Why your view of God is making you racist

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[notice]Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). In this new monthly column, Jacob McMillen examines what it means for men, young and old, to father abundant life in their families, communities, businesses and churches.[/notice]

How do you see God? Who is God to you? 

kingjesusIf you were to walk up to a random Christian today and ask this question, you’d probably hear something along the lines of: 

  • He’s my King, who I’m called to obey and serve.
  • He’s my Heavenly Father who loves me.
  • He’s my friend, because it’s a relationship not a religion.
  • He’s my Savior, because He saved me from my sins. 

These are all very nice Christian answers, but at the end of the day, they don’t really define how we see God. 

The reality is that for most Christians, at the end of the day, God is someone who wants you to be better and is being gracious/tolerant to you until you get there. 

And this is precisely why you’re racist. 

Wait… what? 

Allow me to explain. 

Shouldn’t this be simple? 

Issues of race, prejudice, and privilege have been all over the news lately. For many people, these issues are less of a news item and more of a daily reality – a lifetime of pain, loss, anger and confusion. 

And the fact is, these are issues I can’t relate to. As a young, modern man who grew up in a diverse community centered around God and sports, the concept of racial prejudice wasn’t even something I encountered until reaching adulthood. 

In fact, the world still seems ridiculously simple to me. People seem ridiculously simple to me. 

We are all essentially the same. 

At our core, we want the same things. 

We respond to love and disappointment the same way. 

We have many of the same dreams. 

We have many of the same fears. 

And for us Christians, we even have the same Father. 

So what’s the problem? 

If anything, the Church should be the safest place in the world. It should be the place where we get vulnerable in a loving community – where we are free to share our reality – where we are fully embraced and fully celebrated for who God has made us. 

So why do we have these same issues of prejudice and disunity within the Church, where the bonds of unity should be most strongly seen and felt? 

Over the last few weeks, as I watched debates rage, tempers flare, and hearts manifest, I began to notice something I’d seen before – a common thread that always seems to be present wherever dysfunction is found. 

And when I traced that thread, it led me back to this: At the end of the day, God is someone who wants me to be better and is being gracious/tolerant to me until I get there. 

Trained to find problems

Let’s look at what this statement actually means. 

If God wants me to be better, that means there are currently problems with me. 

Fair? I think we can all agree with that. 

DISAPPOINTEDAnd if there are problems with me that are displeasing to God, I should be constantly identifying those problems and either eliminating them myself or pleading with God to do His thing and eliminate them by His Spirit (or whatever your theology tells you to do when you find problems). 

This is called introspection. It involves me looking for problems within myself. 

For many believers, this is ninety per cent of their Christianity, or at least whatever percentage is left after the gossip and potlucks are finished. 

Hey look at that, I just sarcastically spotted a problem with Christians!

In fact, after spending my entire life spotting problems within myself, I’m an expert at it. I can even help you spot your own problems!

What’s more, I can spot problems in literally ANYTHING! 

And that, in a nutshell, is our modern-day Church: a bunch of people incredible at spotting problems in each other.

We often like to incorrectly use words such as “discernment” or “shepherding” to describe this practice, but our semantics do nothing to alter the dysfunction. 

We have relegated ourselves to problem-spotting. Why?

Because at the end of the day, God is someone who wants me to be better and is being gracious/tolerant to me until I get there.

How’s that working out for you?

One unfortunate side-effect of problem-hunting is that it’s very difficult to enjoy something riddled with problems, particularly when you’re so good at spotting those problems. 

For example: Last week, I watched the film Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. And guess what, I LOVED it!

Here’s what I saw when I watched Noah: 

  • Brilliant cinematography
  • A secular director daring to align the Creation narrative with scientific findings.
  • A brilliant portrayal of a sincere believer struggling between his personal moral compass and his faith that God knew best (sound familiar?).
  • A brilliant portrayal of a follower of God confused and desperately trying to hear and interpret God’s voice (sound even more familiar?)
  • A set of fantastic acting performances.
  • A film revealing a non-Christian’s attempt to make sense of a Christian story.
  • A film that put important ideas in the public spotlight and made for an easy conversation about the nature of God. 

Wow, how awesome is that? I was ecstatic! 

And then I started reading the responses of my fellow Christians. Here’s what they saw when they watched Noah: 

  • Biblical inaccuracy
  • Theological inaccuracy
  • Historical inaccuracy
  • Conspiracies to undermine God and lead people astray.
  • The “worst movie I’ve ever seen”. 

I mean seriously, we must be really fun at parties. 

spottedandwrinkledAs Christians, we have become so obsessed with spotting the problems, we don’t actually enjoy or find value in anything. 

We are surrounded by the Father, but we don’t see Him. We can look straight at the Bride and somehow only see spots and wrinkles. 

Because after all… 

At the end of the day, God is someone who wants us to be better and is being gracious/tolerant to us until we get there.

And that’s why we’re racist. 

It fits right in with our way of seeing others

This is what I see as I watch race debates and arguments unfold: 

  • Here’s your problem.
  • Here’s the problem with your people.
  • Here’s an assumption about your motivations that are causing your problems. 

For some reason or another, racial prejudice still exists. It’s a dysfunction I can contemplate in a secular world filled with dysfunction, but it would seem like the most out-of-character phenomenon inside the Church – the supposed family of God. 

Unless… 

At the end of the day, God is someone who wants us to be better and is being gracious/tolerant to us until we get there. 

Now it makes sense, because prejudice is nothing new. 

  • I have all these problems that should be fixed.
  • Catholics have these problems and should be avoided.
  • Charismatics have these problems and should be avoided.
  • Evangelicals have these problems and should be avoided.
  • Lower class people have these problems and should be avoided.
  • Blacks have these problems and should be avoided.
  • White people have these problems and should be avoided. 

Racism fits right in with our perspective of others – even fellow Christians. It may be more subtle but it’s no less real. 

We aren’t looking for value. We aren’t looking for beauty. 

We are looking for problems. 

So when video emerges of an unarmed black man being shot in the back by a police officer in an obvious miscarriage of justice, we don’t see the Church uniting to lead the world in bringing healing, wholeness, and change… 

Instead, we see Christians pointing out the problems with the victim. We see Christians pointing out perceived problems with black people. We see Christians pointing out problems wherever they can find them. 

No healing. 

No wholeness. 

No unity. 

No positive change. 

We are left with the only thing we’ve ever been searching for… 

PROBLEMS. 

The answer to your problems 

Fortunately, we have an answer to our problems. 

On a conceptual level, the answer is God, but on a practical level, your view of God is what will dictate your life. 

A healthy view of God WILL give you a healthy view of people. 

10102In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” 

Jesus came to bring us abundant life. He came to reveal the Father who leads us into abundant life. 

Just as we give our kids instruction out of a desire to see them prosper, so too does our Heavenly Father desire to see us live abundantly. 

And when we truly understand who He is and how He sees us, we begin to see ourselves in the same way. We begin to see how we are made in His image. 

We begin to look at ourselves and see Him. 

We begin to look at others and see Him.

And it’s really, really hard to think negatively when you’re looking at Jesus. 

It’s really, really hard to be prejudiced when you’re marveling at the beauty and value in every person you see. 

People in the world have lots of problems. They don’t need you to tell them that. 

I’m not interested in a Christianity of problems and neither is the world. 

What the world IS interested in is abundant life. 

Everyone wants love. 

Everyone wants intimacy.

Everyone wants wholeness.

In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

When the world starts seeing love, wholeness, and unity within the Church, we’ll begin seeing revival that never ends. 

We’ll see an entire generation experience unity unlike this world has ever seen before. 

And it starts here: At the end of the day, God is someone who loves me, who made me in His image, and who gave everything so I could experience the beauty of abundant life.

 

5 Comments

  1. Dear Jacob: Thank you for an excellent analysis of the problem that has hung on all of us for generations! Now we just have to concentrate on the solution–let Jesus CHANGE our hearts!

  2. So, I have to ‘look at others and see Jesus’. This will make it ‘hard to think negatively when I’m looking at Jesus’. WOW ! It has been a while since I’ve seen positive thinking wrapped in such a nice wrapper. Thank you Jesus for setting an example to me by pointing to sin and teaching the value of conviction leading to repentance. Without that I could fall for deception like this.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Vernon.

      Apparently my article is deception because it is “positive thinking”?

      I would normally take that as a compliment, since we have been tasked with delivering the Good News to the world and Jesus’ explicit purpose in coming was to bring us abundant life (which sounds pretty positive to me).

      Would you care to explain why Christianity, in your mind, should consist of negative thinking?

      Or is there actually something else about this article you have a problem with?

  3. Jacob, as a preacher of ‘the love gospel’ you would have studied well and therefor already know the answer to your questions. To the uninformed reader: Jesus explained in John 16v5-15 the threefold purpose of the Holy Spirit to come after His accent. Two of the three functions deals with human inadequacies that must be addressed as part of God’s plan of redemption. In doing so, a believer experiences feelings as part of the healing process that is generally uncomfortable (conviction, hurt etc.) These feelings are identified as ‘negative’ by preachers of the ‘love gospel’ and is to be avoided at all cost… even better if someone is led to believe it is not necessary at all. The end result is a fallback to carnality whereby the reasoning, untransformed (Rom12v1-2) mind governs the religious experience and the soul remains trapped in iniquity.

    • So all you’ve done so far is make assumptions about me, this newest batch having something to do with “the love gospel”.

      I’m not sure what that is, but I certainly wouldn’t preach a gospel without love.

      I’m glad you bring up John 16:5-15, because that passage is amazing news and precisely why we don’t need to be introspective.

      The Holy Spirit was given to us to convict us of both sin and righteousness. That means we don’t need to be the problem-finding experts. The Holy Spirit reveals to us when there is sin in our lives. He’s much better at it.

      There is nothing negative about conviction. It’s incredible. It’s necessary. It bring us into repentance which brings us into healing and wholeness.

      Again, you have yet to take issue with something I’ve actually said.

      You simply continue making assumptions about me and then arguing with those assumptions.