A Biblical Response To America’s Racial And Ethnic Crisis -- By: Steve Nicholson

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 14:1 (Winter 2000)
Article: A Biblical Response To America’s Racial And Ethnic Crisis
Author: Steve Nicholson

A Biblical Response To America’s Racial And Ethnic Crisis

Steve Nicholson

Steve Nicholson is Senior Pastor of the Evanston Vineyard Church in Evanston, Illinois. He is a graduate of Carleton College in Minnesota. He and his wife Cynthia have been involved in planting churches in Minnesota, Illinois and Croydon, England.

In the wake of the Los Angeles riots, I began to prayerfully study the Bible, looking for a scriptural response to ethnic conflict. I knew the Bible had hundreds of scriptures about the poor, but I never suspected it had so much to say about the problems of a multi-ethnic society. However, I found dozens of scriptures that spoke very directly to the ethnic problems we are facing as a nation. As a result, I have become convinced that God has a plan for a multi-ethnic society, and that racial reconciliation is the most important social need of our time.

The problem we face is not primarily political: It is first and foremost a spiritual problem. I therefore have no hope for lasting racial reconciliation apart from an approach that first deals with its spiritual dimensions. Hope lies with the church. Though in the past the church has been as separated on this issue as the rest of society, the church must move into the forefront of reconciliation if there is to be genuine healing.

Of primary importance is that we become more biblical people, and thereby more reconciled, loving people. We need to become more aware of all the dimensions involved in racism and ruthlessly root out the fears, misunderstandings, defenses, and prejudices that feed racial and ethnic separation and hostility. We have to learn how to live together as God’s people, and shape our values according to biblical rather than cultural norms.

Perhaps you recognize one of these oft-repeated statements: “But I’ve never discriminated against anyone,” “I’ve never owned any slaves,” or “Why does this issue of racism keep coming up—why can’t we just forget about it?” or “Why should I pay for what happened in the past, before I was even born?” or even “Why can’t ‘they’ just work harder and climb up the economic ladder like my ancestors did?”

Each of these statements reflects an individualistic lens. The biblical viewpoint is community-oriented. The abolition of slavery over 130 years ago did not end the problem of racism. We are not just individuals completely separated from the sins of our nation or our forefathers. We live in the effects of those sins. And God says that if the land is to be healed, the people who are called by God’s name must humble themselves and repent and confess their sins (2 Chr 7:14).

There are dozens o...

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