Ms. Fisher: Evangelical Christians are considered the most biblically accurate people, yet we continue to miss it in the areas of race and partiality. Why? What does the Bible say about race?
Dr. Bailey: Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one, even as He and the Father are one (John 17). That doesn’t destroy personalities, it doesn’t obliterate legitimate
differences in terms of function, but it shows that the core of an identity with God ought to be reflected in a core of an identity with one another. Unity is Trinity-modeled and
commanded to us.
Dr. Evans: God is one. There is only one God and that God is totally unified; yet this one God exists in three coequal persons. They are one in essence, yet distinct in personhood, so the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, but the three together make up the one Godhead.
That unity or harmony of oneness has to do with essence. Their fundamental being is the same when it comes to the divine nature, as the Scripture calls it. Translating that, then, to the human context, oneness, or unity, or harmony has to do with sameness of
purpose while being distinct in personhood. Because there has not been harmony of purpose there has been a division of persons. We have not been able to correct that because we do not understand God. I believe we do not understand the Cross, because if we did we would not be trying to fix something old. We would be creating something new. The gospel says that Jesus Christ came to create a new man not to patch up an old one. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If the goal on earth is to reflect the nature of heaven, you take a trip to heaven and join John who said he saw people worshiping God from every people, every nation, every kindred, and every language (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). And somehow in heaven they’ve been able to pull off different people from different backgrounds worshiping around the same throne at the same time without having conflict.
Dr. Bailey: Beyond the local church, whether in an educational institution or in missions, whether at home or abroad, there’s a phenomenal opportunity to be involved with people of other cultures, people of other languages, people of other denominations, people of other styles. Here at Dallas Seminary one of the great blessings is that we have more than fifty denominations and more than fifty countries represented. We have 183 international students, and almost two hundred African-American students, as well as students in other minority groups. That experience in our context makes us sensitive to more than the style issues. That helps us get a bit of that heaven back on earth.
Dr. Evans: I was in Selma, Alabama, as part of that city’s celebration of Black History Month and the Civil Rights Movement. Much of the activity of the Civil Rights Movement comes out of the Selma and Montgomery context, Bloody Sunday in 1964. Yet when 150 black and white pastors met, they still had not overcome 1964. Externally things were different, but internally the pain, the distance, and the struggle were still there. These pastors asked for help because something was wrong. While people can now stay in the same hotels and eat in restaurants together, there is still a divide in that community. Things have changed, things are better at the cost of lives. But after all this time, there’s still a long way to go.
The pastors in Selma were trying to figure out how to fix yesterday. Yesterday cannot be fixed. The fruit of it is there. But God is doing something brand new through His re-creation process. We have made racism a social issue, with a little Jesus sprinkled on top. That’s a fundamental flaw in the approach. This is a spiritual issue. It is fundamentally a sin issue. When Peter had been eating ham sandwiches with the Gentiles and Paul faced him about his leaving the Gentiles to pacify his own race, the Jews, Paul didn’t offer a workshop or a seminar. What he said, in essence, was, “I condemned Peter before his face, before them all, because he did not act in concert with the truth of the gospel.” My favorite verse in the Bible is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” You don’t often hear it, but that verse comes at the end of this story about Paul confronting Peter. This verse is about how you relate to God and yourself in relationship to people who are different from you. Paul solved that problem in four minutes, not forty years, and that’s how long it takes if you deal with it spiritually and not socially.
Dr. Bailey: I’m reminded of Nehemiah chapter 1 and Daniel chapter 9. Nehemiah and Daniel were leaders in the Old Testament who were willing to identify with sins of the past. We mustÑbefore God and before each other-confess that there have been cultural sins, there have been national sins, there have been group sins. These sins go back hundreds of years. While we were not living then, we identify with these sins and confess them, because by confessing the sins of our forefathers there is a purification and a refining for the present. Even though Nehemiah may not have disobeyed God as his forefathers did, he said, “We have sinned. My forefathers and I have sinned.” Recognition of sin is a great starting place for a solution: to realize that I come out of a sinful environment, and therefore I need to be even more sensitive that I don’t continue those sins.
Dr. Evans: When we drive, we look in the rearview mirror. It’s dangerous to live in that rearview mirror because if you do, you may hurt someone. Right in front of the rearview mirror is a windshield. It’s a lot bigger than the rearview mirror because where you’re going is usually a lot bigger than where you’ve been. You cannot ignore the rearview mirror because you need to see where you’re coming from, but you can’t live in the rearview mirror because you would be jeopardizing where you’re going. Recognize what the sin is; that’s the rearview mirror. Repent of the sin, and then, if restitution is appropriate, take care of that. Once you have confessed, repented, and dealt with whatever the appropriate restitution is, the only reason you look in the rearview mirror is to remind yourself of what you don’t want to go back to. Everything else is designed to focus on the windshield, because where you’re going is a lot bigger than where you’ve been.
Ms. Fisher: In one sense there is one race, not different races, in the world. Our parents are Adam and Eve, and we have perpetuated a myth-that there are a variety of races and we have separated ourselves because of that. We are of
one race. True, there are unbelievers, and there are believers. But yet we are one race.
Dr. Evans: Yes. And racism should be confronted in love. The same Matthew 18:15-17 process would apply to any act of rebellion. You seek to lead the sinning person to confession, repentance, and restoration. If there’s a refusal to treat it as sin, even when the biblical data has been clear, and they are perpetuating that sin, it ought to be judgedÑby the denomination or by churches. Until church leaders are accountable on this sin like other sins, this problem will never go away.
Dr. Bailey: In terms of immediate application each of us should ask ourselves, Whom can I treat today in a way in which I would really like to be treated? On that statement the whole Law and the prophets hang.