FIRST-PERSON: Now is the time to end America's racial crisis
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- Ronald Reagan once said, "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." I believe that great change can't happen unless someone sets the table for tough conversations. This past Wednesday in Jackson, Miss., a table was set for America's toughest conversation to occur: a conversation on racism in America.
This conversation did not take place among politicians, business leaders, educational institutions or sports leagues. This tough and long overdue conversation took place with pastors of local churches.
Dr. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, and I led a conversation with a group of 20 other pastors. Dr. Young invited 10 pastors from his convention and I invited 10 pastors from our convention. The conversation was filled with special, difficult and joyful moments.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Birmingham, Ala.
When Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter From a Birmingham Jail* on April 16, 1963, he noted he had never written such a long letter. Reading this letter recently, the words in his final paragraph penetrated my heart.
Dr. King wrote, "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
Sadly and regrettably, after 52 years, this deep fog filled with racism, injustices and misunderstanding has not lifted fully. In fact, in the last 18 months in our nation, it has become like a fire fanned by a mighty wind. Rather than the fire coming from the Holy Spirit of God and His breath upon our churches, the fire is raging from the DNA of our hearts. Sin is in our DNA and is at the heart of our human condition. Prejudice and racism are offenses against God and one another.
Silence is not the answer and hope is not a strategy
We must not be silent any longer; silence is not the answer. Hope is not a strategy; you cannot just hope something goes away. Nor can you sit passively in the church pew and believe it is enough. Passivity has never been and will never be a prescription for healing.
We, the Church, have come to one of the supreme hours in our history since our birth on the day of Pentecost. With great conviction in this hour of crisis in America, our generation must rise like never before, resolving that the sin of racism will stop now and not be forwarded to generations in the future.
Now is the time for racism to end in America
Sin wounds. Sin hurts. Sin divides. Sin destroys.
Grace forgives. Grace heals. Grace unites. Grace lives.
Since we believe the Bible is God's authoritative, infallible, trustworthy, inerrant and sufficient Word about all matters of life, including racism, then let's obey it.
Genesis 1:27 says: "So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female."
Let us take these convictions to our country:
1. AMERICA, ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE
No one is less than another. We are created by God and created for His glory on this earth.
Acts 17:26-28: "From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and exist."
2. AMERICA, THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE - THE HUMAN RACE
Each of us came from one man, Adam. Every ethnicity on this earth came from him. God Himself determined when you would live in human history and where you would live. Therefore, God has each of us where we can demonstrate His love so when people seek after God, they will find Him.
We not only have the same problem of sin, we have the same solution: our Savior, Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:2: "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world."
3. AMERICA, JESUS DIED FOR ALL PEOPLE
Jesus did not die only for white people, black people or any other group. Jesus died for all people. Why?
John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall have everlasting life."
4. AMERICA, GOD LOVES ALL PEOPLE
When we receive God's love found only in Jesus Christ at the moment of salvation, we become devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We become Christians.
I want to remind each of us today: We are not black Christians. We are not white Christians. We are not Latino Christians. We are not Native American Christians. We are Christians. We are followers of Jesus Christ.
We are one in Christ
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross makes us one in Christ. While Satan and sin destroy and build walls between people, it is only Jesus and His love that gives life and tears down these walls between people.
In this desperate hour in our nation when racial tension is building rapidly, the church of Jesus Christ must rise together as one.
We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body. Let the Church rise!
The hope for all racism to end in America
The hope for all racism to end in America is Jesus Christ and His triumphant Church. Schisms and divisions will end when the Gospel of grace begins to rule in our hearts again.
Your church must be for your city. Your church must be for your town.
The Church needs to rise up and not just have a racial unity conversation, but also live out an ongoing demonstration of racial unity to the world. As Jesus said, as recorded in John 17:21, "May they all be one … so the world will believe You sent me."
Each pastor in this nation must rise to become a prophetic voice relating to the issue of racism, calling it what it is, even if the price is high personally. For the sake of America, pastors and churches must be the prophetic voice of not just doom and gloom, but the voice for hope and future.
This is why we need to call out to God and ask Him for the next Great Awakening in America. Each Sunday in our churches we need to ask Him for the next Great Awakening in America.
Racism is Satan's tool
In closing, I am not sure what you believe about the subject of spiritual warfare. But I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell. Why? Racism is completely opposite of the message of Christ. Racism is completely opposite of the message of love. Racism is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation.
We are notifying Satan and his demonic forces that steal, kill and destroy that enough is enough. The power of God is greater than the forces of evil, even the evil of racism. "Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
Pastors, rise up! Churches, rise up! Business leaders, rise up! Educational leaders, rise up! Political leaders, rise up! Towns and cities, rise up! Everyone, rise up!
The need has never been greater. The urgency is upon us.
Now is the time for racism to end in America!
*To view a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, go to http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/ document_images/ undecided/630416-019.pdf.