While race can be and has been a barrier in our society, it doesn’t have to be. God has given His church the power to break through racial barriers. In order for whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, and Israelis to go beyond such barriers, it is important to see what God says about the matter.
Here are three barrier breaking principles that will assist every believer in overcoming human limitations, regardless of which side of the interviewing desk one may find him or herself despite whether the dot on one’s face is real or perceived, historic or current. Reconciliation and multicultural ministry is God’s answer to the problem of race, racism, and reverse racism.
- In order to break through racial barriers one must have a theological mind. Reconciliation is first and foremost a theological issue. Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations, or ethnic people groups, as the original language of the New Testament states. (Mt. 28:18-20) This great commission doesn’t stand alone but is followed up with the great commandment to love one another in John 13:35.
Acceptance of others within the body is biblically grounded (Rom. 15:1-7) and it was Jesus’ high priestly prayer when he cried out to the father that His followers would be one just as God the father was one with Jesus. There was and is no room for division in the triune Godhead between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and there must not be room for division among His followers on earth.
In addition, we are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 that all believers are called to the ministry of reconciliation as Christ’s ambassadors, not to mention that we are all attached to each other as siblings. (Rom 12:4-5) Therefore, it is critical for believers to view each other with spiritual lenses on that see past race and ethnicity as we build on our common heritage in Christ. In so doing we can honor our differences while celebrating the diversity of what God has divinely woven together.
- In order to break through racial barriers one must have a broken heart. When I see the pain of my white friends who feel guilty about the racial injustices of the past and the discriminative inequities of the present, I am vexed. When I see the pain of African Americans, immigrants, women, and other groups it breaks my heart.
Moreover, what does God feel when he sees his children drinking from separate racial water fountains every Sunday in the church? It must break his heart to see white churches within a block of black churches within a block of Korean churches, all praising him but refusing to do so together.
Jesus prayed that his church would be “one” and be brought to “complete unity” as a witness to the world (John 17:21-23) and yet we remain divided because of our preference to be with our “own kind” is stronger than our preference to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity.
While we masked our Sunday morning racial preferences in the spiritual language of preferences, doctrine, or philosophy of ministry, the reality for many Christians is that they are just more comfortable worshiping with and desire to remain with our “own kind”. I can’t imagine that the Holy Spirit is not being grieved by such racial division. It has to break the heart of God and I’m sure it breaks the heart of many of you reading this article now.
If you have a broken heart over the racial segregation of churches that claim to serve the God of unity and love, then do what I do. Pray the Lord’s Prayer that he taught his disciples to pray, “As it is in heaven, so shall it be on earth.” (Matthew 6:10).
- In order to break through racial barriers one must have healing hands. Reconciliation begins and ends with relationships. I have learned much about whites, Asians, Latinos, Persians, and even other African Americans through relationships. Nothing is more beautiful than to walk into my church on Sunday mornings and see a multicultural body of fully devoted followers worshiping God with passion in unity and love. It is as breathtaking as a rainbow breaking through the clouds after a rain.
Exercising hands that heal is to put your hands onto the gospel plow of multicultural ministry. Attending, building, fellowshipping with, and supporting a multicultural ministry is so healing. Maybe you’ve heard that old African proverb that says, “When I saw you from afar, I thought you were a monster. When you got closer, I thought you were just an animal. When we got even closer, I saw that you were a human, but when we were face to face I realized that you were my brother.” Conversations with others from various ethnic backgrounds break down barriers so that people can identify their commonalities. It is amazing how alike we are. When we converse we then base our assumptions on reality and not out of fear. Comprehension begins with conversation.
In order for you to build relational bridges with people who are different than you, allow me to give three quick tips.
Place yourself in a multicultural context so you don’t insulate yourself from a diverse world. This could be a health club, grocery store, playground, or church. Go where “they” are!
Speak to those who are different than you. Whether the person is your neighbor or attendant at the local coffee shop, ask them their name and then practice the pronunciation of it in their presence. Ask them to spell their name if it is difficult. After the exchange, write down the name and practice it so that you can use it the next time you encounter the person.
Pray for an opportunity to build on the new acquaintanceship and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in the development of the relationship. Ask questions of your new acquaintance that will allow you to learn more about the person and his/her culture without be too invasive. Questions around family and fun always work, such as, where one was raised, number of family members, and what one likes to do for fun.
Building bridges of reconciliation and breaking racial barriers that divide the body of Christ is the call of every believer and it is a great privilege and joy to see God revealed and expressed through a variety of colors, cultures, and classes. As it is in heaven, so shall it be on the earth!
Originally published at AuburnSeminary.com.