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CHRIST ABOVE CULTURE A Gospel-Centered Vision for Racial Harmony Session 1

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CHRIST ABOVE CULTURE A Gospel-Centered Vision for Racial Harmony Session 1
A Gospel-Centered Vision for Racial Harmony
Session 1
A. The Continual Presence of Racial Division is the Church’s Burden

A. The Continual Presence of Racial Division is the Church’s Burden

1. How it is our burden
A. The Problematic Use of the Term “Racism
If I asked each of you to give me a definition of the term racism one or two things would happen:
First: we would have as many definitions as we have people in the room
Second: instead of giving a definition many would give a description – describe an act or actions that constitute what we mean by racism
1. Webster Dictionary definitions
a. “a doctrine or feeling of racial differences…, especially with reference to supposed racial superiority, inferiority or purity….”[1] (1962)
b. any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc., specif., such a program or practice that upholds the political or economic domination of one race over another or others.[2] (2014)
2. Racism as The Race Card
3. Racism as the Unchanging Standard
a. There are many who believe that “racism” is no longer an issue in our day because they understand and define it in the following, antiquated, forms:
i. White men in hooded sheets
ii. Legalized segregation (education, neighborhoods)
iii. White only / Blacks only signs
4. Racism as Power
B. The Ambiguity of The Term Racism
1. This word, racism, which once had a seemingly universal meaning now – over time – has taken on many differing nuances that one social commentator has made the following assessment:
a. “[W]ith varying degrees of explicitness, these tendentious ideological redefinitions of racism have become so intermingled with the straightforward meaning…that the word may be irretrievably lost as a specific meaningful concept”[3]
A. Understanding Racial Division as Exclusion
Instead of racism, I prefer the use of the term exclusion as articulated by Miroslav Volf in his book Exclusion and Embrace. There he defines exclusion as:
1. Exclusion defined:
all patterns of exclusion (mistreat, deny, undermine, or treat as inferior) that is grounded in race or ethnicity.
2. Why is exclusion a better term?
a. It does not have the historical tension consistent with the term “racism.”
b. It eliminates the false notion that racial division is mono-cultural or simply a white issue.
i. The act of excluding is something that whites AND blacks have engaged in
ii. This is why the phrase “all patterns” in the definition of exclusion is an important one.
c. It shows that actions which exclude on the basis of race or ethnicity can take place in covert as well as overt ways.
The act of excluding others does not have to be obvious to be true. It can, and is, expressed in ways that are not so obvious, even to those who behave in these ways. This is why the term “grounded” is used in the definition of exclusion. It is significant because it represents that which is not, necessarily, seen (covert).
B. Three Ways Exclusion Can Takes Place in the Church
1. Exclusion by assimilation
2. Exclusion by domination
3. Exclusion by abandonment
1. Understanding racial unity as racial harmony
a. Working definition for racial harmony
i. “The intermingling of all that is right, true and biblical within various cultures of the purposes of a fuller expression of the glory of God in the church and in the world.”
2. Five Guiding Principles:
a. Principle 1: The design of God in redemptive history is, and always has been, the display of His glory in the united diversity of His Bride.
i. Scripture and united diversity
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility….”
9 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, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
But it’s not simply for unity sake; but for the sake of His manifest glory! All of the Lord’s actions in the world have been exclusively for His own glory! God’s glory has always had visible representation:
ii. The visible expressions of the glory of God
Ø Old Testament
· Burning bush
· Tabernacle
· Temple
Ø New Testament
· Jesus
· The Church
iii. The glory of God and the unified diversity of the church
9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
b. Principle 2: Every culture has something to contribute to our understanding of the character of god and His workings in redemptive history
At the heart of this point is that to exclude others on the basis of race is to, in effect, exclude an aspect of God that is housed in that particular culture:
White lady who teared up:
Having said the above, it is important to note principle 3:
c. Principle 3: Anything that is considered beneficial from any culture must be considered as such only when it is Christ-centered.
The only ability to rightly understand and see our culture is to be removed from it. If not, we don’t really see it for what it is and will end up embracing that which denies the truth, etc…
i. “…Christians can never be first of all Asians or Americans, Croatians, Russians or Tutsis and then Christians. At the very core of Christian identity lies an all-encompassing change of loyalty, from a given culture with its gods to the God of all cultures. A response to a call from that God entails a rearrangement of a whole network of allegiances” (Volf, Exclusion, pg. 40)
d. Principle 4: The church is to be a witness and leader in the world on the issue of race relations by demonstrating in her unity the essence of true unity, Jesus Christ.
e. Principle 5: Racial harmony is community specific and heart felt
i. Community specific implies the following:
Ø Close Proximity implies accountability. Churches should work, pray and strategize to reflect the community to which it belongs and in which it ministers.
ii. Heart-felt implies the following:
Ø Distant Proximity does not negate accountability. Churches that are located in areas with little to no diversity are not excluded from possessing the heart of God.
Ø This is the real problem with exclusion in the church: people lack the heart of God. It is not enough to give thousands to nations across the globe if those same nations would not be welcomed in your church
iii. Our hearts must mirror the heart intentions of the Lord: that the nations might know Him!
iv. God is at odds with comfort
Ø God’s call to Abraham was a call to the nations ().
“If he is to be a blessing he cannot stay; he must depart, cutting the ties that so profoundly defined him. The only guarantee that the venture will not make him wither away like an uprooted plant was the Word of God, the naked promise of the divine ‘I’… inserted…into his life so relentlessly and uncomfortably (emphasis added).
Ø Christ’s commissioning to the church was to the nations
v. God is at odds with ethnocentrism
Ø (ESV) 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
· You cannot genuinely minister to or with those of whom you think less of.
· You cannot be on mission with the Lord if you are on mission for your culture.
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
· The image of God matter infinitely more than the culture of a man
· God is the original interpreter of culture
· None can boast about their ethnicity
· But culture does matter because God is the Lord of culture
[1] Webster’s New Dictionary of the American Language: College Edition (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1962)
[2] Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
[3] Sowell, Thomas. Race and culture: a world view. New York: Basic, 1995. Print.
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