In this day and age of “Black Lives Matter,” our country is having a renewed discussion about racism and prejudice in all its forms. The fact is that it has existed for a very long time. There is evidence of it in the Bible stories we often read as well. In our church in Vineland, I recently preached about racism. I’d like to share a few accounts that express God’s thoughts on the matter.
In John 4, Jesus is involved in a dialogue with a Samaritan woman at one of Samaria’s wells. The Jews of that day were known to despise Samaritans because many were descendants of Jews who had married foreigners. The disciples were off buying food when Jesus was speaking to the woman. When they returned, we read their thoughts in verse 27. “Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking to the woman. But no one asked, ‘Why are you talking with her?’” They wouldn’t have, of course. The woman herself had been surprised that Jesus, being a Jew, would even talk to her, being a Samaritan. Jesus had broken the norms of his day. He even welcomed her into the Kingdom of God.
In Acts 10, Peter is asked to go to the home of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. This was extremely abnormal, but both Peter and Cornelius had received visions from God initiating this encounter. When Peter entered the house of Cornelius, he said to those gathered there, “God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
God was teaching his church a lesson through these incidents and others recorded in Scripture. Jesus had come for the Gentiles (non-Jews) as well as for the Jews. His church was to be a church composed of all nations, all races, people of every status in life– and all equal.
Paul makes this abundantly clear in Galatians 3:28 when he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The obvious take-away is this: In the church of Jesus Christ, there is to be no racism, no nationalism, no prejudice or distinction of any kind. All are one in Christ. That’s the view of the church that John saw in his vision of heaven recorded in Revelation 7:9. “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” That’s God’s plan, and that’s to be our goal.
Pastor Joe Boeringa is pastor at Vineland Native American Chapel.