Former NFL Player Has Strong Words About Race Relations
President Obama says that race relations have been better, more improved under his administration than in recent years.
Maybe what he meant to say is that race relations have been more prominent in his administration. Or that race relations have been in the media more. Or perhaps he meant to say that race relations have been discussed more. Whatever his intent, the reality is that I can’t remember when race relations were as bad as they’ve been over the last few years. Maybe the L.A riots – I’m not that old so that’s all I got.
Presently we are a severely divided nation. Instances of small scale riots and violence are happening more often and in a wide variety of places. It’s not just in Florida after the Trayvon Martin shooting. It’s not just in Chicago with the gangs. It’s not just in Ferguson with the Michael Brown case. Race related violence is at an all-time high and seems to be getting worse. And unfortunately, race relations between people calling themselves Christians is not much better.
I am thinking of a friend pastoring a church in North Carolina. He recently told me that there is black church and white churches in his town where men stand at the door to stop people of the opposite color from coming inside. Imagine, pulling up to a church on Sunday morning to visit and being told you can’t come in because you are white; or because you are black! And then, after turning away people because of their skin color you listen to someone preach that “God loves everyone.”
The idea that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin is patently wrong; it’s unbiblical in every way. Any church claiming to be led by Jesus but refusing to accept people because of their skin is a fraud. There is nothing biblical or Christ-like about such a place.
I was impressed by an article I read recently in which former NFL player Derwin Gray – now a pastor – made a statement that every person of every skin tone claiming the name of Jesus needs to memorize. Gray was being interviewed by The Blaze about current race relations in light of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner events when he shared some much needed thoughts. Gray emphasized the fact that for Christians there is no such thing as “Jew” or “Gentile” because in Christ such barriers have been destroyed. He said:
“Through the cross Jesus broke down the divisions — through his death on the cross — and through his work on the cross he literally creates a new human species [in] that there’s no longer Jew and gentile,” Gray said, citing Ephesians 2 to make his point. “Now there’s a multiethnic people called the church.”
Gray’s words underscore the reality that for Christians there is no such thing as skin color, there is only the human race. For any person claiming to be a Christian to harbor any racist attitude or sentiments is to pervert the very grace they claim to enjoy. This is why images of “black Jesus,” or “Asian Jesus” are wrong. Such images not only distort the historical Jewish Jesus, but they elevate the nationality and skin color of Jesus above His message of grace and forgiveness. In other words, if your Jesus has to have the same skin tone as you, He’s likely not God enough to be the Savior you need.
Anytime anything else is elevated above the message of Jesus we are in danger of missing the message entirely. Those distractions are often false idols blocking us from seeing Jesus and hearing His voice. But, for Christians this is particularly critical. As Gray points out, the most important thing about us cannot be our skin color, or any other characteristic, it has to be the message of Christ:
“Therefore me being a black man is no longer my primary identity…Therefore if that’s true, then I’m going to engage social issues of injustice and discrimination from the perspective of forgiveness, love … and understanding…I expect people who don’t have the love of Jesus to be divided, but what I don’t expect is people who do have the holy spirit in them to be so divided…The church itself has allowed racialized culture to influence us more than the Christ. What I want to hear is a blood-soaked solution that Christ is our peace, that He broke down dividing walls. That’s what I want to get to because I believe there’s a resurrected king who is the solution. … My blackness does not define me, my Christ-ness defines me.”
Read that last sentence again: “My blackness does not define me, my Christ-ness defines me.”
That could easily say “My white-ness/ Mexican-ness/ Asian-ness (or anything else) does not define me, my Christ-ness defines me.”
That’s what is dividing most of us – Christian or otherwise. We are so focused on our skin color that we have forgotten that we are all just human. I’m not denying the fact that some people were mistreated. I get that. But the reality is that we are still so focused on our skin color that we have no hope of moving past it. We’ve made skin color the most important thing about some people and have, therefore, ignored the inherent value and intrinsic worth of people simply for the fact that they are human.
The truth is that skin color is irrelevant. That’s a fact Derwin Gray knows all too well considering that he is a black man married to a white woman. He’s not only speaking out about racial issues, he is setting an example. He knows what it’s like to be treated differently because of his skin, or because of the woman he married. And yet he refuses to let the ignorance of others define him. Maybe he can have a little chat with Al Sharpton about true racial reconciliation.
If Christ can’t unite us as human beings then nothing can. At times it seems that even Christ is used as a divisive tool; a reality that certainly grieves His heart. As long as skin color is the defining characteristic in any person nothing else – not even Christ – can be. Once distractions like skin color are removed there is room for Christ to become the defining element of a person’s being. Once that happens we can begin to see racial reconciliation on a large scale.