8 Reflections on Racism and Riots

I’m neither black nor white. I’m brown, or Asian American. And I’m a Christian; therefore, I will address racism and rioting from a biblical point of view. Here are my thoughts on these issues:

1) There’s only one race on earth and that is Adam’s race. Regardless of your skin color, your origin can be traced back to Adam (Genesis 1 & 2). We should therefore view ourselves as belonging to the same Adamic race. And having the same blood, we should love, and not hate, each other.

2) Since we have the same race, you can’t say that your race is better than other races. In fact, it doesn’t make sense to think that your race is superior to other races, since there’s only one race. Thus, to be a racist is inconsistent with the Bible. I think we see racism at its worst in the genocide of approximately six million Jews during Hitler’s time. Hitler thought that the Jews were an inferior group of people, “fit for enslavement, or even extermination.”

3) Whether you’re black, brown, red, white, or yellow, your life matters to God because He created you in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). So my life matters not because I’m brown but because I bear God’s image. Black lives matter not because of their color but because they are made in God’s image.

4) Since every life is created in God’s image, all lives (black, brown, red, white, and yellow) are equal. We should therefore treat every life with equal importance. George Floyd’s life was as important as the lives of those Nigerian Christians brutally murdered by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram.

According to genocidewatch.com, “350 Nigerian Christians were massacred in the first two months of 2020…Nigeria has become a killing field of defenseless Christians. Reliable sources show that between 11,500 and 12,000 Christians have been massacred since June 2015 when the Buhari Government of Nigeria came to power. Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for 7,400 murders of Christians. Boko Haram committed 4000 killings of Christians.”

Imagine since 2015 about 12,000 black lives were murdered in Nigeria! Right now there are demonstrations around the world, including England, Germany, and Canada, against the murder of George Floyd. Yet I can’t help but wonder why we also don’t hear an outcry regarding the mass killing of black lives in Nigeria? Is it because Nigerian lives are not as important as the lives of those living in the US? I’m not minimizing the horrible murder of Floyd, nor am I saying that police brutality should not be peacefully protested. However, if we really believe that all lives matter, we should treat every single life with equal worth. We should not pick and choose what life we want to value.

5) Since God’s image is sacred and since every life is made in God’s image, every life is not only important and equal, but also sacred. The murder of George Floyd was evil because it violated the sacredness of his life (Genesis 9:6). And the sacredness of one’s life doesn’t depend on who violates it. Floyd’s life was sacred not because it was violated by a white police officer. Even if he was murdered by a black police officer, his life was still sacred.

Sadly, if a black life was killed by another black person, or if a white life was killed by a black person, we don’t see the same degree of protest, as if black lives only matter when they are killed by a white person. When was the last time you heard a strong demonstration because a black man was killed by a black police officer? Every life matters because every life is sacred; and thus, I plead with the Black Lives Matter movement that they also protest against the murder of unborn innocent babies in the wombs of every black woman. The lives of these aborted unborn babies were as sacred as George Floyd’s life.

According to Grand Rapids Right to Life, “Abortion is not just a woman’s issue.  It’s a human rights issue.…Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abortion kills more black people than HIV, homicide, diabetes, accident, cancer, and heart disease … combined.”

6) God has gifted us in the US with the First Amendment, which guarantees “the freedom of speech” and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Constitutionally, you have all the right to protest against the injustice done to George Floyd. But according to the First Amendment, you must to do so “peaceably.” Therefore, you have no right to loot, hurt police officers and set their vehicles on fire, vandalize and ruin buildings. This is not your right! After all, what does looting have to do with the murder of Floyd? Do you think it will help solve the issue? The injustice done to Floyd does not license you to do lawlessness. My heart was grieved with what happened to Floyd but my heart was equally grieved with the riots caused by lawless protesters.

God says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21).

7) Racism is still very much alive in our country. We can either ignore this problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, or face and address it. Fellow Christians, we should deal with the issue of racism with the same equal force that we give to the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. To my fellow pastors, we should also be preaching against the sin of racism.

8) The only remedy for racism is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Racism says, “I’m ethnically superior to you.” The gospel says, “We equally matter before God because both of us are created in His image.” Racism violates the sanctity of life. The gospel treats every life as sacred. Racism begets hatred and violence. The gospel begets love and peace. Racism divides. The gospel brings reconciliation not only between you and God but also between you and your enemies. Racism harms and kills. The gospel heals and gives everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Racism resents. The gospel forgives.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

What we therefore desperately need today in our country is the gospel.

8 Reflections on Racism & Riots by Brian G. Najapfour

 

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Five Reasons Why Partiality Is Unbiblical

 

In the first half of the second chapter of James, the author deals with the problem of partiality or favoritism in the church. James says in verse one: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” The Greek word for partiality in this verse means “to make unjust distinctions between people by treating one person better than another.” The key word in this definition is the word “unjust,” because to make distinctions between people by treating one person better than another is not necessarily sinful. For example, I treat my wife better than other women. Is it sinful for me to treat my wife better than other women? Absolutely not! In fact, it is just right that I treat my wife better than other women. Therefore, when we say partiality, we mean an unjust discrimination between people by considering one person better than another.

To illustrate partiality, James writes in verses two to four:

For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine [bright/shinning] clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby [dirty/filthy] clothing also comes in, and if you [ushers] pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

In this passage James is addressing professing Christians who treat some people better than others because of their status in life. Notice that favoritism could be financial in nature. One commentator notes that “in its early days the Church was predominantly poor and humble; and therefore if a rich man was converted, and did come to the Christian fellowship, there must have been a very real temptation to make a fuss of him, and to treat him as a special trophy for Christ.” How sad that even today there are Christians who prefer to fellowship with the wealthy rather than with the poor. Usually, the destitute are forgotten while the rich are favored. Some ministers visit the well-to-do and neglect the poverty-stricken members of their church. They like to visit members who can help them in return. The Bible does not approve this kind of practice.

James provides at least five reasons why partiality is unbiblical:

1. It is inconsistent with God’s command: “show not partiality” (v. 1). One version puts verse one this way: “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (NAS). In other words, do not profess your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and discriminate against the poor. Claiming to be Christian yet not caring for the poor is contradictory to God’s Word.

2. It is inconsistent with our religion in Christ: “my brothers” (v. 1). Our religion, biblical Christianity, teaches us that as believers in Christ we are all equal in God’s sight. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord. We belong to the same family of God in which partiality does not exist. We are all sinners saved by God’s grace alone. In God’s family, no one can say that he or she is more important than others. I remember attending a conference in British Columbia in 2009. One of the speakers was Jerry Bridges, who was 80 years old at that time. Bridges is known for his classic book—The Pursuit of Holiness. Bridges mentioned something that struck me. He said, “What differs us from others is nothing but the grace of God.”

3. It is inconsistent with the gospel: “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1). In the Bible the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ are sometimes used interchangeably. For example, in Mark 1:14-15 we read, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Then when the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?,” Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31). Now this glorious gospel by which sinners can be saved is offered to all kinds of people—rich or poor, Jews or gentiles. God does not confine the gospel to Israel. He offers His Son to all nations. And God will give anyone who receives His Son the right to become His child (John 1:12).

4. It is inconsistent with God’s character: “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world” (v. 5). As far as salvation is concerned, God did not choose us on the basis of our status in life. God does not save people according to their economic, physical, racial, or social condition. Talking to his countrymen, Moses writes,

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you (Deut. 7:6-8).

If you are a believer, God has chosen you in Christ on the basis of His unconditional love alone. Therefore, do not just pay special attention to the likable people. Show love even to the less fortunate.

5. It is inconsistent with the royal law: “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 8).

Now the professing believers who practice partiality might say to James, “Well, the reason why we treat the rich with special respect is because we love them. In fact, we are just fulfilling the royal law: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” In verse eight James responds to their justification of their unchristian practice of favoritism: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture…you are doing well.” In other words, if you truly observe the royal law, then you are pleasing the Lord. But the truth is you are not really keeping the royal law because of your partiality toward the rich. You do not show love to your poor neighbors.

 

Note: To listen to the message on partiality, click here.

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