Sunday, August 13, 2017

What Color Christian Are You?

As a little boy, growing up in the South in a Southern Baptist Church. I recall one Sunday morning sitting in church, our city gripped in racial turmoil. I can't recall any message that day though I would venture a guess that restraint & prayer was part of the message. What was not a part of the message was let's open our doors to anyone regardless of the color of their skin. Let's go meet with other churches of the area that are just as segregated as we are & talk.

I remember sitting in that long uncomfortable pew thinking isn't this where we should seek peace? I knew in my heart we were talking about the same God & even as a child it resonated with me that church should be a place of peace & not division. Specifically I remember thinking, "Isn't this where we should all come together?"

I told no one of course. I was after all a small child & I grew up in the South as a white boy & I was guilty of many of the same stereotypes that if not taught directly certainly were not discouraged.

It still disturbs me that in my childhood the church taught racism-again if not directly-they certainly did nothing to discourage it. I recall my mother telling about a traveling choir coming for a visit with one person of color & people left-even some of the deacons of the church. People that perceived themselves as very religious. They had followed all the steps to salvation. They held positions in the church yet held this notion of separation in their hearts. I even heard it said many times, "Well, of course Jesus loves them but we are to stick to our own kind." I guess they taught us to sing Jesus loves the little children but we were not suppose to live it.

Why was this in me as a little boy to make such an observation? Coming together in church? God knew one day that He would reach out & touch me in dramatic fashion. I emerged from my Damascus Road in my nineteenth year & without explanation I knew & accepted in my heart that God sees no color. He does not view me as his white, Christian child. He views me as  his child. Period. That is who I am. I am a child of God. Scripture, if you believe in that & I surely do, substantiates that.

Fast forward to today & like many I am troubled by the events in Charlottesville this weekend. Hate has no part of Christianity. How can anyone in their right mind say I love my God while hating another person? 

What disturbs me greatly & not just this weekend but for quite some time now are these statements by Christians saying the White Evangelicals or the Black Evangelicals, White Christian Church, Black Christian Church needs to do this or that. People I love have said this. It breaks my heart. Should we not follow God in the way He does things? Do you think our Father in Heaven looks down upon this mess & says, "My White Evangelical Church, My Black Evangelical Church. My White, Black, Church." There is no way that can be true. Not the God I know intimately. We are His children. End of sentence. No other descriptions & for the love of our God no labels.
I love to tell the story about a visiting minister we had at Lifepoint a few years back. He is pastor of a church in Baltimore. God told him to integrate his church. He followed that direction & he was met with quite a bit of resistance. Some members departed. Some in his family left. He proudly stood before us & stated that their church is now 20% integrated. You with me? Here is the part that I love to tell when people are listening. He was pastor of an African-American Church.

Great story but I wish we were beyond stories like that.  Are we still a church of a certain color as we were in my youth? Why have we all not moved beyond that time?

I don't have all the answers but I know division & labeling is not a cure for anything. I do know who has the answers & we should be seeking Him for guidance. Forget any wrong teachings we were raised in. I have. 

My most proud line in The River Hideaway, "Hearts Have No Color." I believe it & I will live it till the day I die. 

If you feel the need to label me as a White, Evangelical Christian, feel free but that is not how God sees me & it is certainly not how I view myself. I am a child of God.

Be part of the solution-not part of the division. 

Let's remember who the Church belongs too. It belongs to Jesus Christ. 

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