Protests over the death of George Floyd have spread across the nation. This instance of police brutality has garnered unprecedented coverage and has ignited anger and fear in those who see themselves and their loved ones in George Floyd. The pent up frustration of Black Americans has been met with solidarity from some and unease from others, and the issue of systemic racism is coming to the forefront of American discussion.
Racism, intentional or not, has been around for centuries. In fact, the Bible records an incident akin to racial discrimination in Acts 6. In the early days of the church, when many were becoming disciples of Jesus, “a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews occurred, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily dispensing” (v. 1). The Hebrews were Jews from Judea who spoke Hebrew and embraced Jewish culture, while the Hellenists were Jews from the Diaspora (the Roman Empire) who spoke Greek and embraced Greek culture. From the very beginning of the church, there was a cultural clash; the Greek Jews felt that their widows were not being adequately cared for. To address this, the apostles appointed “seven well-attested men” who were “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” to serve tables (6:2). Why was being full of the Spirit a requirement to serve tables? Because the Lord, who is Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17), genuinely cares for each member. The Spirit doesn’t discriminate.
The Apostle John addresses a shortage of love in his epistle: “Little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue but in deed and truthfulness” (1 John 3:18). Love in truthfulness. It’s possible to outwardly profess love, yet still hold on to judgment and criticism. “Beloved, if God has loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). God has loved us in an unbiased and unconditional way, so we should love one another in the same way. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:21). When we love God and experience God’s love for us, we cannot help but love our brothers. The love in the world may be preferential, biased, or selfish, but it cannot be so among Christians.
Before going to the cross, the Lord Jesus prayed “that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them” (17:23). Genuine oneness is lacking in the world, so much so that actually seeing it will cause the world to believe in Jesus and realize that God loves them. As Christians, this should be our testimony – that we love one another and care for one another, just as much as we care for ourselves. People are longing for this kind of love, and the church should be there to provide it.
There should be “no division in the [Body of Christ], but… the members should have the same care for one another. And whether one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). We care for the members, suffering with those who suffer, and rejoicing with those who rejoice. But our goal is not just to temporarily show outward support and solidarity with those who are suffering. While only a few commit crimes egregious enough to make headline news, the seeds of racial bias and mistrust are in all of us. Our prayer is that God would fill us with His own love, expose and uproot any discriminatory feelings, and gain a testimony of love and oneness in His Body that will glorify Himself.
By Rebecca Dean