I’ve been in contact with a number of Christians who believe that social justice is not a part of the church’s mandate and that it’s not something the church should be chasing after. Some even believe that it’s not something the church should even be getting involved in. Instead, they believe we should simply preach Christ, teach the Gospel and see people come to salvation. Their argument is that simply doing these things will actually eliminate the problems we’re facing right now with ongoing discrimination and cultural bias.
With that being the background information, our topic for this week is: “Can you be a Christian and still struggle with discrimination and cultural bias?”
Um, wait for it, the answer is YES! Yes, you can absolutely be in relationship with Christ, accept the Gospel as being true and still have a major problem in these areas. What’s amazing to me is the number of people that claim to be Christians, that claim to be students of the Bible, and then quote things that they have no Biblical basis for. Matter of fact, if you spend just five minutes in the Bible, you would see the exact opposite of what they said being true.
So, let me put on my Pastor’s hat on for just a moment and introduce you to somebody that I’m sure you’ve heard of. His name would be Peter. Anybody ever heard of the disciple, Peter? You know, the one that spent three years walking with Jesus? If you don’t know him, let me give you some info on who he was.
Who Was Peter?
Peter was one of the original disciples literally called from his boat by Jesus in the flesh. He lived, walked, talked and ate with Jesus on a daily basis. This is the guy that walked on water. This is the man that literally saw the transfiguration of Jesus Christ and saw Him in His glorified body. This is also the gentleman who denied Jesus three times, walked away from everything Jesus had taught him, and then needed Jesus to come find him and personally invite him back into the fold.
Might I add that this is the same Peter who actually launched the church in the book of Acts. The same Peter who went out and started preaching and reaching the gentiles.
Well, to put it plainly, Peter had some problems. If anybody remembers, there was a conversation that God had with his favorite disciple in which there were some people God was sending to Peter who were not of the Jewish culture. In this convo God showed Peter some foods that he was going to want him to eat as he fellowshipped with this group and it’s the only place in the Bible that I can find where a grown man looked at God and said, “No.”
Peter actually said, “No, I can’t do that. I haven’t eaten those type of foods because they’re unclean. And GOD literally had to reprimand him and tell him, “Don’t you call unclean what I’m telling you is now clean.” Yeah, that Peter.
I’m pretty sure we would all consider him a Christian according to modern day standards. I believe we would all consider him to have received salvation. We know for a fact that he was definitely filled with the Holy Ghost and I’m pretty sure he was part of the whole Pentecostal experience.
However, later on in the book of Galatians there’s a passage there where Paul literally says, “I had to withstand Peter to his face” because he was being discriminatory. Peter was kicking it with the Gentiles, having a great time eating, laughing and living life like one of them so he could reach him with the Gospel. But then, when some of his old Jewish friends showed up, all of a sudden, he started saying, “No, no, no, I don’t do those things. No, I’m not really down with y’all like that.” Basically, being pretty discriminatory and showing some extreme cultural bias to try to stay in the good graces of his “friends.”
Ok, that’s one example, and a pretty good one if I say so myself. However, I’m not done, yet. Let’s move up through history for all the people that are claiming that we live in a Christian nation that was built on Christian principles. There are those who will tell me that it was built on a Biblical foundation. They’ll say that on one side, but if we study it, we realize that history gives us some pretty troubling truths about the mindset of those who helped create some of the problems that we are still facing now in 2021.
See, back in the day, the British had some rules. And even though people came to America to get away from British oversight, some of the rules, or unofficial laws, still came over as well. Back then, there was a belief that you should not enslave other Christians, which sounds pretty Biblical to me. However, they probably should have extended that to all people.
At that time, since they believed you shouldn’t enslave other Christians, they didn’t have a problem with grabbing people from Africa because most of the Africans that they were enslaving and taking across the ocean believed in Islam. Or, they believed in some of the other religions that were prevalent in Africa during that time. So, they were viewed as heathens. And as heathens, we can enslave you.
Well, this started becoming a problem when slaves began coming to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, getting saved and wanted to be baptized. Uh oh, if we let y’all get saved and get baptized that would mean that we can’t keep you as slaves, and then who is going to do all of this work around here?
You know what the Christians did? Instead of letting the slaves get saved, allowing them to get baptized and truly honoring their own belief that brothers & sisters in Christ shouldn’t be enslaved, they decided to go another direction. Basically, you had Christian slave owners (an incredible oxymoron) looking at their slaves and saying, “I don’t know if I can let you get saved. I don’t know how much I want you to learn about the Bible. I’m struggling to teach you about Christ because if you do give your life to God, I’d have to let you go.”
In Virginia, in like 1667, they had some “great” conversations around this and passed a law that said baptism for a slave was great for freeing them from spiritual bondage but had no bearing on physical chains and those individuals’ status as property.
They passed this law and all of a sudden it was, “Hey, you can get baptized! Yes, we’re going to preach Christ to you! We’ll even let you come to our church where we will preach Christ, where we preach the gospel and where we preach salvation. However, we are still going to keep things segregated and will let you sit upstairs. Or we’re going to let you sit in the back of the building. Or we’re going to make sure that when you meet by yourselves that you have to have white supervision.
Change Is Needed
I need to stop for a moment and just say that the church has truly been a major contributor in creating the discriminatory culture that we’re still fighting against to this day. Think about it, many of these people were professing Christians who truly believed in their hearts that they were in right standing with God. However, I feel that their behavior also validates my stance that we can’t JUST teach salvation. We can’t JUST teach Jesus. We can’t JUST get people saved. This is what the church has been doing for over 2,000 years! If we want to continue down the same path that has gotten us here, then we should just keep on doing the same things.
However, if we’re looking for a different outcome, (which I definitely am) then we have to be willing to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, we haven’t stewarded the Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as we would like to believe. In addition to the pillars of our faith that we absolutely have to focus on, we also have to deal with our nation’s real history. We have to deal with educating people on the historical context and the role that racism and discrimination has played in making Sunday mornings the most segregated time of the week. We have to deal with the realities that people who grow up one way, or in certain communities, may not even understand that what they’re doing is detrimental, and even harmful, to the people over on the other side.
The church has truly been a major contributor in creating the discriminatory culture that we’re still fighting against to this day.
I believe there has to be more conversations that are had and that we as the body of Christ, we as pastors, we as leaders have to be willing to get involved and lead those conversations. Then, in those conversations, we have to be willing to do the same thing that Paul did to Peter and stand up to people who are missing the mark. We have to be ready to tell people, “That right there is wrong.” Or, “Hey, you can’t treat them like that and here’s the reasons why.”
We as the body of Christ, we as pastors, we as leaders have to be willing to get involved and lead those conversations.
Personally, I’m on the side of we’ve got to do better. And I want to encourage you to do just that for as many people as you can.
Please feel free to share this post and let others know about this answer. I’m sure I’ll get some inboxes from people that don’t like my answer. But y’all already know that I don’t care and none of that will stop me from continuing to keep it all the way real on topics like these that are affecting millions of people on a daily basis.
Please feel free to hit me up with more questions as I’m happy to answer them the best that I can. You can hit me on our contact page at www.plainenglishinc.org. you can send me an email to email@example.com. You can hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even send a pigeon! I look forward to answering more of your questions in the future. Hit us up and let’s love people even better today than we did yesterday!