In the early 1970’s my mom was in a band and traveling all over the United States. The Jesus Movement was taking place and teenagers all over the United States were surrendering their lives to Jesus. My mom and her band traveled to a certain city in Alabama to play at a church. When they got there the church was thrilled to have them. Until…. Until the church found out the drummer was African American. The church said “Your drummer is African American and will not be allowed into this church to play”.
My mom was appalled when she heard this. She had read in the Bible that the Gospel message of Jesus was for all people. She was not having any of that. She told the preacher if you don’t let our drummer in, we will go play on the street corner. Sadly, the preacher turned my mom’s band away. This did not stop my mom and the band from playing. They chose to play of the corner opposite of the church and the majority of the people joined her band instead of being in church that day.
While in college one day at a church service my roommate turned to me and said “Billy, I love you and I’m sorry”. I was like, “Sorry for what, bro? We just chilling in church right now listening to the Word.” He said “I was raised to hate white people and that see white people as the devil.” He went on to say he was upset when he had learned that he was to have a white roommate. But I treated him with such dignity that it convicted him. We hugged and wept together and to this day, we are brothers. It pains me to see that racism still exists in the church and in our culture.
In the Bible, in Acts 10, God gives the Apostle Peter (the leader of the early church) a vision. At the time, despite the teachings of Jesus, all Peter can see was his Jewishness; his ethnicity and traditions. After the vision, when Peter shares the Gospel of Jesus with Cornelius (a Gentile, not a Jew), he begins to understand his vision from God. The Gospel is for all people. Peter must look beyond his politics, race, and traditions. In Acts 11 Peter will go and make a stand to the church leaders (all Jewish at that time) that the Gospel is for all people; who are they to come against God and His message?
Our culture is little different. There are African Americans, Hispanics, Caucasians (White people), and Asians who, sadly, cannot see beyond their race. There are many who allow our politics, race, ideologies, and traditions to keep us from loving others and sharing the good news of Jesus to them.
The Bible gives no room to any race or group of people to be full of hate and racism, or to foment division. What we need right now is for people like Peter (of all races) to rise up, like my mom and like my roommate, and say “Enough”. This is wrong and no matter the cost I will stand for Jesus, His love, and His Gospel message. We must grasp that God created all people in His image and loves all people.
Are we treating Police Officers as people created in the Image of God? Are we treating African American as people created in the Image of God? Are we allowing our race, politics, and ideologies to blind us, like so many before us. To the extent that we refuse to love others as ourselves?
Just like in the Book of Acts, God’s good news message of Jesus resulted in racial reconciliation. And when the Gospel does its work, we can see racial reconciliation in today’s culture as well. But it will mean counting the cost, sharing Jesus with everyone, and loving all people no matter what others of our own race say or tell us.
I leave you with this challenge, the same challenge I gave to the church I pastor: Caucasians, intentionally go to African Americans and Hispanic people and get to know them. Get to know their story and see how you can love and serve them. I also challenge African Americans and Hispanics to hear Caucasians out. Hear why they believe what they believe and think the way they think. I also challenge every race to intentionally seek out police officers to pray for them, befriend them, get to know their story, serve them, and love them.
We have an opportunity to impact our nation in a positive way; I pray we do. Never forget the Gospel of Jesus is for all people and God loves all races. Therefore all people should, like God, love all races.
~ Billy Bernhard, Lead Pastor of Acts Community Church