Putting To Death Racial Hostility

Scripture: Ephesians 2:15-16
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Reflection: Putting To Death Racial Hostility
By John Tillman

In the ancient world, every race and people claimed supremacy. Supremacy of race or of country is an ideology that is based on one of the oldest, perhaps first, sins: pride.

The secular vision of evolution does not posit equality as a trait or as a policy. In fact evolutionary biology is the source of much of the past century’s eugenics-based racist thought.

Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ as described in the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The first voice in history crying out for racial equality and the end of slavery was a Christian one.

This is why it is such an enduring tragedy that throughout history the church has struggled to keep various strains of racism from infecting and crippling the church and its work. Every era of the church is touched—and sometimes scarred—with this struggle.

While it is true that without Christian abolitionists, the abomination of racial slavery would still be common, it is equally true that many Christians also stood on the other side. Many lent support to slavery as a legal institution—allowing economic needs and cultural norms to force an ungodly twisting of their theology. (Economic needs and cultural norms fuel today’s illegal slavery crisis—including sexual slavery and secular society still has no answer to the problem.)

Idolatry takes many forms and modern Christians are just as susceptible to them as our first century counterparts were. We must not let nationalistic pride become the idol that keeps us from pursuing the death of racial hostility through the cross of Christ. Only at the cross can we drop our pride, let our hostility die, and take up the new life of unity that Christ died to give us.

Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

Because so many Christians haven’t yet learned, these words of Paul must continually be proclaimed—that in Christ the barriers of race, language, culture, and social class are all transcended. For man to put up these superficial fences truly reflects the superficiality of his humanity. — Dr. Nelson Hayashida

The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7:8

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Reflection: Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
By Jada Swanson

What is peace? Peace is not the absence of turmoil or conflict. Rather, it’s a sense of awareness and understanding, knowing that God is in control of all. It is maintaining a quiet confidence in the midst of the daily struggles of life, as well as breathing in and embracing tranquility in the middle sheer and utter chaos.

The Bible states that Christians should live peaceful lives, making every effort to live at peace with everyone. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries many who identify as Christ-followers have not followed biblical teachings in regards to peaceful living, misinterpreting peacekeeping for peacemaking.

Peacekeeping comes about through misguided, but well-intended personal efforts. To be honest, it requires a lot of work. Peacekeepers tend to smooth things over, avoiding conflict at all costs in order to keep everyone content and the relationship intact. However, this is nothing more than pseudo-peace, and instead of healing a relationship, it fractures it even more.

The Bible says nothing about peacekeeping, but instead calls us to be peacemakers. Peacemaking approaches conflict redemptively—working through real issues in order to discover a solution or a compromise. It requires having the necessary conversations, no matter how difficult. Sometimes, the best way to build peace is to embrace confrontation as uncomfortable as this may be.

Are you a peace-keeper or a peacemaker?

As Christ-Followers, we should not waste our time or energy with peacekeeping. Instead, we should strive with all that we are to be peacemakers, someone who continuously yields to God’s Spirit in them as a result of their relationship with Jesus. Let’s stop keeping peace and start making peace, not settling for pseudo-peace, but actively pursuing real peace –– God’s peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — (Matthew 5:9)

The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105:4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 1 (Listen – 7:52)
Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45) Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29) Ephesians 1 (Listen – 3:10)

The Slavery of Plenty

Scripture: Galatians 4:6-7
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Reflection: The Slavery of Plenty
By Jon Polk

Paul’s insinuation that we are slaves to forces outside ourselves is met with resistance by modern readers. We like to think of ourselves as independent beings in control of our own destinies.

We may acknowledge that those who live in countries around the world with oppressive political systems are in a form of bondage, as are those trapped by addictions to drugs or alcohol. But many who live comfortably, with good jobs, happy families and spacious homes, are reluctant to identify with the slave metaphor Paul uses to describe our fallen state.

However, although we may not recognize it, we are far too easily enslaved by our possessions, our comfortable way of life, or our status and authority.

Christians can find it difficult to resist the temptation to return to our old selfish ways. Paul is concerned for the Galatians because they “are turning back to those weak and miserable forces” (v. 9).

In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther acknowledges this difficulty, referring to our old nature as slaves to the Law.

If it thrusts its nose into the business of justification we must talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place. The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not so easy to do.

The Holy Spirit living in us reminds us that we are daughters and sons of God through the sacrifice of Christ, who was sent by God to set us free. We are no longer slaves to our selfish nature or to the cultural forces of materialism and security that seek to draw our attention away from God. Luther encourages us,

If we could be fully persuaded that we are in the good grace of God, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy and grateful to God.

As we begin to grasp the depth of what God has done for us through Christ, we find ourselves on the road to freedom, discovering our true satisfaction in God alone.

A Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62:6

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen – 4:48)
Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)

Love, Suffering, and the Struggle for Racial Equality

Scripture: Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Reflection: Love, Suffering, and the Struggle for Racial Equality
By John Tillman

Racism was not “solved” in the 60s during the civil rights era. As we read from Dr. Hayashida’s remarks from forty years ago, we see clearly the struggle was still ongoing in 1978, and we must acknowledge that it is still ongoing today.

I believe ethnic minority Christians need encouragement. For although they are Christians, the biting reality remains that they are still ethnic minorities, people who continue to contest for equality in all phases of American society….

Laws are changing. But laws and societal restructuring represent mere surface modifications. Many living in American society are experiencing no great transformation of racial attitudes. It’s easier to melt steel than it is to soften the rigid sinews of a warped heart. Because of slow-changing racial attitudes, then, I feel ethnic minority Christians must be encouraged to understand their spiritual identity in Christ Jesus.

Dr. Hayashida goes on to encourage minority Christians to study 1 Corinthians 13 and to embody the “suffering” verbs in the King James translation: suffereth, beareth, believeth, hopeth, and endureth.

It is this bountiful love of God that powers an individual to endure his hurts.

I’m not suggesting that Christians stand idly by while evil and injustice run rampant. But a Christian is asked to endure while actively working for justice, which I recognize is often slow in coming. We must suffer for Christ’s sake—a task for the strong, not the weak.

Racism must never be thought of by Christians as a problem solved by some previous era or some significant historical event. History has taught us that racism springs to life anew in each generation. In the current racial struggles that our world is facing, denial equals complicity.

When we work for racial equality we are not doing political work—we are doing God’s work. We must struggle and suffer together with God as we engage in his work of bringing freedom and equality to every people. As we do, God suffers and works with us.

The Bible reveals a God who shares in the travails of his people…I know of no other religion that makes such ado about a transcendent God who grieves for and with his people (the saints) and all people (non-believers, as Jesus weeping for the stiff-necked city of Jerusalem).

As God suffers for mankind, learn to share his sensitivities. God truly identifies in your sorrows. You are not alone. God is with you. May we be with him.

A Reading
…Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. — Matthew 10:38-39

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 23 (Listen – 5:38)
Galatians 3 (Listen – 4:39)

The Responsibility of Racial Reconciliation

Scripture: Galatians 2:11
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

How can a careful study of Scripture help the Anglo-American find a base of support from which he can launch out to become a courageous instrument of God’s peace? Can a more defined awareness of the worth and dignity of a human being contribute to a healthier racial attitude? What can you do, as a white American Christian, to demonstrate the love and work of God in your life? — Dr. Nelson Hayashida

Reflection: The Responsibility of Racial Reconciliation
By John Tillman

In Stormy Road for This Pilgrim, written in 1978, Dr. Nelson Hayashida includes a chapter titled, “A Challenge to Anglo-American Christians.” His first recommendation for White Christians struggling to understand and deal with the racial tensions of the time was to study the confrontation of the early Apostles with racial groups.

One of the most radical elements of Christianity has always been its assertion of racial equality. But that is not to say that the church has not struggled to assert this truth in our segmented and divided world. The New Testament is full of battles and arguments along racial and cultural lines—each step of the way moving the young faith closer to full acceptance of all races as being united in God’s kingdom.

It is notable that Greek Christians made little headway in being accepted on their own. They relied on their Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith to speak up for them. It was Paul, the “Hebrew of Hebrews” who was the most ardent spokesperson for the Gentile believers who were being marginalized and forced to, in essence, convert twice—once to traditional Judaism, and then, following that, to the Christian “sect” of Judaism.

In today’s racial climate, many seem to put the burden of overcoming societal barriers on the immigrant, the minority. But Dr. Hayashida was prophetically clear in 1978 that the unresolved racial strife of his time would not be solved by actions undertaken by the minorities themselves, black, Asian, or otherwise.

Anglo-American Christians must be out in the forefront in the drama of this battle. They are the ones entrusted with the major responsibility for enhancing the evolution of a societal atmosphere in which equality, justice, and respect abound for all Americans.

It is the responsibility of the more powerful party to ensure the equitability of any reconciliation. And it is up to White Christians today to not grow complacent or be in denial about the very real struggles that disproportionately affect our racial minority brethren.

Reconciliation requires both parties in any conflict to participate and either party can make the first move. However, if one party refuses to acknowledge the conflict and maintains their innocence, there can be no forward movement.

The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31:23

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 22 (Listen – 5:22)
Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)

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