Your Role in Racial ReconciliationFebruary 18, 2005
What part can you play in racial reconciliation? Teaching pastor and author, Bryan Loritts, tells you how you can make a difference in the world around you.
What part can you play in racial reconciliation? Teaching pastor and author, Bryan Loritts, tells you how you can make a difference in the world around you.
Your Role in Racial Reconciliation
Bob: What's the part God would have you play in helping to bring about racial reconciliation? Brian Loritts says don't wait until someone has designed the perfect strategy before you do something.
Brian: You've got questions, I've got questions, I cannot answer most, even half, of your questions as to how this plays out, what this looks like. The only thing God wants to know is here is the compass, here is the direction, we're headed towards racial reconciliation – who will say, in the midst of their confusion, in the midst of their haziness – "I don't know what that looks like, I don't know what God will call me to, I'll go."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is there something you could do this week, something specific that could lead toward racial reconciliation?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I don't know that I've ever really stopped to think about it much, but the Gospel was spread to the Gentiles by somebody who fundamentally didn't care much for Gentiles.
By I think that's probably an understatement. You know, in Acts, chapter 10, when God gave Peter his marching orders to go preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, Peter didn't much care for the order.
Bob: Yes, he was sent to Cornelius's house, and God said go take the message of Jesus to Cornelius, and Peter thought, "Cornelius the Gentile? But He's our Messiah. He's the Jewish Messiah? Why would be taking the message of the Jewish Messiah to the Gentiles?" And then he had that dream where the sheet came down from heaven with the ham sandwiches on it, and God said, "Go ahead, eat." And Peter said, "I won't eat this stuff, because it's unclean." And God said, "Who's calling it unclean?" And kind of scolded him and said, "Don't you call unclean what I've called clean," and when Peter woke up from the dream, he said, "Okay" …
Dennis: … "I get the point."
Bob: "I get the point," and he went to share the news about Jesus with Cornelius the Gentile.
Dennis: As in any racial prejudice, there was a good bit of pride in Peter's heart, and God had to root some of that pride out as He called him to go preach the Gospel to Gentiles. And, Bob, I think within the Christian community, there are those corners, perhaps closets and entire rooms, filled with pride where there still is racial prejudice in our hearts.
Bob: And this week on FamilyLife Today, we're listening to a message from a preacher from Memphis, Tennessee – Brian Loritts. He's the teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Memphis, and he addressed this issue of racial prejudice with his congregation, and we thought it ought to be shared with a few additional people. And so we are playing that message on FamilyLife Today this week.
Dennis: In fact, you're about to hear one of finest young preachers in America. He's just a fine preacher, period, but you need to know he's right at 30 years of age and does a great job. He gives a message called "The Profile of a Racial Reconciler." And in Part 1 of his message, Brian Loritts pointed out that the racial reconciler has a trait that he's a godly person but not necessarily a perfect person. And he said that, really, Peter was a good illustration of this in that Peter really struggled with his own racial prejudice in being obedient to God.
Bob: Well, let's hear some of the other characteristics of racial reconcilers, as we listen together to Part 2 of Brian's message.
Brian: In the New Testament, in that era, there weren't a whole lot of people who had surnames. In fact, people were identified in a lot of ways by their occupation, and Peter is staying with a man named Simon, who is identified as being a tanner. Now, you need to understand what tanners did. Tanners worked with dead animals. They took the hides, the skins, off of dead animals, cured it with something called "oak gall" and made leather products out of it.
You need to understand, for a Jew, the supreme value was one called being ceremonially clean. They went to great lengths to maintain their ceremonial purity, and one of the things that you could not do was to touch or be associated with one who touched dead animals. If you did, you were ceremonially unclean. So the very fact that Peter is staying with a guy whose occupation is working with dead animals is absolutely unbelievable. It goes against how he was raised, it goes against his religion, it goes again with how he's wired. To stay with a man who works with dead animals – do you think this was awkward for Peter? Sure. Do you think this was uncomfortable for Peter? You bet you, but there is a second lesson, the second trait, of a person who has the profile of a racial reconciler. Not only are they a godly person but, secondly, they have a willingness to do the uncomfortable.
I don't know what it is God is going to call you to do, and I am no one to suggest at all what you should do, but as you look at your life, how uncomfortable are you? Peter stays at Simon the tanner's house – uncomfortable. Peter goes up to the roof in Simon the tanner's house and has a revelation. God speaks to him in sort of a parabolic vision, and He unfolds to Peter all these animals deemed to be unclean. He says, "Peter, kill and eat." He says, "No, no, no, that goes against, again, how I was raised. It goes against the law." Three times, the text says, God says, "Kill and eat," and Peter rejects God.
Finally, verse 15, the voice spoke to him a second time – "Do not call anything impure that God has made." Verse 16 – "This happened three times and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven" – watch this, verse 17 – while Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision – verse 19 – while Peter was still thinking about the vision, God had just laid something on Peter that blew his mind, and Peter was thinking and was wondering what in the world is going on here? He's not clear.
In the midst of his confusion, God speaks – look at verse 20. Hear the action words – in the midst of his confusion the Spirit says, "Peter get up, go, don't hesitate, go." Peter's confused – verse 21 – Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for." Verse 23, Peter invited the men into the house. The next day Peter started out with them. Verse 34, Peter gets to Cornelius's house and listen to what he says – "I now realize" – get the picture? In Jafah, God says "Go." Peter's confused, thinking, wondering, confused. God says "Go." He doesn't realize until he leaves and gets to Cornelius's house – "Oh, I now realize." Here's the third and final thing I want to show you about the person who is a racial reconciler. They are not only a godly person, they're not only a person who is willing to do the uncomfortable, but the third thing I want you to see, and the final thing is, they are a person of great faith.
Peter has questions – "Lord, what are you saying? What do you mean?" God says, "Go, Peter, I'll explain it on the way." And as you study Scripture, that's how God deals. He tells Abram, "Abram, get up and leave from here. I'm going to make of you a great nation." "Well, God, where am I going? How will I get there?" God says, "I'm not giving you any pre-flight itinerary, just go." God shows up in a burning bush to Moses, he says, "Moses, go down, Moses, way down to Egypt land, tell old Pharaoh, let my people go." Moses is coming up with excuse after excuse – "I can't speak, I can't do this," and God says, "Go, Moses, I'll be with you, I'll tell you what to say. Just go."
You've got questions, I've got questions, I cannot answer most, even half, of your questions as to how this plays out, what this looks like. The only thing God wants to know is here is the compass, here is the direction – we're headed towards racial reconciliation. Who will say, in the midst of their confusion, in the midst of their haziness – "I'll go." That's all God wants to know at the end of the day – who will say, "I'll go. I don't know what that looks like, I don't know what that means, I don't know what God will call me to, I'd like to have a map, but I'll take a compass, I'll go."
And as we conclude, Peter goes and God uses him. Out of great faith, Peter goes, and he preaches the Word of God, and Cornelius and his whole household, his relatives, and his friends, come to know the Savior Jesus Christ. Lives are changed for all eternity because Peter went. I want to say, there are some people who don't look like you, whom God has assigned you to go to them, and their lives will be changed for all eternity when you and I walk in obedience and go. And I know God's grace says, "I will bless you no matter what," but there is an added dimension of blessing when we are obedient and say, "God, I will go. I don't know where you're leading me, but I'm going."
Finally, not only does Peter go but, in verses 2 and 3, the text tells us that he experiences criticism and opposition. These circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Here are ignorant people who don't understand what God was doing in Peter's life. He faced opposition and criticism from his own Jewish brothers. The lesson is clear – this thing called "racial reconciliation" we will experience opposition – write it down, frame it, put it on your wall at home. We will experience opposition. Family members may not understand, we may lose friendships, we'll have people criticize us and turn their backs on us, dare I even say that some could even be called "nigger lovers." But it's a price worth paying – you'll face opposition, you'll face discouragement, you'll face distraught, but God says, "Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age." That follows what Jesus had told His disciples – "Go into all the world, the world, the world – John 3:16 – for God so loved not just white folk or black folk or Hispanics or Asians – for God so loved the world. It is God's plan, it is God's heartbeat not only for people to be reconciled unto Him but for His kids to be reconciled together to get along. It's His plan.
On October 30th at 4 a.m., 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire, Muhammad Ali stepped into the ring in what would be labeled as "The Rumble in the Jungle" against a prodigious puncher by the name of George Foreman. No one in their right mind gave Muhammad Ali a shot at winning this. He was 32 years old at the time of the fight, and many believed he was on the south side of his career. He had lost a step or two, and if he made it out of that ring alive and fully functional most people believed that would be a major victory.
And as the bell sounded, the hopeful Ali fans who shouted, "Ali, bomaye" knew that if Ali had any semblance of a chance at winning, it was going to demand that he use whatever quickness he had left. When Round1 started, boy, did he float like a butterfly and sting like bee. In fact, 11 times boxing historians would say he threw the most dangerous punch in all of boxing – the right-hand lead, where you have nothing to protect you but your quickness, and hit him on the button each time. Ali fans moved to the edge of their seats at the end of Round 1, for they knew they had a fight on their hands, until Round 2 started. They expected more of the same, but then Ali did something unusual. He took his position way back against the ropes and invited this prodigious puncher, George Foreman, to hit him with everything he had.
From Rounds 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 – Foreman was wailing away at the body of Ali. As Ali leaned back heavily against those ropes, Foreman was wearing him out and hitting him with punch after punch after punch. Those fans in the stands were dumbfounded at the perceived foolishness of Ali. Sportswriters were quickly typing Ali's eulogy and, above all else, Angelo Dundee, his famous trainer, could be heard yelling expletives at his prizefighter – "Ali, get off the ropes."
What they didn’t realize was that Ali had a plan. What they didn't realize was that Cassius Clay had a plan, and his plan would be later on called "the rope-a-dope," and in Round 8, having thoroughly punched himself out, George Foreman swung one more time, missed, and Ali came off the ropes and knocked him out. It was as if the whole time Ali was saying, "Yeah, calm down, Angelo Dundee, I've got a plan." It's as if Ali was saying to the dumbfounded spectators there in the stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire, "Keep shouting 'Ali, bomaye,' because I've got a plan." It's as if Ali was saying to the sportswriters, "I know you're counting me out, and you, Howard Cosell with your toupee, keep on talking, I've got a plan."
And, friends, as I study history, there have been times when Satan and God have been in this cosmic fight, this heavyweight championship bout, and there have been times when it seems like Satan has had God up against the ropes, i.e., the Red Sea and Mount Carmel and the cross, and each time God came off the ropes as if to say, "Calm down, world, I've got a plan." Here in Memphis, it seems as if Satan has had God up against the ropes, and Satan has been wailing away at the cause of Jesus Christ with slavery and segregation and unfair treatment of sanitation workers and all kinds of separation and struggle and negative attitudes, but I'm here to tell you that God's got a plan, and He's going to come off these ropes and implement His plans, for the plans of God are yes and amen and the only question we must ask tonight is will we get on board with God's plan?
Bob: Well, we've been listening together to Part 2 of a message from Brian Loritts on what is on the heart of God, and that is that there would be no division between slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, man nor woman, but that all are one in Christ. That's what Galatians 3:28 teaches, isn't it?
Dennis: It does, and I just want to review the three points Brian has made. He said, first of all, to be a racial reconciler, you don't have to be a perfect person. You just need to be God's person. Secondly, you've got to be willing to be uncomfortable and, third, you need to be a man or a woman of faith, and that means you need to step out. And, Bob, I'll close this with an illustration.
I was asked to speak at an African-American church in Dallas, Texas – Concord Baptist Church, founded by a great Christian statesman and biblical orator, exegetical preacher, E.K. Bailey, and E.K. had selected his successor before he died – Brian Carter. And Brian asked me to be a part of his installation service at that church. And as I was going to the airport here in Little Rock to fly down to Dallas about a year ago, it started snowing, and I mean not just a little bit of snow, a lot of snow. And it became kind of teacherous, and it would have been real easy for me to have turned that car around and gone back home, and, in fact, I called Barbara and I asked her what was happening out at the house, and I wasn't sure I could make it to the airport.
Well, I ended up going to the airport. They had canceled my flight to Dallas, and what I had to end up doing was fly through Atlanta to go to Dallas, and I arrived at my hotel room about 2:30 in the morning on Sunday morning. And, quite honestly, I was wondering if I had done the right thing, because I was whipped. It wasn't until later that someone said to me, "You know what? There are a lot of people in the white community who say they’ll do something, but when it costs them something, they don't follow through," and I thought, "Man, Lord, thank you for prodding me, for motivating me, for helping me go the extra mile and being a part of one of the highlights of my 34 years of ministry." And I have to tell you, Bob, preaching at that installation service took faith. I was the only white person there – perhaps there were one or two other there, but about 1,300 people. But I'm going to tell you something, it was one of the great ministry experiences of my life. What a gracious group of folks and great people of faith who love Jesus Christ, who taught me much more than I'm sure I taught them.
Bob: And I think the point is that all of us need to go the extra mile, the extra step, to help tear down the walls that divide us as believers. If they're racial walls, those walls need to be torn down, and if we're going to help tear them down, we've got to understand the heart of God on this issue.
Dennis: And sometimes, Bob, we've got to be intentional. We have to purpose to go that extra mile and to enter into those relationships realizing that, you know what? It isn't a matter of what I give being equal to what someone else gives. In fact, we just need to forget all that, and we just need to say you know what? What does God ask me to do? What's my act of faith? What has He called me to do with my life? And I'm going to tell you something – if you do that, that's called the will of God, and that's not only pleasing to Him, but it really is satisfy looking back on it.
Bob: Some of our listeners are going to want to get a copy of Brian's message. We've got it on CD or on cassette. I was thinking about an interview we did a year ago with Dolphus Weary. That would be another great interview for folks to listen to on this subject, and Dolphus's book, "I Ain't Comin' Back," I think it's a good book to read for family devotions to help unearth some of the issues related to prejudice that we need to be wrestling with as believers.
Brian's got a new book out, too. It's not dealing with the subject of racial reconciliation. It's a book about the Bible. It's called "God On Paper," and it's his first book, and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
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Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday. We're going to be joined by a woman who has helped dozens of families walk to death's door and say goodbye to a loved one. She's a hospice nurse. Her name is Deborah Howard, and we'll talk about the last chapter of life on Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Kenny Farris [sp], and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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