A Holy Ethnicity

I often have the opportunity to sit with “church leaders” of various ethnicities in the Charlotte NC area and discuss many hot button topics. As you could probably guess, as of late, the Presidential Election has been the prevalent topic. While the conversations have always remained civil and respectful, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an “elephant” in the room which we all avoided mentioning- racial tension. Sides were being taken along racial lines, and it really grieved my heart that no one (including me) addressed the issue. This got me thinking about the verse in I Peter 2, where Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Hmm… race, nation… Is there anything we can learn from this other than the usual, “I’m royalty.” bit?

Peter tells his readers that they are a chosen γένος (genos) or race. That’s where we get our word gene, genetic, etc… He also calls them an ἔθνος (ethnos) ἅγιον (holy) or holy nation. Ethnos, hmm…ethnic, ethnicity- interesting.  I began to think of the diverse audience to which Peter had written. I thought of the social and cultural context in which they existed. Here were a people (Jew & Gentile alike) scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, living under the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire. If you weren’t a Roman citizen, chances are you were having a pretty bad day. In the midst of this difficulty, Peter wants the believers to understand that they are a holy “ethnic group,” intentionally chosen by God. Brothers and sisters, in Christ, we are no longer white or black Americans. We have been made into a brand new, holy ethnicity!

As children of God, we are a new creation. We are in Jesus, and there is no Jew, Gentile, Black, or White.  A new man has been created in Christ. A new, holy “ethnos” has been made out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue! There is no place for racism of any kind in the body of Christ for we are all together a chosen race and a holy nation. When we as members of the body of Christ define and/or divide ourselves along racial lines we are being carnal and have forgotten that we are literally joined together as one in Christ. When we make distinctions along racial lines according to the flesh, referring to “our people,” “our this,” or “our that”; we have forgotten who we are in Jesus. Frankly, I as a middle-aged, white, southern, male Christian should be more at home with my black sister from New York than I am with a middle-aged, white, southerner who doesn’t know the Lord. Think about it. The same Holy Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ. Shouldn’t we have more in common with each other than with the world? Shouldn’t we resemble one another? Shouldn’t we desire  fellowship  with one another more than we do the fellowship of those who are our “kindred” after the flesh?

Brothers and sisters, a President is not the hope of our people. A transforming political ideology is not what our people need. We have a King, and his name is Jesus. We are one in his Spirit, a chosen race, a holy ethnicity. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and though we are many; we have been made partakers of the same Spirit. So, while in the world, comments like, “You can’t possibly understand because you’re not black/white.” may be the norm, in the body of Christ, we know each other after the Spirit. We always have common ground and avenues of understanding because in Him, we are one.

The political process has served to expose the earthly-mindedness of many of God’s people. Apparently, we have become so in love with this world that we are willing to be divided from our brothers and sisters in Christ for the sake of our own carnal desires. We have forgotten that together, all of us make up the body of Christ. We belong to Him and to each other. We are called out from being simply a white man, or a black woman. We are a brand new creation in Christ. We are a chosen race with a common “genetic code.” We  are a holy ethnicity, a brand new nation of people, set apart in Christ,  to show the world the glory of our King.

 

 

 

 

 

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Vessels not Vassals

Christian, do we really think that legislation is the cure for what ails the land? Do we really believe that we can extend love, grace, and mercy to a group of people that for all intents and purposes we are at war with? Do we really think that the kingdom of God is furthered by amendments and laws?  We are called to preach the gospel, not pass laws. Only the Spirit of God can change the hearts of men. We are called to be vessels of God’s spirit, not vassals of the world system.

Perhaps it is easier to take up arms, march out of classes and demonstrate than it is to get on our faces before God and repent of our own sins. Have we forgotten that the same verses of scripture used to condemn the homosexual also include unrighteousness, envy, murder, disobedient to parents, deceit, gossip, strife, malice, unloving, unmerciful, and without understanding in the same list of sins? When is the last time you as a Christian young person disobeyed your parents? Are you a gossip my dear brother? Are you arrogant? Do you lie to your family and friends? Are you envious? Let me ask you; are we to pass laws against these sins as well?

Maybe the answer to what ails the land is congruent with what ails the church. Perhaps we in the church should repent of murdering our babies, cheating on our wives, spending hours looking at porn on the internet, getting high, etc… Maybe then, after we return to the Lord with all our hearts allowing him to cleanse us and continuously fill us with his Spirit, our lives will be a living gospel transforming those around us. Could it be that what the world needs to see is a church arrayed in the beauty of holiness, a church consumed with love for her Lord, a church meting out agape instead of amendments?

Yes Christian, we are called to holiness. We do not condone sin or make excuses for it. But, that’s the conversation that should be happening within the church. Why are we surprised that the world is behaving immorally? They are without Christ, dead in their trespasses and sin, just like we were at one time. That’s what sinners do-sin. Do we honestly think we can legislate a new heart for them? Or, is that really our goal? Could it be that we are so in love with this world’s system, having confused the American Dream with the blessings of God, that we fear the nation’s sin will bring God’s judgment on the land , and we might lose all of our stuff? Spirit of God, search our hearts.

Let’s turn away from of our preoccupations with, “team Zimmerman,” “team Trayvon,” and our hatred for Dan Savage. Let’s come together in prayer and repentance, asking God to give us a hatred for the sin resident in our own lives. It is time for us to repent of our sin, turn away from our dead religion, quit “running to Egypt for help,” and wash our garments. Let us who are called by his name run to the cross, weep and pray between the porch and the altar, turn from our own wickedness, and return to the Lord in truth. For if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the wicked. Do I hate sin because I am in love with a holy God, or because I am in love with a self-righteous me? Yes friend, judgment is coming, and it begins with God’s house.