What Does Racism Have To Do With Discipleship?

Why do so many white Evangelical Christians struggle to respond correctly to racial injustice?
While I can’t speak for all of them, I believe that I can speak for some of them.
I have spent my entire life in the white, American Evangelical church. And most of that time was spent in a church setting where it was common to say, “We’re not racist, BUT…”
…and then they would say or do something racist.
(I could give all the specific details, but that would take a much longer article.)
To be fair, most of the racism I observed was more cultural than it actually was about race. That is to say, they disliked black (or brown) culture because it was different, more than they disliked the color of someone’s skin.
But ultimately, it was still racism and unacceptable within the body of Christ.
Getting back to the original question of why the majority of white Evangelical Christians struggle to respond correctly to racial injustice; they do so…
…because they are either immature or false believers.
…because they are cultural Christians rather than disciples of Jesus.
…because they do not understand what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple.
And when I say “they,” I mean the vast majority of them; including pastors and church leaders.
(Unfortunately, I have seen pastors and church leaders be some of the most racist.)
We have to realize that when you ask the majority of white, American Evangelical Christians to respond correctly to racial injustice, you are asking them to do something that they are not spiritually mature and spiritually equipped enough to actually do (if they are even true believers at all).
My point is that we will first have to lead the vast majority of white, American Evangelical Christians into spiritual maturity through a rigorous discipleship process before we can expect them to respond to racial injustice correctly.
Otherwise, to demand that white, American Evangelical Christians respond to racial injustice correctly and completely right this very instant; is the equivalent of demanding that a child begin to act like an adult right now without teaching them how to act like an adult, and without allowing them the time to grow into that maturity.
But what then should we do about racial injustice right now?
We should continue to talk about it; but rather than demanding that everything be fixed right now, we should point out that our inability to properly respond to racial injustice is proof that we are not the spiritually mature disciples of Jesus that we should be.
In fact, the consistent racism that I observed in the church setting that I grew up in was one of the first indications to me that we were not the disciples of Jesus that we should be. It was one of the factors that pushed me to learn and understand what it really means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple.
We need other church members to come to that same conclusion. We need them to realize that something is wrong and that the only way to fix the problem is to correctly imitate and obey Jesus as His disciples.
Then, as we lead them to become mature disciples of Jesus, they should know how to properly respond to racial injustice.
During this crisis, I have seen multiple people quote from 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.”
But what I have not seen are people continuing on in the book of Ephesians to where Paul explains how to practically accomplish that:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. […] That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; l and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:11-24).
Scripture clearly teaches that church leaders are to equip the members of the church through discipleship, so that they mature into the likeness of Jesus; so that they might be re-conformed into the image of God that they were originally created to be (so that they might render unto God the glory He is due).
And then, as we are conformed to the image of Jesus, the One who reconciled all races through His death on the Cross; we also will become reconcilers who put to death the hostility between races.
If you would like to learn more about what it means to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, and to be conformed to His image, start here and follow the link at the end of each article to the next one: The Four Principles of Discipleship…