Celebrating Black History Month
A Word from Your Crossroads Team: You’re reading the second post in a series of blogs we are writing on the topic of Celebrating Black History Month. During our series in February, you’ll enjoy posts from Dr. Park, Dr. Ware, Dr. Badal, Dr. Kellemen, Professor Baxter, Dean Schrader, and our Registrar—Dountonia Batts. This series, like everything we do at Crossroads Bible College is designed to glorify God by training Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world for Christ. For our first post, by Dr. Park, visit The God-Created Worth of All People. Today’s post by Dr. Ware is excerpted from a chapter in his book, Prejudice and the People of God: How Revelation and Redemption Lead to Reconciliation.
Race Became More of an Issue after My Conversion
The racial turbulence of the sixties were not personally as trying for me as for many. I enjoyed a mostly comfortable and accepting environment in my largely white public school with all white teachers. I served on the student council as a freshman, class president as a sophomore, vice president of the student council as a junior, and student council president my senior year.
I was confronted with more racial tensions after being saved, as a senior, and entering the fundamental/evangelical predominately white Christian community. While God used many of my white brothers and sisters to minister to me in ways for which I will eternally be grateful, the fact remains that race became more of an issue after I entered the church than it was in my high school.
At first, I assumed that saints saved longer than I would have good scriptural reasons for attitudes and beliefs which I witnessed and heard. An explanation was needed as I interacted with black friends that I invited to church activities in hope that they too would trust Christ for their eternal salvation, as I had done. The seriousness of the race issue to the evangelization of people, especially blacks, became a growing concern to me.
His Death Changed My Life
Rejections, put downs, and misunderstandings based purely upon one’s race can be very painful. “Racism” within the church made an unforgettable impression upon me as a young adult. One afternoon the phone rang. I picked up the phone and responded with the usual “Hello.” The voice on the other end generated a new excitement when I recognized it was Larry! Larry was a high school friend. I had not seen him for a couple of years. The joy which his voice stirred in my soul was quickly overwhelmed with sorrow by the message he shared.
“Charlie, have you heard the news?” “No,” I replied. “It’s sad man. Jon is dead,” Larry spoke slowly seeking to hold back the emotions.
At age nineteen, Jon, another high school friend, was dead. He had been released from prison only thirteen days prior to his death. In that brief time he had married and a domestic argument had ended in his fatal wound from a gunshot!
“Oh, God, why did it end this way for Jon?” My mind began to race back over the years of friendship I shared with Jon. I remembered the night when, with tears in his eyes, Jon walked the aisle to receive Christ after hearing the gospel at a youth camp. Times when we went to church, prayed, and studied the Bible together all flashed through my mind. Jon had even talked strongly about attending the Christian college from which I graduated.
The Question I Was Not Prepared to Answer
But it was never to be! Why? Within the Christian community, racism in its subtle manifestations created a major stumbling block for Jon. I remember the drive home one evening after a youth rally. The preacher had given a dynamic and dogmatic presentation of the gospel. I wanted to personally confront some of my unsaved passengers with their need to receive Christ. I prayed for courage. Finally, I asked, “Well, what did you think about the message?” All chatter stopped and a frightening silence filled the car for about thirty seconds, which seemed like an eternity.
“How could he say that,” responded an emotionally charged voice. I sat for a moment seeking to discern the motivation for the objection—antagonism against morality, hatred of Christ, or arrogance? Finally with a determination to take a stand for Christ, I asked, “How could he say what?” “How could he tell us not to go to a secular college when up until a few years ago they wouldn’t even accept us in their colleges,” my friend responded, with strong emotion.
The response was both surprising and disarming! The preacher did have high praises for Christian colleges and harsh criticism for secular universities, but the major thrust of his message was salvation. But what do you say to your “brethren according to the flesh” to convince them that the Christ of Christianity really loves them, when some Christians have historically rejected them?
One of the blacks in the car that night was Jon. Jon faced further rejection during a youth activity. The director took him aside and warned him not to get too close to the white girls. Jon was an outstanding high school athlete and a young Christian. He was not pursuing girls; they were seeking to be in his presence.
Unanswered Questions May Lead to an Undesired End
Some find answers to such dilemmas and keep moving forward, others do not. Jon did not. His inner conflict created fertile ground for Black power advocates to plant seeds of destruction in his mind. He decided to attend a secular college, in part due to a lack of Christian love by the church, rather than a Christian college. He followed the wrong path to his death. But I will never forget that his course was changed in part due to his confrontation with racism in the church. What might his end have been if the love of Christ would have embraced him through the arms of the saints?
In the sixties there seemed to be, within the fundamental/evangelical circles, precious few who were willing to discuss racism. Sermons and counsel often criticized black leaders and excused and/or covered poor racial attitudes and policies/actions practiced by white believers.
Seeking Answers from the Scriptures
While at Bible College, I began to study what God had to say on this subject. Early in my education I wrote a paper for a class entitled, “Prejudice and the People of God.” This paper was written in part to clarify for myself what God had to say about racial reconciliation and to speak up on behalf of Larry. I sensed a responsibility to attempt to protect others from unbiblical barriers which leaves one feeling unwanted in the family of God.
Biblical love is commanded and should be an identifying trait of Christians. Every believer needs to discover and demonstrate love in their relationships. The very life of another may depend on our love. Our color, black or white, has been sovereignly given without our choice, but we are commanded to love. Love is a choice. Lack of love is disobedience.
The Rest of the Story
What impact does biblical, Christlike love have on our cross-cultural relationships. We invite you to return to the CBC blog often as Dr. Ware will be continuing to address this issue of Color Me Love. In the next installment in this series, Dr. Ware will share 3 Aspects of Biblical Love with Application to Racial Reconciliation.