by Trillia Newbell
Donald Sterling, the infamous owner of the L.A. Clippers, recently made several racist remarks that were captured on video and shared online.
Media and blogs have rightly condemned his remarks. The NBA has since banned Sterling from the NBA for life and fined him 2.5 million dollars.
His racist comments have sparked a conversation yet again about race in America. But what about the church? How can we lead the charge against racism and better fight against discrimination?
Here are seven ways I think the church can lead the charge against racism:
Recognize that racism exists. The church should not turn a blind eye on racism. It exists. Racism exists because there remains sin in the world.
We don’t want to assume that because we are past the Civil Rights era there aren’t churchgoers who continue to battle with the sin and temptation of racism.
When someone confesses, don’t act shocked. In order to fight racism we have to have people willing to confess it. Our churches need to be a place where confession of sin is welcomed.
Use biblical language. The word racism seems ambiguous. To get to the heart of the problem, like with all sin, we want to find the root and call it what it is. So, for the term racism there could be a number of sin issues such as: pride, hate, jealousy, bitterness, and partiality.
When we address racism with the familiar and helpful language in the Scriptures, we can much more easily fight that sin. Racism isn’t an opinion; it’s a heart issue.
Provide the way of escape. Paul tells us “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Jesus provides the way of escape, but we must help people find the escape. The escape is through the gospel. Preach the gospel faithfully. Don’t assume the gospel. Don’t assume it is known or understood. Preach the gospel so those who hear it are informed by it. We don’t have to hate one another, because Jesus provides the way of escape through the cross.
Call for repentance. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). We must confess as was mentioned, and we must also repent. Confess and then turn from our sin. God is faithful in response to our confession. If we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to purify us (1 John 1:9).
We must encourage those who struggle with any sin to repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness and freedom from it, including racism.
We must forgive. If we are to fight racism in our churches, we must forgive those who battle with this sin. Forgiveness is difficult, especially when it isn’t asked of us, but God calls us to forgive. Christ died for ungodly, guilty men and women.
His death is an example to us of how to love one another through the hard task of forgiveness. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27). We who have been forgiven much must also love and forgive.
Proclaim the gospel. Ultimately we fight racism in our churches through and because of the gospel. Jesus died for every tribe, tongue, and nation. He defeated death for every tribe, tongue, and nation. And now He is interceding for His own.
We are His and He is ours. We are called into a new family. This family isn’t homogenous. We must understand this and then share it. It’s Good News.
Trillia Newbell (@TrilliaNewbell) is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision of Diversity. Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, The Gospel Coalition, and more.
She currently is the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. She is married to her best friend and love, Thern. They reside with their two children near Nashville, Tennessee.