Along with 300 plus churches in the Austin area, Gateway Church in Austin began a series called “Love Where You Live.” Tasha Morrison and I (along with a panel) spoke on “A Love Greater Than Ethnicity.”
Check out the Next Steps here:
Next Steps – A Love Greater Than Ethnicity
Consider a conversation with your life group, family over dinner, running partners, or neighbors using the questions and exercises.
Watch the message here:
Read the message notes here:
Politics, race, ethnicity, religion, social class – so much seems to divide us.
How can we possibly love where we live when we are surrounded with people who hurt us, come from a different background, believe differently or vote differently than we do?
In this series, we are discussing how we can become agents of change by building bridges to create a new future that connects to God’s heart.
In our broken world, we can see injustices all around us. Just watch the news!
For some of you, you don’t have to watch the news to see/experience injustice, it’s part of your everyday lives. Discrimination and racism and oppression are all too common.
In this room, many of us have felt judged or stereotyped or persecuted or victimized because of our appearance.
In our broken world, we are raised with prejudices and biases. It may have been the result of your family of origin or the result of where you grew up. We need to acknowledge that our broken world pits us against each other. Our society has created open doors for some and shut doors for others – just based on the color of our own skin.
Unfortunately, not only has society pitted us against each other, but over the centuries religious people have used the Bible to oppress people. In the name of religion, people have misinterpreted the Bible according to their own evil agenda rather than applying what the Bible actually says,.
The true message of the Bible, however, is that all people are made in God’s image and should be treated with the dignity that status affords them regardless of our biases or prejudices. God’s love is for all people, and in fact He made us different for a reason – a beautiful mosaic of humanity – that we might learn to love each other the way He loves all of us. Not just a theoretical love, but a practical and real love.
1 John 3:18 says: Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
We are called by God to actually and practically love people not just talk about loving people.
Consider Galatians 3:28 which communicates God’s heart to us:
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Not that long ago, Dr. Martin Luther King said: “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
Have we made much progress since then? The Church should be leading the way! Instead we have a history of racism and colonialism.
You may be thinking: I am so glad I am part of a church like Gateway. We are far more open to people from all sorts of backgrounds. Certainly, we want you to know that if you have been excluded or oppressed or hurt in any way by someone using the Bible as a weapon, we see that as a tragedy. We want to be a church that loves, serves, reaches, and empowers all peoples.
We’ve made my book Not Like Me available during this series. I called the chapter on ethnicity White Men Can Jump (Just Not As High): Overcoming Stereotypes.
Here’s our hope. Realize we have not arrived. Each of us has biases – unintentional or intentional – towards others who are different or towards others who look just like us! Each of us has room to grow in loving others who are different than us! As a church, we have not arrived. We have so much more room to grow to become even more an expression of love to our city.
When we think we have arrived, we miss what God has next for us!
Listen with an open heart and an open mind to what God has for you this morning.
If we’re honest it’s easy to love others who think like us and look like we do. We enjoy being in community with people who have shared experiences or belief systems. But if we all had that mindset and only associated with those like us, how would it benefit God’s kingdom? How does loving those we deem unlovable benefit others? We need bridge builders because the message of Jesus is for everyone. When we stay in our own racial boxes we leave room for harmful assumptions and dehumanizing stereotypes.
Let’s take a look at John 4:3,4,5,9-10
3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.
4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph…. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
In this passage Jesus has to go through Samaria to return to Galilee. Samaritans were hated by Jews for being of mixed blood and how they worshiped. They were detested among Jews. Jews when traveling from Galilee to Judea or Judea to Galilee would go several miles out the way to avoid interacting with Samaritans. But Jesus made a decision to be inconvenienced and go through Samaria. What example was he setting? What message was he sending to the disciples and to us? I believe Jesus wanted us to forsake our personal prejudices for the sake of the His message. He wanted to show us that this belief that someone is less than or inferior because of who they are and where they come from is wrong. He wanted to show us all that This Samaritan woman was created in HIS image, she’s highly loved and highly valued. Jesus gave us the perfect example in this story. The very thing Jesus warned His disciples against, we’ve done in America. We’ve built a country on Racial prejudices and Racial Hierarchies.
But Jesus built bridges! He went outside the man-made boundaries and constructs intended to segregate us from each other. He spoke to a woman which was unheard of. He spoke to a Samaritan – a woman with a different ethnic background who also had a different view on faith.
Jesus shows us the way!
Jesus prayed: Matthew 6:10: Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
If the Kingdom of God, is not segregated, why on earth are God’s people ethnically segregated? Even if we sit next to each other on Sundays, are we truly in each other’s lives? If we can learn to love each other here at Gateway it will help us love others in our community.
I think many of us will be very surprised when we get to heaven. There will be no White side, Black side, Latino side or Asian Side. Because God’s Kingdom isn’t divided by race. God didn’t create race. Race is a social and political construct developed in early 16th century America.
I believe the message Jesus was communicating was that of the Imago Dei. That all are created in His image. We are all apart of Him. We are His creation. Each ethnicity reflects an aspect of God uniquely, so than no one tribe of people can adequately know God or display His image in all His fullness? It takes every tongue and tribe to represent all of God. How do we view everyone as Image Bearers? First we must dismantle what we believe about Race. Race is a social construct that has divided and set one group as a hierarchy on top of the other. This does not mean we take a color blind approach to community because that perception completely denies all of who God created us to be. Galatians 3, DOESN’T mean [that those aspects of our identity are not important, that we should all be the same. We must become COLOR BRAVE not COLOR BLIND. We must love in spite of differences.
The bible has a lot to say about Ethnic relationships from Genesis-Revelation…Many people are surprised to learn how often the Bible talks about ethnic groups and “ethnic relations”. If we look at the Bible in its original languages we find that the Hebrew word goy and the Greek word ethnos were used very frequently. These two words are typically translated into English as “nations” or “Gentiles” but their meaning was very close to our modern understanding of “ethnic groups”.
The unity of the Church is very important to God, but He meant there to be great diversity within that unity.
We can learn so much when we step out of our comfort zones and across ethnic boundaries. The first step toward reconciliation calls us out of our boxes, our comfort zones, our sameness. It’s awkward and at times uncomfortable. It’s not easy but imperative.
In the book “Divided by Faith” Sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith confirm that people who attend church regularly spend 70%-80% of their time relationally with others who attend the same local church as they do. Most of our churches are racially segregated. What does this say about the time we spend with those who are unlike us ethnically and culturally? Barna recently did a study and found 73% of Christians believe the church has an important role to play in racial reconciliation but only 2.5% of our churches in America are multi-ethnic.
The Message of Jesus unites us across ethnic lines. The most thriving communities are those that are relationally connected and racially integrated. We need to be in community to with one another.
Jesus commands us to leave what is culturally comfortable in order to make disciples as we live among all people, no matter who they are or from where they come (Matthew 28:19, 20). I find it interesting many are more comfortable doing this in other countries but not in America. Why are we more comfortable going to Latin America or Africa then across Hwy 35, or what some refer to as “The wrong side of the tracks”?.
Racial Segregation perpetuates misunderstandings. Left to our own devices, and unchallenged, we begin to view others through our own narrow personal cultural lens. We judge entire cultures and people groups through our own personal myopia. Those who are culturally blind treat everyone the same without regard to cultural differences and God’s beauty of diversity. Being Colorblind is not the answer.
Jesus was the ultimate bridge builder. Although Nehemiah built a wall he was a bridge builder. Paul was a bridge builder to the Gentiles.
You and I are called to be bridge builders!
You can start with getting to know your brothers and sisters in the family of God.
This is beyond having one friend who is ethnically different than you are.
- Seek different relationships.
- Pray for opportunities.
- Step out of your comfort zones.
- Become a student.
- Become a good listener.
- Acknowledge truth and lament historical injustices as you become aware of them.
- Learn from others who are different from you.
- Notice and take responsibility for negative stereotypes that you have embraced.
We are connected! We are part of the same family! We need to build bridges so we can build each other up and become credible witnesses for God’s diverse Kingdom!
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
– 1 Corinthians 12: 26
You were created in the image of God! I can learn so much from getting to know you – the real you.
The person next to you was also created in the image of God.
The person at work who moved here from another country was created in the image of God.
As we learn to build relational bridges, we will have the opportunity to connect others to the One who created us all and loves us all and gave Himself for us all.
We may sit in a room with others who are different than us, but have we sat together over a meal? Have we really gotten to know others in our church? Have we really gone outside of our comfort zone to truly befriend and even share a meal in our home with those who look differently than us including people at church, our neighbors, our co-workers?
Stereotypes exist because friendships do not.
This broken world needs us to build bridges and share the faith, love, and hope of Jesus!