The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.
Martin Luther King Jr.
When Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the equality of all people, he wasn't just working for the transformation of America, he was working for the transformation of the Church.A dying man's last words are often his most important, and in the 17th chapter of the gospel of John we read the last recorded prayer of Jesus before going to the cross. Our Savior could have prayed for a lot of things here. He could have prayed for the overthrow of the Romans, or the spread of the gospel, or for... himself. But He didn't. In some of His final moments on this earth, Jesus prayed for us and for the unity of His Church. Not just a church, but the Church: all believers on the earth.
“... I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23
Did you notice the "if/then" statement that this passage clearly makes? The Church should be unified "so that the world may believe that you have sent me..."and "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Jesus says the unity of the Church causes people to believe in Him. Unity is evangelistic! It is so evangelistic that Jesus made it His final prayer. I guess this means He actually did pray for the spread of the gospel. And, tragically, we must assume that disunity in the Church has the opposite effect.
Disunity in the Church causes the world to not believe in Jesus.
Disunity is... anti-Christ? I'm afraid so, and you don't have to look far to confirm it. Because of this, I agree with author Philip Yancey that racism in the Church is one of the most vile sins of all.
"It took years for God to break the stranglehold of blatant racism in me - I wonder if any of us gets free of its more subtle forms - and I now see this sin as one of the most poisonous, with perhaps the greatest societal effects." Philip Yancey, Confessions of a RacistMost of us think segregation ended long ago. But do you know which day is the most segregated day of the week? Sunday, of course. Obviously, segregation is no longer legislated; today it's voluntary. Even worse.
Now I'm not saying that this is just a white problem, or that we all need to go to the same church. Disunity occurs for many reasons. However, I do believe we all have the responsibility to somehow respond to the prayer of our Savior in John 17.
But how do you respond? What can one person do? What can you and I do today? Pastor Beau Hughes address this in a recent blog post for The Village Church.
Of course, it’s too easy and ultimately unhelpful to merely point out the continued existence of racial discord in our midst, especially for Christians. As Pastor Frank Reid noted in an article for Christianity Today, “We’ve made a sport of pointing out racism, when what we should be doing is focusing our prayers and actions toward creating congregations that proclaim Christ’s lordship over his entire church.” We need to move past hopeless observations about racism and look to God for hope and direction.
You can begin the same way Jesus did, looking to the Father in prayer. Praying for other churches and pastors by name, praying for other ethnic groups, praying for racial unity in the churches of your city and most of all, for unity in your own heart. We never know what prayer will change around us, but we do know that it always changes us. Ask God to fill your heart with His unconditional love and compassion for all of His family, your brothers and sisters. Pray that you would be the Church Jesus prayed for, so that the world would believe in the Him.
Read the rest of Beau's article here: The Gospel and Racial Harmony