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[ RACISM AND THE ABUSE OF POWER ]

RACISM AND THE ABUSE OF POWER

I hate the fact that we should even need to write this short post.  Racism is a hideous evil in our society as is the abuse of power.  Both have been highlighted in recent days with events in the USA which, sadly, is not the first time such has happened, and won’t be the last.  It is not just something that happens in the States though, at a quick glance across the world you will see oppression of people based on race and ethnicity in places like Myanmar and Hong Kong with China’s overriding of democracy there.

At Redeemer we have people from different nationalities and cultures worshipping together in our church and it is beautiful to see.  This is just a tiny view of where history is headed.  As John writes in the book of Revelation 7:9-10: ‘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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’

 The glorious truth is that there will be no racism in the new creation. Along with that we need to remember that there was no racism in God’s original creation either. In the first book of the Bible we read about the creation of the first man and the first woman and in Genesis 1:27 it says: ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ Wonderfully, this truth grounds our equality in status, value and dignity as all those who bear God’s image.  Black and white.  Male and female. Rich and poor.

As Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ – he beautifully reminds us that in salvation the church is to be a glorious example and picture of the equality in status, value and dignity that are ours in Christ.

In the book of Exodus, we read in the 10 Commandments: ‘You shall not murder.’ This I am sure is fairly self-explanatory – we are not to take the life of another human being. Therefore, the horrific footage of what happened to George Floyd is both shocking, sickening and wrong. Seeing a white cop with his knee on a black man’s neck is an image that is symbolic of the injustice and oppression that many have, and continue, to experience not only in the US but across the world, even in our own nation and city.

In a recent message to his church Tope Koleoso (Jubilee Church, London) said: “What happened to George Floyd was racism. Racism is not a minor issue or a political issue – it is an injustice and unrighteousness issue.”

There are many verses that show God hates injustice, unrighteousness and the abuse of power.  So in Proverbs 6:16-19 we read: ‘There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

God takes it seriously when people abuse power, especially those who are supposed to guide, guard and govern.  In Ezekiel 34:4 we read: ‘The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.’

This is all in stark contrast to Jesus himself, the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep (John 10:10), the one who declares: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Luke 4:18-19)

What are we to do in light of what has happened?  I was helped by Andrew Wilson’s post at Think Theology to grieve; learn; speak and pray and particularly the point on speaking. He writes:

You might think that it goes without saying that murder is wrong, that police brutality is a problem, that racism is evil, and that the combination is an abomination. It might feel so obvious that it is not worth verbalising. But there are two reasons you should anyway. The first is that there are plenty of Christians, especially in the West, for whom the events of the last week represent isolated incidents with no underlying pattern of racism in society as a whole, and who are already responding to the situation with what-aboutery and yeah-buttery. The second is that silence, especially from those in the majority, is one of the weapons the enemy has historically used to keep white supremacy in place. Articulating your outrage, grief or prayers can challenge the first and directly confront the second.’

Knowing that there are those within our church who will be feeling things acutely because of their colour, race, ethnicity or nationality means that we felt it was important to write or say something.  Social media can be both helpful and unhelpful at times like this and some of the language and rhetoric being used, even when well-meant, can still end up feeling light and trite. We want to be absolutely clear; racism is wrong and our hearts go out to all those who face this injustice and unrighteousness. We pray that God would help us to call it out when we see it and display something of the beauty of the gospel in the face of it.

The good news we have as Christians is that Jesus not only died so that we might have peace with God, but that we might have peace with one another.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14-18: ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. 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.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.’

 Let us work to be those who declare and demonstrate this good news as the hope for all of humanity and look to the day Jesus returns for His bride, the church; the people of every tongue, tribe and nation.  Come, Lord Jesus!

We’ve included some other helpful resources that we would love you to take the time to look at, consider and apply where necessary:

PJ Smyth – Advance Movement

https://www.pjsmyth.com/blog/race-riots-response

Ryan Saville from Godfirst Fourways, Johannesburg speaking at the Advance leaders conference in Cape Town in May 2019

https://youtu.be/ECV9eHVJSlE

Ben Lindsay’s book called “Let’s talk about race.”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Need-Talk-About-Race-Understanding/dp/0281080178/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Lets+talk+about+race&qid=1591100096&sr=8-2

 

Written by Andrew Larkin, elder at Redeemer Plymouth

Redeemer Church Office | St Barnabas Terrace | Plymouth PL1 5NN

Tel: 01752 568400

Charity No : 1125216   |   Company No : 6390847