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Weekly Word

Entries in Racism (2)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Of Nations & Borders

Acts 17:26-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 4, 2016.  Please note that this is the second part to a previous entry on Racism (August 28, 2016).

Last week we talked about racism, so today we are going to segue into the issue of nations and their borders.  Many have asked this question in one form or another, “Doesn’t Christian unity and the sovereignty of Christ demand that Christians work towards a global government that fixes all the evils of this world?”  Some picture this as a test, in which our passing will bring Christ back to pat us on the back saying, “Good job!”  So is it the job of Christians to build Utopia for Christ?  Within this idea are some who state that nations, borders, and patriotism are somehow racist things and should be abolished.

So what makes something racist anyways?  Typically for something to be racist, it has to be motivated by a sense of superiority.  So let us look at national patriotism.  It can be racist, but it can also not be racist.  It depends on the heart of the person.  If a person’s national patriotism is based on racism, it will become obvious in their treatment of other races.  If our patriotism leads us to attack others unprovoked, or to rejoice in their misfortunes and take advantage of them, then it is very likely racist and at least self-centered.  But, people can simultaneously be patriotic towards their own nation and respect the identity and patriotism of other nations.  So, tongue in cheek, let’s deal with that age old question, “Which person would Jesus deport?”

God created nations and boundaries

In Acts 17 verse 26 Paul was in Athens, Greece.  He reminds the wise men of Athens that there was One God who had made all the separate nations of the earth, from “One Blood.”  His purpose in doing so is to tie the fate of a Jew (him) and them.  His main point is that this One God is working out His will among all the nations, not just one.  Thus we are all in the same boat.  So why are there so many nations?  Where is Paul getting this idea from?  Well, he gets it from Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Before we go there, let’s remind ourselves of Genesis 10.  Often called the Table of Nations, this is the first place we see nations in the Bible.  It is also important to note that Israel is not in this list simply because they didn’t exist yet.  Genesis moves from the account of the flood, to a list of the nations that developed after it.  It then gives the account of how these nations came about in chapter 11, The Tower of Babel.  It is here that mankind began to rebel against God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Instead, Nimrod led the people to build a great city and a great tower that would serve as a gate to the heavens (Babel meant “Gate of God”).  Thus Genesis 11:7 records God saying, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their languages, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  There was a clear judgment event of which we are not given full details.  “Let us go down there” implies a visitation of sorts.  This is the backdrop to Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Moses is pointing back to that time when God’s judgment of mankind separated it into different people who could not understand one another.  Basically Moses is explaining to Israel their place among the nations.  At Babel, God had disinherited the nations.  If they wanted to connect with the “gods” of the heavens, then God would separate them through language and boundaries.  Notice in Deuteronomy it is God who sets their boundaries.  Although some versions say that God separated them “according to the number of the children of Israel,” this is not the best reading.  The original was “sons of God.”  Space doesn’t permit going into this deeper.  But the sons of God, were a high class of spiritual beings that were present at the creation of the earth (Job 38:7).  God delegates the nations to these beings and from the list in Genesis 10 we can recognize 70 original nations.  However, Moses tells Israel that they are God’s portion or inheritance.

Let’s put this thread on hold for now.  So it was God who broke mankind up into nations and gave them set boundaries, and their preappointed times (i.e. how long they would last).  According to Romans 13:1-4, God has given each of these nations authority over what goes on within their own borders.  Of course history is littered with examples of how this authority has been abused and exercised for ignoble purposes.  Thus these nations are accountable to God for how they rule themselves and how they interact with other nations.  In that sense each nation is sovereign.  The individuals within each nation are to respect a nation’s authority, whether their own or another.  Thus we see the example of early Christians doing their best to respect the governments of the world.  The only law we see them disobeying is one that tells them to stop telling people about Jesus.  Why?  They do so because this is precisely what Jesus had commanded them to do.  So they respect the nations in so far as those nations operate within their God given authority.

Even Israel, when they were taking over Canaan, was told to respect the boundaries of other nations.  They were not just willy nilly conquering whatever they could like mindless, blood-thirsty savages.  Deuteronomy chapter 2 records several times when God warned Moses that Israel must not mess with other nations on their way to Canaan.  God had not given them those nations.  They were to respect the authority of those nations and purchase anything they wanted to use.  In fact, Israel ended up having to go many miles out of their way out of respect for nations that basically told them not to even set a foot in their territory.

Lastly, we must recognize that God is still sovereign over the affairs of all the nations.  As Paul states in Acts 17:26, the nations have been “preappointed  times” by God.  In His wisdom He has allowed the friction and fighting between nations to change from time to time.  In fact, those original nations that are listed in Genesis 10, no longer exist by God’s decree.  Romans 13 uses the phrase that the power that are (which currently exist) have been appointed by God.  The whole theme of the book of Daniel is that the living need to know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21).  This is important because in Daniel 7 there is a vision of the “Son of Man” approaching the Ancient of Days and receiving authority and sovereignty over all the nations.  So where are we with all this nations and borders?

The Nations have rebelled against God

As we saw back in Isaiah 24:2, in previous sermons, the nations of the world have rebelled against God.  In fact they have joined a rebellion of those spiritual beings God had put in charge over them, the sons of God.  So separation into nations was followed by further rebellion and loss of any hope of belonging to God.  Yet, God had not created Israel to be a kind of special “teacher’s pet.”  Rather, through Israel He was launching a plan to take back the nations from the devil and his angels.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the good news that Christians have for all the nations of the world, even though they have been part of a rebellion against Him.  In fact, even Israel itself was in rebellion to God.  If it were not for Jesus, the plan would not have worked. 

So, does Christian compassion for the lost cancel out nations and borders?  Well in some ways it does, but in other ways it does not.  If we are talking about who can belong to God then nations and borders lose their significance.  People from every tribe, language, and nation on earth will belong to God.  But, that does not mean that Christians are to ignore governments and their laws.

Christian compassion does not cancel out God’s prior judgments

This seems to be the anthem of many.  A true Christian will not respect governments and their borders.  Our Christian compassion must cancel out the nation’s duty to protect its people.  Yet this mentality is not based in Scripture.  The Bible teaches us that God is not taking over the governments of the world through His Church.  Rather, He is calling people from all of these nations to identify with His rule and the Kingdom that He will bring at His second coming.

It is one thing for a Christian individual to participate in government and attempt to bring it into conformity with the righteousness of Jesus.  But the mission of the Church is not to take over governments and rule.  The problem of sin and the flesh stands in the way of any governmental system being perfected.  Even churches run into the problem that no matter how hard we try to run things by God’s Word and by His Spirit, we continually have to deal with sin and flesh cropping up.  Thus a true Christian knows that this is not the time for ruling over the world.  This is the time for ruling over our own sinful nature and bringing it in subjection to the rule of Jesus.  The judgment of all the nations has already been pronounced.  It is our job to save the Rahabs, the Ruths, and the Naaman’s of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another confusion that exists is the blindness to the fact that if we exercise compassion to an extreme for one, then it leads to lack of compassion for another.  Thus in an extreme attempt to be compassionate towards all “refugees,” we can lose compassion for our own citizens, or even those refugees who need the most help.  Compassion can become a trite phrase that hold as a banner over all manner of evils.  No matter what system of compassion you set up, others will abuse that system because of sin and their evil desires.  This leads us to the real problem.

We cannot live together without laws, and yet we cannot perfect this world with better or more laws.  Our founding fathers understood this.  That is why they created a small framework of laws (i.e. showing restrain, not enamored with the power of legislation, under which men must be free to live out their lives.  But we live in a day that has been seduced by the power of the State.  We see society as a wonderful Petri dish in which we can perfect our social experiments to create Utopia.  Thus we are headed to great tyranny. 

Is it wrong for nations to have immigration laws?  The Bible says nothing against a nation protecting its borders and in fact does state that a government’s proper duty is to protect its citizens from evil.  Thus having good control of one’s border can be a righteous thing.  Does any nation do this perfectly?  No.  So are Christians justified to rebel against the nation’s immigration laws simply because they think the laws are unjust or unfair?  No.  Fair and just laws are not the litmus test given to us in Scripture for righteous, civil disobedience.  Christians are told to obey the government unless it contradicts a direct command of Christ.  Thus in the name of righteousness and compassion, we can be guilty of rebelling against Christ and becoming children of lawlessness.  Yes, Christ will hold nations accountable for how they treat their own citizens and their neighboring nations, etc.  But, He still leaves room for national and individual freedom within His governance because He is not a tyrant.  Our problem is that we allow ourselves to be seduced by the power tyrant who can “fix everything.”

Lastly, there is confusion between individual responsibility and a government’s responsibility before God.  Yes, nations should be compassionate in their governance.  But compassion for others is a command for individuals, not governments.  We can have compassion for potential immigrants and refugees without rebelling against our country’s laws.  If you don’t like them, then work to get them changed in Congress in the proper way and proper spirit.  We can also advocate for getting supplies and safe havens in their originating countries (or ones nearby).  In all things we need to have a humility that recognizes our greatest need is Jesus, not more power in the hands of a smaller group of people.

Nations Borders Audio

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Racism

Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:11-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 28, 2016.

Today we begin a new series entitled “Society under Siege.”  In this series we will look at different social issues and try to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  As Christians, we ask this question because we want to be like Jesus.  We want our thinking to change and become like His thinking.  We want our actions to change and become like His, and we want our inner man to change and become like Him.  Thus Christians who are looking to Jesus for direction will have a different world view than the society around them, to one degree or another. 

Our society has embraced a world view that sees this world and mankind as cosmic accidents that have no absolute meaning or purpose, except that which we make for ourselves.  Morality is defined by what we think is best for us at this point in time, and the only destiny that awaits mankind is that of extinction within a universal/”multiversal” heat-death.  This is in direct contradiction to the world view of God and His Scriptures.  The Bible tells us that God created the universe and particularly mankind for a purpose, and that purpose is for us to become His children, bearing His image, and ruling over the earth while taking care of it in His stead.  Of course this purpose has run into many problems along the way, the main one is our sin and rebellion against it.  We are going to look at a particular sin today, racism.

This is a deep-rooted sin that has persisted throughout mankind’s history since we spread out and differentiated in appearance and customs.  Last year, on a Wednesday night in June, a 17 year old, white teenager stepped into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  After sitting in on a Bible study and as the church began to pray, the young man pulled out a gun and pointed it at 87 year old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, stepped in between them and tried to talk the young man down.  However, this was to no avail. Nine people were killed that night.  What was the murderer’s desire?  He wanted to ignite a race war and get rid of all black people.

It isn’t just certain white people who have given in to the sin of racism.  This summer in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest, a 25 year old, black man parked on the street and ambushed a group of police officers.  He continued moving and targeting police officers and rapid transit officers until he holed up in a college building nearby.  He murdered 5 officers and injured 9.  What was his desire?  He simply wanted to kill white police officers.  Both of these devastating sins were committed on people who had done nothing but be a certain color.  It is obvious that these things are wrong and yet many are sucked into the twisted logic that one race is better than others, or that any race is morally superior to another.  Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Racism Rejects our Common Creation

In Acts 17:26-28, Paul is in Athens, Greece, at an area where philosophers gathered and shared ideas.  This place was called the Areopagus, which literally means “Mar’s Hill.”  Paul is reasoning with these philosophers about God’s plan for mankind.  Why should these Greeks listen to Paul, a man from another race?  Paul points them back to the reality that all the nations and races have been made by God from “one blood.”  Thus we all trace our existence back to a common ancestor.  Whether you point to Noah, or to be technically correct, Adam, the Bible teaches that we have a common ancestor that is not an ape.  Though DNA has differentiated over the years, we are still related to one another.  Racial lines tend to focus on ancestry because this is how the different lines of DNA are passed on.  People scattered into groups that were isolated (whether geographically or purposefully).  Evolution emphasizes the differences and fractures our commonality.  It’s natural progression of logic leads to eugenics and the extinguishing of (in the terminology of Charles Darwin) “unfavored races.”  Thus early evolutionists created things like Planned Parenthood, not to help the poor and “inferior races.”  But rather, they wanted to stop the proliferation of inferior genes and eventually extinguish them.  The Bible, on the other hand, emphasizes that genetically we come from the same source, and that we are different from animals.  Animals do have the breath of life, but they were not created with the ability to bear the image of God.  Humans, as well as the angels, have the ability to act in particular ways that are like God.  All humans bear the image of God (no matter how much we tarnish it) and therefore are sacred to God, whether they are born or unborn.  Thus we should hold people of all races as having the same level of sacredness.

On top of this, Paul brings out that God has determined the nationalities, their times, and their borders.  Thus it is God, whom we are supposed to be like, who created all these differences.  So why did God do this?  Paul says that God did this so that we would seek for Him and find Him.  The differences and separations are intended to cause us to search for God and to recognize that no one people had the corner market on what God was like.  Of course mankind fell for deceptions that were given to it by fallen angels.  Thus God used Israel to bring the truth back to them.  Yet, even Israel did not have all the answers.  Christianity is not about having all the answers, but rather, knowing that God has acted within space and time in order to save mankind.  It is about trusting Him even though we don’t have all the answers.  Mankind has historically trusted itself rather than God, despite what it may look like to the modern observer.  The Devil uses our differences to cause us to destroy one another, but God uses our differences to break us out of our self-centered and sinful thinking.  In other words, He did so to challenge us.  Thus the white man needs to quit ignoring the cries of black people, and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Yet, the black man needs to quit blaming everything on white people and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Each of us needs to learn to deal with our own hearts before God rather than letting the enemy stamp his image upon our hearts through racial ignorance.

Racism Rejects the Great Commission of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, we see another reason that racism is a great sin.  When we embrace racism we fight against the commands of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth.  Whether we like it or not, we are under the authority of Jesus.  Of course Christians believe this and embrace it.  However, Jesus is Lord over everyone, Christian or not.  Now Christians have sworn allegiance to Jesus and resist joining in the rebellion against His authority.  If you look at Jesus in the Scriptures, you will not find a single issue in his life that can be properly interpreted as racist.  Yes, ignorance and sinfulness have caused many who claim to follow Jesus to operate in rebellion to their Lord.  But this can never change who Jesus is and what His commands are.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives us the duty to make disciples of all nations.  The term translated as nations is the Greek word “ethnos,” where we get the world ethnicity.  It is a reference, not to DNA, but rather to those who live in close association to the point that they have their own customs and manners.  Thus it is more than a political word, and more than a biological word.  Jesus has given his followers the command to go to all ethnic groups in order to invite them into His kingdom.  Thus God is drawing people from every ethnic group into a new people or nations who carry out His customs and manners.  People of every race, do not have a savior from their race, or a different gospel.  We are all called to the same Lord, saved the same way, and called to the same work.  Thus a black person or a white person who comes to Jesus is stepping out of their own people and entering into a new kingdom of Christ.  It is not “the white man’s religion.”  It is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow.  The way of Jesus will offend all cultures and all nations.  Some have looked at this plan and have called it ethnocide.  But that is a silly charge.  Christians are not trying to get rid of the nations of the world.  We are offering them the truth of a better way.  In fact, the ethnicities of this world are doomed to destroy themselves.  But those who embrace the way of Christ will not only survive, but thrive.  They will enter into the only Eutopia that can truly exist.

So what does God think of Christians who persist in the divisions and rivalries of this world?  In Acts 10:34 we see that God had revealed to Peter that it was not biology that made one clean before God.  It was those whom God called clean, regardless of their race or ethnic background.  Yet, Peter had some trouble living out what he knew to be true.  In Galatians 2, a situation is revealed to us where Peter had allowed his fear of what other Jews might think to affect how he treated some gentiles.  Peter could have claimed ignorance before this, but now he was simply being a coward and yielding to the stubbornness of other men.  Peter ends up being rebuked by the apostle Paul.  However, he is really being rebuked by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we repent of our own stubbornness in these matters of racial relations, the Lord will bring discipline, rebuke, and eventually judgment upon us.

Racism rejects the Character of God

In Matthew 9:11-13 we are reminded of the true character of God, rather than that which is demonstrated by those who are supposed to represent Him.  Mankind was created to bear the image of God.  Of course, it is understood that there are ways in which we cannot be like God: omniscience and omnipotence are a few examples.  But we can take on His character.  In fact, if we are following Jesus with full faith in him, then we need to be courageous enough to take on the character of God.  Though many ignorant and reckless people accuse the God of the Bible of being an angry, hateful God, this is far from the truth.

Jesus points this out to the Pharisees.  They could not understand why Jesus would interact with sinners and tax collectors.  He didn’t do it to become like them or because he liked how they were.  Rather, he was displaying the compassion of God for those who are sick, hurt, and trapped in sin.  The compassion of God can only amaze those who have become convinced of the sinfulness of mankind and our ability to fix ourselves.  The Pharisees had the truth right in front of them, but their eyes were blinded by their own sin.  Thus they had segregated themselves from the “others” around them.  “Those tax collectors have betrayed their nation and their God.”  “Those sinners aren’t trying to be holy like we are.”  They were willing to let others die and miss out on fellowship with God as long as they had it.  It is true that God will judge every single person.  However, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.  His compassion causes Him to go to such great lengths that He would even lay down the life of His own son in order to make it possible for “others” to become the children of God.  Racism displays the opposite of such compassion.  Do I demonstrate such compassion for “others” in my life?  Or am I stuck in the distinctions of this sinful world?  It was the Pharisees own sin that deceived them into a lack of compassion.

God is also love.  He doesn’t just exercise compassion as some high and mighty person helping the poor.  Rather, he truly loves them and wants to raise them up to his side.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He would give up His One and Only (unique) Son to die in our place so that we wouldn’t have to perish, but have everlasting life.  Which of us loves that fiercely?  Which of us looks at the others around us and refuses to let them perish?  Which of us lives a life of sacrifice to help them?  This is the character of God.

God is also forgiving.  We cannot talk about the love and compassion of God without forgiveness.  All ideas of love and harmony are dashed on the rocks of sin, offense, and the hurtful acts that people do.  God teaches us to let go of the wrongs done against us, by first calling it to the attention of the person doing it.  Then, we leave the rest to God.  I can’t control people, and I don’t have to let what they do rule my life.  When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like he was at the mercy of their actions.  But the truth is, they were at the mercy of His actions.  When you forgive people and move on, you are not absolving their sins.  Rather, you are letting God deal with it and refusing to let the enemy poison your heart with bitterness, anger, and rage.  At the same time you are doing what you can (sometimes there is nothing left to do) in order to save them from the judgment that they are headed towards.  This is the character of God.

May we strive everyday to reject the sinful thinking and distinctions of this world.  Instead, may God help us to display His character to a world that desperately needs it.

Racism audio