Living in Our Skin

The day after a white supremacist marched into Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston SC to murder people because he disagreed with how God made them. I tweeted:

Many people care about ending the sin of racism, or at least enough people who know they’re supposed to say they care about ending the sin of racism. What to do about it, now, that is the question. I don’t think many people really know what to do about it. Every day we hear more sordid tales of this rotten harvest. The sin of racism is the questioning of God the Artist’s taste in palette. The sin of racism is the racist’s vandalism of God’s work. The sin of racism is in the flagrant disregard of God’s sovereignty and love.

People should be able to live in the skin God put them in.

We must pray for it and build it.

We get the praying part, in theory; building is another thing. We understand that no mountain can stand against the will of our God. We know God can thaw out the icy heart of the racist, turning him from death to the cross of his beloved Son. We believe prayer is potent and sometimes we even use it.

But building such a world? That’s a medium sized mutt of a different color, altogether.

I’m not so sure many of us know what to do about it. There are those whom say they know what to do. But whether all the ideas and theories put forth over the years are ineffective or not effectively implemented, the pain remains.

Whatever Shall We Do?

I went to the recent ERLC conference on “The Gospel And Racial Reconciliation.” Many good thoughts were shared by women and men who know more about racial reconciliation than I (the sessions are online. I recommend you watch them  A main focus was on integrating churches and hiring staff of different ethnicities to represent in the here and now the final eschatological look and feel of the Bride of Christ. They’re right.

But my church isn’t located in a diverse town, and my church won’t be hiring new staff anytime soon.  The question circles around again in my addled little mind: Whatever shall I do?

I preached a sermon. I’m a preacher. It’s what I do.

The Sunday after the Charleston Church Massacre, I found myself in Romans chapter five (I preach through books of the Bible), and I had already decided to preach on the historicity of Adam before digging into the notion of imputation of original sin because in our a la carte world many Christians seem to think the first man’s very existence is optional to their faith and practice, but St. Paul’s argument in Romans 5 falls apart strikingly fast without Adam.

So it was that I proclaimed the following to a white congregation gathered in a small white church building: “Racism is at odds with our common ancestry.”

A trucker from Texas was visiting that day. He posted on Facebook that the sermon had got him thinking. His family died that day in Charleston, and although he had not considered himself racist. He did make racist jokes. He asked for prayer as he works to change.

Grace Welcomes

On Wednesday evening a white man went to Emanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. He was welcomed to the Bible study being held there, because it was a church, and that’s what churches do. They welcome all people to the grace that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. He sat with them for a while before opening fire on them. He killed nine of our brothers and sisters in Christ because they were black. He said as much. Their names are:

  • Cynthia Hurd, 54
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Ethel Lance, 70
  • DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • Clementa Pinkney, 41
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • Daniel Simmons Sr. 74
  • Sharonda Singleton, 45
  • Myra Thompson, 59

These are your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is your family. These are your kin of the cross. They were gunned down because of the color of their skin. This should affect you personally as a Christian. There is such a thing as righteous anger.

The doctrine of a historical Adam is important because the argument Paul is making in Romans 5 is that if one man’s sin could mar the image of God in every person so too can one God-man’s obedience restore that divine image.

But there is more.

It is very hard to be racist if you truly believe all of our family trees go back to Adam and Eve. Theologically and biblically, there are three reasons for the Christian to not be ambivalent toward the sin of racism:

  • Adam: Our common father
  • Triune God: Our common Creator (Imago Dei)
  • Jesus Christ: Our common Savior (His blood shed for all mankind)

Having honest conversations about these issues is not political. This is a gospel issue. We musn’t abide our black family in Christ having these conversations alone in an echo chamber. Have our brothers and sisters not long saved a seat at the table for us? And have we not long refused to come and learn under their tutelage for fear or white guilt? What if we listened to what they’re saying and honored them by going back to our own spheres of influence and sharing what they’ve taught us?

White racism is a white sin and it begins and ends in white homes. There are so many evil things we would never allow in our homes. If our “good ‘ol boy” buddy tried to bring pornography into our home we would stop it. If our drunk or high, bitter uncle tried to bring drugs to Thanksgiving dinner we would say, “Not in this house.” But all too often when a relative or a buddy makes a racist comment or joke many white people just look uncomfortable, or even laugh nervously.

We must view it as a sin that is incompatible with the Christian faith and practice—not least because for many our children are watching. Racism among us is a plague upon our house and it flourishes in silence and shadow.

Our brothers and sisters were murdered Wednesday June 17th. God have mercy on us if we can’t be bothered to care.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” — Revelation 7:9-12

Evan Welcher (@EvanWelcher) is Senior Pastor of First Christian Church in Glenwood, Iowa. Evan was married to his Resplendent Bride for 3 years before the Lord took her home. Pastor Evan received his education in Bible & Theology from Emmaus Bible College. The Goal of is to set the captives free by leaving a trail of words leading to the Crucified Carpenter King. Christ Crucified For Sinners is the Gospel.