The recent events of the hate killing in Charleston, South Carolina, have really brought a plethora of issues to the surface for discussion. My blog is not for political comment, though I will be prepared to speak out as a minister of the gospel, when the British government cross biblical lines. However, our concern as Christians should be for the household of God. I have deliberately used the metaphor "the household of God" because this stresses the family aspect of the church. Paul uses this metaphor in 1 Timothy 3:15 "if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth". Peter reminds us in a sobering way that the church must examine herself because "For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
There are several matters to address.
1). Any form of racism in the church is a sin and perhaps one of the most heinous and deceptive of sins. It is most heinous when anyone appeals to the Bible, the "Book of Truth" to suggest that anyone of a particular skin colour is inferior to another or worse still to suggest that they are sub-human, normally to "white people". There has been a most wicked teaching put forward in South Africa and parts of the USA which suggest that black people are the "seed of Ham" who was under God's curse. There is not the slightest biblical evidence for this.
Genesis 1 is clear that all are made in the "image of God" and likewise "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 3:23). It is essential and fundamental to the Christian gospel to accept these two propositions. To do otherwise is to tamper with the gospel, of which Paul pronounces in Galatians 1 a most serious judgment. "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9).
2). Many attempts are made to reach out to specific people groups or social groups and what has emerged are often unbiblical expressions of Christianity. Convenience and social factors have overtaken the apostolic biblical imperative. It is not uncommon to have in the UK, churches based on a particular race such as "Chinese churches", "Nigerian churches" and so forth. I have heard that in The Netherlands there have been attempts to establish so called "Youth churches"; where only 16-23's are encouraged to attend. And in the USA there are "Biker churches" and who knows what else?
Why are these wrong? It is because the New Testament forbids us to divide up the body of Christ. The Lord's Supper involves the breaking of a single loaf which is then to be distributed to the many. Our communion in the church is affected when the body is divided. A local congregation should represent the various social, racial, ethnic and Christian people in a given area. When Sheffield Presbyterian Church was planted, our deceased minister Rev Brian Norton exhorted me that this church plant should represent all peoples and that it should not become a "Reformed club".
Listen to some of the New Testament teaching on this matter.
Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all".
Galatians 3:28-29 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise".
1 Corinthians 1:12-13 "What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?".
3. The composition of churches should be for all peoples. We should never allow the body of Christ to be divided up! We must hold firm at this point, though it will be challenging to our convenience and preferences, due to sin, social factors and other things. We must labour diligently in every nation, to please our Lord Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. The verses just cited teach against the church being divided due to race, social position, personal preference for our favourite preacher and so forth. Paul, Peter and Apollos all preached the same message. However, this issue I am raising is not about maintaining unity where there is clear doctrinal error.
The challenge of a blog post is that I simply get the chance to introduce topics generally, which then need further reflection. I hope that we can reflect more on these matters raised here and that we remember the exhortation of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything".