“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” – Revelation 2:2-5
Jesus speaks these words of warning to the church in Ephesus, telling them that their work for him has surpassed their love for him. Unless that changed, he would remove the lampstand that symbolized his presence among them. So the big question is, Is God in the business of saving racists?
I recently read Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love, an account of a former klansman’s conversion and repentance. You can read my review of it here. It is quite the story. But, if I am honest, I left the book wanting a little more. I expected some macro-level discussion about what societal forces pushed him to that violent place, the persistence of white nationalism, and what needs to be done at that broad level.
We tend to think about racism at one of two levels—the macro or the micro. At the micro level, racism is about one person’s hatred against another based on race. At the macro level, racism is about societal forces and patterns or the exercise of power of one group over another. But for some reason, people tend to focus more on one than the other.
I’m not writing to pick a side or to chastise either group. I think both are vitally important, and if you have a particular emphasis or interest, please carry on. I do want to offer one word of warning for those of us (and I include myself) who give a lot of thought to macro level discussions of racism. We need to be careful not to lose our first love.
I initially felt the aforementioned book was lacking because it was just a story of conversion. Friends, conversion is amazing! If I am bored or dissatisfied with a story of conversion, I have lost the plot. I have abandoned my first love.
I think the reason many of us emphasize macro level thinking about racism is because it’s a disputed point. While just about everyone agrees one person should not hate another based on race, not all Christians agree that there is even such a thing as societal racism. So, in the larger conversation, acknowledging it can serve as a line of demarcation. On one side, the woke. On the other, the backwards.
This point of emphasis can become something we want to season every conversation with. The question becomes, if a conversation happens without our preferred seasoning, are we still interested?
Christians throughout history have used particular doctrines or interpretive formulas as ways to divide. Sometimes there are issues of disagreement so serious that might prevent helpful fellowship together in a local church. I do not think that this needs to be one of those issues.
For example, a book can simply be about a conversion, and that can be absolutely glorious. It is not incomplete because it does not make every possible point about a topic. We don’t expect a preacher to preach every sermon in every sermon; nor should we expect our brothers and sisters to stress every point in every conversation. We can exercise patience with brothers and sisters who formulate things differently. We may even seek to persuade, but we ought to do so in humility, pursuing a more genuine and full Christian unity. An idea can be true, important and a right point of emphasis without also needing to be in every conversation.
- Pray that God’s people would love Him more than the work we do for Him.
- Pray that we would give each other grace to work in various ways, even ways we might not prefer.
- Pray that our work would be filled with joy, knowing that Christ is building his church, and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.