Mixed congregation

by Gustav Krös

Living in South Africa, you know the next race-related news story is never far away. Our country is known the world over for our race relations. Firstly, for our apartheid government system that was in place from 1948 and phased out during the early 1990s, but also for the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy; and so racial issues are woven into our country’s history, and has become part of our daily lives.

During September we had the incident of the Clicks shampoo advert that even made international news headlines. In the advert, a black woman’s hair was described as “dry and damaged”, and a white woman’s hair was described as “normal”. The story came to dominate the news headlines in South Africa for nearly a week and since it was such a major news event, we contemplated reporting on it, which would automatically include a Christian perspective on the story. In the end, we did not cover it, but it did lead to very insightful discussions in our office.

One aspect we acknowledged, was that racial issues are an international reality, and not unique to South Africa. We saw this with the death of George Floyd in May this year, and how the protests that flowed out of it were not contained within the USA but spread to more than 60 countries around the world. If we then look at it from a Christian perspective, we know that it has bearing on the global body of Christ, and not only to Christians in South Africa, or the USA.

As Christian, we know that there is no room for racism in our faith and there are more than enough scriptures to illustrate this, but I will only mention a few that specifically came to mind during our discussions. The first scripture that was mentioned was Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’”. We thus acknowledge that all mankind is created in the image of God, and no man can therefore be seen as a lesser being than another.

Romans 3:22-24 confirms this and unites all mankind in our sinful nature, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” So, no man can see himself better than another, because we are all sinners and deserve eternity in hell, no matter our skin colour.

We are told in Revelation7:9 that in Heaven we will be united before the throne of God, no matter what our language, culture or skin colour: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” And besides these texts, we are ultimately called to love our neighbour as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18 / Matthew 22:39).

If we consider this to be true and say that this is what we believe, then we, as Christians, should be setting the benchmark in showing the rest of the world what it looks like to establish non-racist societies. It is one thing for us, as Christians, to say in our hearts that we know that we are not racist, but we need to ask ourselves the question: “What are we doing to eradicate it from our societies?”

We know, as Christians, that our belief goes hand-in-hand with actions. We have ministries, organisations, and projects that look after orphans, widows, the homeless, the elderly and the disabled. We establish hospitals, clinics, and schools. We have community upliftment projects, job creation, skill development, and I could go on-and-on, but the one area I believe we have not committed enough action is addressing race relations.

For some reason, we have allowed it to develop into the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ topic. Even when I mentioned to people that I was planning to write my Just a Minute article on this topic, I was asked whether I am certain I should do it, and that just proves my point. We are rather advised to avoid the topic of race relations, instead of encouraging people to engage with it. In the same way that we try to improve peoples’ lives by addressing all manner of issues in our societies, we need to address our racial and cultural differences. We could save ourselves, and others in our society, so much heartache if we start stretching out our hand across the racial divide.

We need to embrace courageous conversations with our brothers and sisters from other races. We need to acknowledge that we are bound together as children of God through His Spirit that dwells in us, and that our race and culture needs to submit to His Kingship in our lives. It is one of the biggest blessings in life to sit with a brother or sister in Christ, that has a different skin colour and has a different culture but to see we speak the same language when it comes to Christ and His Kingdom. When we are able to meet each other there – within our relationship with Christ – the walls that divide us begin to crumble.

I am committed to doing my part in breaking down the racial walls that divide us, one courageous conversation at a time. The ‘ground rules’ for each conversation is first to connect with the person based on our shared faith in Jesus Christ, and that our shared faith is more important than our cultural differences. Secondly, I am not there to convince the other person that my perspective is right and theirs is wrong. And thirdly, I want to learn as much as possible of the other person’s culture and perspective.

I know there are Christians already partaking in such initiatives, but if you are reading this, and you have not yet had a ‘courageous conversation’ with a brother or sister from another race, I want to encourage you to step out of your cultural comfort zone and start the conversation. You might not end up changing the world, but it will change your perspective of the world.


Image: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/stltoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/e1/4e14c6c5-8c89-5745-8262-f6ebf64b0d6f/4e09fbbe50bce.image.jpg

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www.incontextinternational.org; gustav@incontextministries.org