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Racism — on both sides — hurts church’s mission

‘If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)  
The issue of racism permeates the news again, and it appears that it will play an important role in the upcoming election. I’ve listened to the messages on race in America — and the various comments from both sides of this hot discussion.
Interestingly, I’m able to understand both sides of the matter, having been blessed to worship with — and serve — all races in the Lord’s church. I have lived in some of the finest and the poorest communities in Florida and Texas, and it is true that different races and cultures often view things differently and through various cultural experiences. As children of God, we should aim to become colorblind and learn from each other’s cultures.
It is true that the most segregated hour of the week is Sunday morning. Often, this is due to location. But for most, it is by choice. In the Lord’s church, culturally speaking, we must understand and accept the fact that there are two churches. Both practice the same doctrine, but with different cultural influences. Having been blessed to serve in both white and black congregations, I have been welcomed and rejected in both because of background, styles of preaching or teaching and skin color.
I have attended predominantly white congregations where I was asked, “Why are you here?” or told, “You would probably be more comfortable at a certain congregation.”
I became a Christian in what is known as the “white” church, and I served as a minister in a predominately white congregation after my ministerial training. Later, I accepted a pulpit position at a “black”
congregation. After preaching for two weeks, my black brothers asked me, “Why do you preach and teach like a white man?” Now that was a real shocker!
Earlier, while I was in college, learning to become a servant of Christ, I was asked by a black brother why I was not attending another brotherhood school because a white school could not teach a black man how to preach. I finally understood that the differences are cultural — not doctrinal.
On both sides there is racism. Often it is hidden. Even in our pulpit hiring, we want preachers who reflect the culture of the congregation. We don’t focus on an individual’s ability or potential. In our gospel meetings, lectureships and workshops, we continue to be racially and culturally divided.
Though there have been occasions where ministers of the opposite cultures are invited, usually there are questions on the minds of others: “Why is he here?” or “Why was he invited to speak?”
The issue of race has also tainted our evangelistic efforts, where Christians have forgotten that the same blood that has cleansed them of their sins is intended for all. I am thankful that Jesus took the time to address the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:9-10) and refused to give way to her race-baiting ways, but focused on the importance of her soul’s condition.
I recently had the opportunity to visit with a brother in Christ with whom my family and I worshiped 30 years ago. He confessed that when we worshiped together he had a racial problem. By the grace of God, he fought against his upbringing, refusing to allow it to get in the way of experiencing what God had mandated: to love and consider as brothers those of a different color.
I was oblivious to his feelings, for he never showed them. However, I do remember how we both worked at reaching out to each other as we focused on the Lord’s will for our lives. As a result, our families and the congregation where we worshiped were blessed through our serving together as deacons. I believe that each Christian — black, white or any color — must deal with their personal malice, hatred and bitterness toward others. No one group has a lock on racism.  
Consider the manifold wisdom of God: Jesus Christ came at a time when there were no cameras, yet there were artists available. Why was he not painted? Could it be that he was so busy doing good no one really noticed his color, not even his disciples? All that we really know is that he was a Jewish carpenter and the Son of God. For that I am thankful, for if his color had been revealed to the world, just think how that might have played out in a race-driven society!  
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We spend a great deal of time addressing and attempting to decide whether to fellowship others because of a mechanical instrument, when race is a greater issue that plagues and divides us. I believe that there is a greater love and unity that await the Lord’s church when we truly learn to love and respect each other, regardless of race.
Let’s make sincere love of the brethren an issue — not race.

WILLIE HUBBARD JR. is minister and one of four elders of the District Heights, Md., church. He is a graduate of Lubbock Christian University in Texas and has served as a minister for more than 25 years.

  • Feedback
    Racism is so ugly and real in so call christians.God is not pleased at all with this it is a form of hate.God is love not hate.
    non demonation
    tulsa, ok
    May, 1 2012

    Thank you so much for this article. I have recently experienced racism at a church in Hollywood, and I’ve been hurt pretty bad emotionally. I also went through quite a bit when I attended a Bible college several years ago. It’s always shocking to know that this kind of ugliness is so prominent in the church.
    Lana Leigh Taylor
    Hollywood, CA
    April, 4 2011

    I just read this article and it is unfortunate that we as Americans are still living with the fact that racism still exists both in the Church and in this country. I attend a predominately Caucasian Church of Christ and I am very involved there and the people are very loving and are doing a magnificent job of becoming a small taste of heaven. Every tribe, tongue, nation, ethnic group, race, etc. is welcome there. Church leaders, evangelists, and other Christians have to speak up and speak out on issues like this � doing so in true Christian love, of course. If we as believers can live out Gal. 3:26-29, then a difference can be made for His glory.
    Bammel Church of Christ.
    Houston, TX
    February, 11 2011

    My family attends a predominantly white congregation. We were welcomed, of course but after a year with our small congregation, not many people even knew my name, nor did they want to.
    In Romans, weren’t we not taught through the example of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church the proper attitude to have towards one another? I know that the meatier topics addressed in this book, but can any one else see a lesson in the attitude displayed by both groups?.
    Humility leaves no room for racism and racism leaves no room for humility. Please pray for our congregation and others like us.
    Alienated Sister
    Rural, GA
    September, 13 2009

    Thank you for revealing the spirit of adultry that the body of Christ was allowing in it’s midst. The word of God clearly tells us not to be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of our mind. We are to bear ye one another’s burden so the unbeliever could see and know through the love of God.
    Anita Curran
    St. Louis, MO
    United States
    September, 4 2009

    I am appalled by this article I traveled all over the country as an instructor and my only concern was finding a congregation. I didn�t care who was in the congregation or who was preaching or how they preached!! I just wanted to Heb 10:25!
    You don�t know what a blessing it is to away for weeks, months at a time and know that you have a Church family out there. I don�t think many understand this. Nevertheless, if you love the Lord none of these things should matter should matter!
    What if this was heard by a new convert? Or even more frightening, a visitor! How many people do we scare away from the truth by our sinful behavior?! This is why we must constantly P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens!
    I read this poem and it makes light of the �Holes� that we leave in others lives. Forgive them and �You fight on�! I hope to personally hear you preach when I visit MD.
    Sis Delise Bynes
    There once was a little boy who had a bad
    temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails
    and told him that every time he lost his
    temper, he must hammer a nail into the back
    of the fence. The first day the boy had
    driven 37 nails into the fence Over the next
    next few weeks, as he learned to control his
    anger, the number of nails hammered daily
    gradually dwindled down. He discovered
    it was easier to hold his temper than to
    drive those nails into the fence.
    Finally the day came when the boy didn�t
    lose his temper at all. He told his father
    about it and the father suggested that the
    boy now pull out one nail for each day that
    he was able to hold his temper.
    The days passed and the young boy was finally able
    to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
    The father took his son by the hand and led him
    to the fence He said, You have done well, my son,
    but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will
    never be the same. When you say things in anger,
    they leave a scar just like this one. You
    can put a knife in a man and draw it out.
    It wont matter how many times you say I�m
    sorry, the wound is still there. A verbal
    wound is as bad as a physical one.
    Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They
    make you smile and encourage you to succeed.
    They lend an ear, they share words of praise
    and they always want to open their hearts to us.
    Please forgive me if I have ever left a hole.
    September, 15 2008

    Great social changes are slow in evolving. But now we can look back and see the tremendous progress that has been made in racial relations in America and especially in the Church of Christ. You would have to search long and hard to find a congregation that would not accept in fellowship a Black Christian. It is not uncommon to see African American brethren appointed as elders, deacons and teachers and sisters teaching classes. All of our schools are not only open to Black students, they work diligently to enroll them.
    That Black Christians congregate together on the Lord�s Day and Whites do the same, does not mean that the �old segregation� is still alive. In most predominately White congregations there are Black members. The point is that brethren are free to worship where they wish and are welcomed at the congregation they choose to attend. They are treated with respect as God�s children.
    There are not two Churches of Christ, one Black the other White. If there were, one or both would be displeasing the head of the one church (Eph. 1:22, 4:4). There are congregations whose membership is largely Black, or White, or Indian, Hispanic, or Korean, or Chinese, or Haitian, but they are one in Christ (Gal. 3:28-29). If we expend all our energy focusing on race and the past we will not grow up in all things to the head, which is Christ (Eph. 4:15) so that we can enjoy the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace (Eph.4:3).
    John Waddey
    July, 12 2008

    Racist Christians (sic) ignore many, basic Bible teachings about brotherhood in Christ, but also neglect other familiar scriptures like the Great Commission. Making disciples “of all nations” would be better translated as “from all ethnic groups” or “of all people� (ERV). While it’s true that nationality shouldn’t matter, ethnicity shouldn’t matter either and it has. Church leaders, which include evangelists, who remain silent in the face of ethnic discrimination, will have some explaining to do at judgment.
    God doesn’t show favoritism (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25); neither should Christians (I Timothy 5:21; James 2:1, 9).
    As Willie Hubbard Jr. thoughtfully explains, racism exists in the church and needs to be overcome by all who would claim the name of Christ. It seems to me that God’s wrath awaits unrepentant racists.
    Mike Clemens, Juneau, Alaska
    July, 10 2008

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