In the twenty-first century, our eyes have seen a seemingly endless number of racially-charged acts of violence in America. While it may be tempting to take a passive stance if you are not personally affected, remember that racial reconciliation is a gospel issue. The gospel is a call to reconciliation—first to God and then to others.
Our kids see the ugliness of racism and prejudice every day. As parents, we must be ready to help our children understand and grapple with the complexities of racial issues.
There are many reasons to avoid the subject of race when talking to our kids: It is too sensitive, we aren’t equipped to respond, or we don’t know what to say. But there is a great danger in keeping quiet. Our silence tells our kids we don’t care.
Jesus was in the business of reconciliation. We all—no matter our nationality—were far from Christ and “have been brought near by [His] blood” (Ephesians 2:13). Christ’s crucifixion tore down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. In the same way, we are called to be agents of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Genuine reconciliation only comes through the peace Christ brings through the gospel. He has freely reconciled us to Himself and we can follow Him by working toward racial harmony. And just like us, our kids are called to follow Christ as ministers of reconciliation. Are you prepared to equip them?
Let’s consider a common obstacle in conversations about race: You are not colorblind, you don’t need to be colorblind, and you should strive to not be colorblind. If you’d like to grasp the full beauty of God’s creation, see color.
Instead of pretending like we are colorblind, let’s celebrate God’s creation. Ethnic differences aren’t the result of the fall; celebrate the unique beauty of each and look forward to seeing heaven filled with the colors of all nations.
Celebrate the diversity (including ethnic distinctions) of those who are called into the family of God. Just like the human body is made of many parts that all need each other, the body of Christ is made of many members working together (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Encourage your kids to ask questions about other cultures. Children are often curious when they see people with a different skin color or unique cultural clothing. If they ask questions, don’t shame them or make them feel as if they’ve done something wrong. Help them to see the beauty in our differences.
Race and the image of God
How does our understanding of all humanity as God’s image-bearers change the way we treat people who are different from us?
Everyone we deal with, everyone we come into contact with, is an image-bearer who has intrinsic value. They are not just temporary. They are not just an interruption in our day, but rather they are a living, breathing representation of our God. And this is why the subjects of racial reconciliation and kingdom diversity are relevant to all Christians. No one is exempt from recognizing and respecting the image of God in others.
In Ephesians 2:19, Paul declared that those who are in Christ “are no longer foreigners and strangers,” but all are “members of God’s household.” The most important thing about us will never be whether we are white, black, Asian, African, or Hispanic. The most important thing about us is whether or not we belong to Jesus Christ. And if we do, we are all one in His body, brothers and sisters bonded together in love.
How should we see people? The only answer is to see them as people God loves who are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). When the family of God gathers to worship around His throne, every tribe, every language, and every ethnicity will bow down together to offer praises to our King (Revelation 4-5).
We should get comfortable sitting across the table from those who are different from us here on earth, because we will be with all types of people in heaven as part of that “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number” (Revelation 7:9). And if that is true, then we should pursue it here and now.
Race and our mission
In 1 Corinthians, after Paul’s discourse on the body of Christ, he went on to say, if one member of the body suffers, everyone suffers with him (1 Corinthians 12:26). Why is race an important issue? Because people have suffered, and continue to suffer. And our silence only serves to intensify the pain. Once our eyes are opened, we sin when we are apathetic toward the work of reconciliation.
This isn’t an issue for “those people” to deal with. This is an issue for all of God’s people. Reconciliation begins with us and it begins in the church. In a racially-divided world, the church of Jesus Christ ought not simply advocate for racial reconciliation; we ought to embody it.
Racial and ethnic division and bigotry are rooted in a satanic deception that tells us we ought to idolize “the flesh.” The gospel doesn’t just call us individually to repentance, but also congregationalizes that reconciliation in local bodies of persons who may have nothing else in common but the image of God, repentance of sin, and the redemption found in Jesus Christ.
When God joined together in one church, those who are both Jewish and Gentile, He was doing more than negating the bad effects of ethnic strife. He was declaring spiritual warfare.
When those who the world thinks should hate each other instead love each other, the church is testifying that our identity is in Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:11). We cannot be pulled apart from each other, because we are one body, and a body that is at war with itself is diseased.
If we begin to see more churches so alive to the gospel that they are not segregated out as “white” or “black” or “Hispanic” or “Asian” or “white collar” or “blue collar,” we will start to reflect something of a kingdom of God made up of those “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). And as we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to speak up for one another, care for one another, and bear one another’s burdens.
Modeling racial reconciliation in your home
How do you listen to people who are different from you? What steps can you take in your family, in your neighborhood, and in your church to listen and love?
The burden of racial reconciliation is one that every Christian shares. Commit yourself to “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
- Invite those different from you into your circle.
- Welcome a family of a different ethnicity into your home for dinner.
- Expose your family to other cultures through food and music.
- Encourage your son or daughter to extend friendship to a child who is new to our country.
- Host an exchange student for a semester.
- Pray about international adoption.
- Model the tangible love of Christ to a diverse world.
The ministry of reconciliation is really about God’s love. As we pursue unity amidst diversity, we portray God’s love to the world. It is an incredible task, but His grace is sufficient for us. Through the ministry of reconciliation, our God empowers us to be His vehicles of grace in a fallen world.
Excerpted from Christ Centered Parenting, by Russell Moore and Phillip Bethancourt. Copyright © 2017 Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Used with permission of LifeWay Press.