A few years ago Piper preached 7 Wednesday night messages on racial harmony. We are going to offer them here as a blog series. You can subscribe to the RSS feed if you would like to see when a new installment is posted. Or you can just check back—I will try to post a new one each week.
His first message answers the question, "Why even deal with racial issues?"
(The intro is good, but long. If you are pressed for time, start the audio about 11 minutes in.)
From the Intro—This Is a Hard Issue
A bunch of you could do a better job, because I’m learning and you’ve dealt with it all you life, some of you.
But that would not have the same impact as if the senior pastor blows this trumpet. And so the one thing I have going for me is that I represent the leadership of Bethlehem, and if I carry this burden it will feel like we as a group carry it, not just a little pocket of people out there.
So I’m expecting a lot of feedback. I expect a lot of problems in the process. This is almost a no-win effort in one way. Because I will be criticized one way or the other. I’ll be criticized by the racial harmony task force because I said something totally wrong—I thought I was saying it right; I got it wrong. I’ll be criticized by those who think, “You’re going way too far and you’re getting too political.” I’ll be criticized by the other side who’ll say, “You’re too biblical.”
This issue is an emotionally no-win issue, which is one of the reasons (of dozens) that people don’t want to touch it. You just get beat up so much. Black or White; Red, Yellow, Brown. You make an attempt—you think you’re doing the right thing and you don’t get it right. It’s a hard issue to deal with.
But it’s worth it.
Biblical Reasons to Deal with Racial Issues
- God is absolute reality. Race cannot be properly understood without God.
- Man is in the image of God. The meaning of human personhood is rooted first in who we are as images of God. Physical differences are secondary compared to the rational, volitional, spiritual aspects of being persons. Race is profoundly non-essential to personhood.
- Sin dishonors God and depraves humanity. Sin’s irony is that it is the reason we are hurtful to each other and it is one of the reasons we should not hurt each other. We are all equal because we are all sinful. We’re all as bad as each other and equally worthy of disrespect.
- Jesus is the example of perfect humanity. He never treated anyone disrespectfully. His focus on reaching Israel was a strategy to reach all nations.
- Jesus is the revelation of sacrificial love. Jesus died to show us how to love each other.
- Jesus is the universal savior. Christ died to buy people of every color and pull us together.
- Jesus is the ground of our justification by faith alone. Jesus is the one righteousness that will commend any human being to God. There is one way to get united to Jesus and it has zero to do with race and everything to do with faith.
- The Holy Spirit was poured out on all races at Pentecost.
- In the end times all peoples will be gathered together to worship one God. For no people group will this be someone else's god. Every tribe and tongue will say, “He is our God.” Church, today, on Sunday mornings, should be a rehearsal for that.
- Jesus’ and the apostles’ commands forbid disrespect on the basis of race—or anything. Even if you consider another race your enemy, you have no right not to love them—if you’re a Christian.
Experiential Reasons to Deal with Racial Issues
- Racial struggles are an ever-present issue.
- There is confusion about the value of diversity because of male-female and homosexual issues.
- There is inadvertent discrimination.
- There is significant disagreement about the value of affirmative action.
- Our church is in a diverse neighborhood.
- Worship style issues need to be addressed.