sinful nature has many different manifestations, and they are different with different people. For some this wicked nature will produce sexual immorality, for some dishonesty, for some a hot temper, and yes, for some it will result in blatant racism. But the root is always the same. And what many don’t seem to realize that the same fountain that causes many of the rioters to smash windows and run through stores stealing everything they can get their hands on, is what was going on in the heart of this policeman who killed poor George Floyd. Different manifestation, but the same root. Out of the heart, says Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes all the evil that is done in this world, and that includes black sins, white sins, and every other sin.

Can Laws Help?

Since the real problem is a heart problem, can changing laws and creating policies make any kind of difference? And the answer is yes, they can, and they do make some difference. Before America’s civil rights movement, blacks and whites hardly saw each other, except for passing on the streets. We went to different schools, ate at different restaurants, and lived in different neighborhoods. Whites did not know blacks and blacks did not know whites. The Civil Rights movement changed all that. The schools were forced by law and the National Guard to integrate. Any white business that refused to ever hire blacks because of policy, would be warned, fined, and if they didn’t change, they would be put out of business.

And lo and behold, whites and blacks were put into much closer proximity and they discovered that we’re not so very different. Whites began to make black friends and vice versa. Attitudes began to change for the better. Although many won’t admit it, the truth is that blacks have made tremendous progress in America since those days. In case you don’t know it, I am married to an African woman who grew up in a small village in Nigeria. And we live in the south part of the United States, in Texas. We go to restaurants together, to the movies together, and many other public places, and we never get hassled. Now had I married Benedicta and we lived in Texas in the 1950’s, our lives would be in constant danger. The truth is I would never have brought her to Texas. We’d be living in the north or on the West Coast, but definitely not the deep south. But today you can hardly go to any medium to large church, even here in the South, and not find black and white couples worshiping there. For you young blacks who think America is as bad as ever in its racism, it just ain’t so. Yes, we have a ways to go, as this George Floyd incident reveals, but let’s not discount how far we have come, and let’s allow that knowledge to give us hope that we can make further progress still.

The solutions to racism and every other evil in our world are always found in the Bible and in the new birth that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. We can see the answer to racism in the most famous Bible verse of all: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It does not say, God so loved the white man or God so loved the black man or God so loved the Americans, or God so loved the Jews. It says, “God so loved the world.” It is true that God chose the Jews to reveal His plan of salvation to the world, but His love reaches every single person from every race and every culture in this great big world. Whatever your race, whatever your background, whatever your skin tone, God values you and wants you in His great big, diverse family. Whosoever wills, let him take freely of the waters of life through Jesus Christ. And we are taught plainly that all the members of the family of God are our brothers and our sisters. They may be different from us, they may wear different clothes and speak a different language and eat different food, and have a different skin color, but we are equal. They are our brothers; they are our sisters; we have the same Father. And Jesus declares, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

More than Knowledge

So theologically, we know that we are required to be the very opposite of racists. We are to recognize that God’s love transcends color, culture, and every national boundary. But just knowing the truth is only a part of fixing the problem. There is something else that is needed. And that something is the love of God. Truth can be a dry, sterile thing. Truth is always true, but it requires something else. We must not merely acknowledge that we are all equal in the eyes of God. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to help us to literally feel God’s love for people. The Bible says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

This is the advantage we born-again Christians have over those who do not know God through Christ. When we are saved, we are given the Holy Spirit to live inside us and He manifests within us the love of God in ways that are so powerful we are sometimes moved to tears. When I preach in an African crusade, standing on top of a wooden platform, and telling them of Jesus Christ, I feel love for them. I want them in my family. I value them, because God values them, and I can often literally feel the value He places on these beautiful African men, women, and children. But this is not my own love. This is not me trying to somehow manufacture an affection for them. This is God giving my just a tiny drop of His immense and infinite love He has, not only for the Africans, but for every person from every people group who live on this earth.

Laws can be useful, but they will never complete the work of equality in America or Africa or anywhere else on this earth. We need the Bible, we need Jesus, and we need the love of God poured out in our hearts.



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