Why I can’t quit the race conversation, even if I wanted to.
This has been a hard few years for the church and the race conversation among Christians. One pastor in his 70s recently shared that he hasn’t seen our nation and the Church this divided since the 1960s. The satanic trifecta of an unceasing pandemic, venomous politics, and painful racial upheaval has both afflicted and exposed the church.
Over the last year, members have left their churches due to disagreement surrounding these issues. Dear friends have departed. Christian co-laborers have cancelled one another. Our church has endured these losses, yours may have as well.
Pastoral ministry in these days is perplexing because I often feel a lack of clarity. The Scriptures are clear regarding the church’s unity in Christ (Ephesians 2:14) as well as our responsibility to eagerly maintain it (Ephesians 4:1–3). Yet how that is to be pursued is often perplexing. Some people think we focus on these issues too much, and others, too little.
Bible-believing Christians have drastically differing views on what it means to be faithful to God, the church, and our neighbors when it comes to pursuing unity. We so often speak past one another and, at times, feel like the hard work just isn’t worth it.
There is an enduring temptation to quit these hard conversations. And frankly, as a white pastor of a predominantly white church, it would be easier on some level to neglect them.
But I can’t. Here’s why…
1. For my soul’s sake.
Though these years of conversation have been grueling, God has used them for my good. I believe that I have learned to love more like Jesus loves because of these conversations.
He has awakened empathy that was previously underdeveloped. I have learned to weep over evils of which I was formerly ignorant (Psalm 6:8; 34:15). The messages of Old Testament prophets have become more vivid as I understand the evils of injustice suffered by many minorities in our country’s history (Amos 3:1–11).
It has been good for me to learn anew that God will never leave me, especially when dear friends leave our church. I have been humbled to see how my blind spots have hurt others and freshly encouraged by Jesus’s willingness to help me see. Desperate prayers for wisdom have brought me face to face with God in ways I had not been before (James 1:5).
Sadly, I have also been warned as I see former friends wander away from Jesus. The lure of power, disorienting anger, callousing bitterness, and unloving assumptions have shipwrecked many in our day. Jesus has used their falls to remind me that I am not above being duped by Satan’s deceitful snares.
I trust that I have much to learn and more days to journey, but I hope that on the Day of Judgment, the way I responded to the needs of my brothers and sisters will be better because of the trials we endured together in these days (Matthew 25:31–40).
2. For others’ souls’ sake.
There is a spectrum of opinion in the race conversation, and I have friends who line up all along it. No one has it all figured out, so they can grow, just as I can. Some of my friends need to be challenged to turn off their favorite news outlet and open their Bible more. Some need to be challenged to develop friendship with majority or minority church members. Some need to humble themselves and see how their callousness is harming others. Some need to not get caught up in the worldly wisdom that has hypnotized so many. Some need to realize that they are just as sinful as others, even though their sin may look different (Romans 2:1; James 2:10).
I need the help of others, and they need me. On the Day of Judgment, I will give an account for the way I have cared for their souls (Hebrews 13:17) and the way I went after those ensnared in sin (Matthew 18:15–18; James 5:19–20). I have no right to cancel people Jesus shed His blood to save. He loved me in spite of my sin, and I must continue to love others in spite of theirs.
The Scriptures teach that I need others and others need me (1 Corinthians 12:14–26). God uses my input, insights, and insufficiencies to press others in ways that help them grow in Christ-likeness. My brothers and sisters need my encouragement, my correction, my prayers, and my presence. It’s essential for my soul, and for theirs as well.
3. For Jesus’s Name sake.
I’m not continuing in these conversations about race and unity because it is fun or because it’s trendy. I’m doing it because Jesus cares about the unity of His church and commands us to work for it (Ephesians 4:1–3).
Jesus prayed for our unity in the garden (John 17:11), paid for our unity on the cross (Ephesians 2:14), was raised for our unity on the third day (Romans 5:10; 8:34), and now intercedes for our unity in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). If Jesus cares so much about the unity of our church, how could I care so little about it?
The background of our world is dark and hopeless. The gates of hell press against the church, yet Jesus promises they shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18). The church has an opportunity in our day to be the light Jesus calls us to be (Matthew 5:16).
If we can lay aside our biases, repent of our sins, and lock arms in the grace of Christ, the world will clearly see that Jesus is the Son of God (John 13:34–35).
How to navigate these difficult days is beyond any of our abilities. This is why we must pray for each other and with each other when it comes to all things, including the race conversation. We need wisdom and God promises to give it when we ask (James 1:5).
- Pray that we would be as eager for unity in Jesus’s church as He is.
- Pray that we would not feel justified in hardening our hearts toward other believers.
- Pray that God would use these conversations to conform us and others to the image of Jesus.