Pastor John, last time you talked about the changes you have watched develop in the racial landscape in America over the last fifty years since you were a boy in South Carolina. Do you have any predictions or longings as you look into the future?
Six Futures of Race
Well, I don’t have as many predictions as I do longings, but let me make a go of it.
1. Every ethnicity will bow to Jesus.
When it comes to ethnic diversity, we should never forget one massive certainty. This gospel of the kingdom will be preached through all the world as a testimony to all the ethnicities and then the end will come. Ethnic reality should be thought of globally, not just in narrow, local ways.
This certainly is true about the Great Commission, and the certainty of the success of the Great Commission is there because Jesus bought it with his blood, according to Revelation 5:9: “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” So, that is going to happen. That is the first thing I think we would say about the future: All the ethnicities are going to bow the knee to Jesus someday.
2. Some Christians will stray, and some will stick.
I see the continual unraveling of the historic traditional overlay of biblical morality in America. For years, there was an external conformity with significant biblical convictions left over from Christian influence in this country. This is collapsing and will continue to do so, I think, so that true Christians who submit to the authority of God’s word and the Bible will feel increasingly alien.
This collapse is being accompanied, however, by profound renewal and reformation of many churches and schools and movements and families. Many, many will give way and show their true color of compromise, and many others will grow stronger and clearer in their allegiance to the Lord Jesus. So, the dark gets darker and the light gets lighter. I believe that is going to happen.
3. We will witness a greater multiethnic reality in the U.S.
There will be an ongoing increase of globalization and multiethnic, multicultural realities here at home. We will feel ourselves increasingly part of a global reality — near and far — that fifty years ago was almost inconceivable for our insulated American mindset.
And that increase of global diversity at home means that by 2043, according to the census predictions after 2010, America will not be a majority white country. And that is something that should be celebrated as the gospel works here, not feared.
4. Racism from the heart will continue its outbreak in the world.
Alongside all this diversity will continue the outbreaks of evil from the human heart. Nothing has changed about the condition of the human heart. A lot of times, people think with changes in society and changes in culture, people are getting better or worse. They are not. People get better through conversion to Christ. Apart from Christ, “no one seeks for God . . . no one does good” (Romans 3:11–12). There are just variations on the way our corruption expresses itself.
The lynchings that happened fifty years ago come from the same heart that exists today. There is as much innate depravity as ever. It is constant. What changes is the kind of constraints society applies to inner sinfulness. Dwight Eisenhower would have been impeached and removed from office for the immoral, sexual behavior of Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton would have been impeached and removed from office for the racial slurs that presidents got away with fifty years ago. What has changed is not their hearts, but what Americans will tolerate. Sinfulness doesn’t change. Social restraints and tolerances change, but they can’t restrain racism completely. It will break out one form or another. That is who we are globally.
5. The bride of Christ will become more Christlike.
Alongside lukewarmness and open immorality and apostasy in the church, the true bride of Christ will grow in conformity to Christ. She will be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).
That will include beautiful expressions of racial and ethnic togetherness and harmony with many Christians globally and at home taking concrete steps to move toward differences in love, not away from them.
6. Church leaders will grow in their pursuit toward ethnic harmony.
And the last thing to say would be, like Brian Loritts and the Kainos Cohort that we have talked about before, I think many thousands of pastors and ministry leaders and churches will give themselves to prayer and to study and to public effort to pursue Christ-exalting, God-centered, Bible-saturated, gospel-shaped ethnic diversity and harmony. It is a difficult, strategic time to be alive. And I pray the Lord keeps us faithful.