Racism is taught in our society… it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics. —Alex Haley
Two days ago, I told you about a friend of mine who grew up in a region where religion and racism overlapped. You were likely horrified when you read how my friend, once he was away at college, exited a Bible study after a student with darker skin was allowed to attend.
What I didn’t tell you was that the leader of that Bible study followed my friend into the hallway. And right there, he walked him through Scripture’s teachings on equality. When they finished, my friend walked back into the room and apologized to the other student, saying, “I’m so sorry. I’ll never treat you like that again.”
Remarkably, these two students became friends, and my friend is now ceaselessly kind and generous toward those who are different from him. The Spirit’s transformative power is a beautiful thing to behold.
Sometimes we need to be open to a little reprogramming, following Peter’s example in Acts 10. Born into the same world as Jesus, Peter’s upbringing was steeped in racial tensions. Perhaps this is why God showed Peter the same vision three times: A large sheet appeared from heaven filled with animals that were unclean to eat, according to Jewish law, and a voice spoke.
“Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied, “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:13-15)
While Peter pondered this vision, men—Gentile servants of a Gentile master—stopped at his gate. And surprise, surprise (very Jewish) Peter invited them into the house as his guests. We have no idea what transpired, but “The next day Peter started out with them…” (Acts 10:23b).
Wait, we saw a similar phrase when a Gentile officer requested Jesus’ healing for his servant! “Jesus went with them…” (Luke 7:6).
This is what happens when the Spirit of Jesus—who is the same yesterday, today, and forever—indwells us. Our lives will look like His life. Our ways of thinking will mirror His ways of thinking.
Jesus moves toward people—all people—without discrimination. As His followers, we will do the same.
Jesus, You see people as precious and valuable. Live that truth through me always. If I’ve wronged someone and racism is the root of that wrong, lead me in reconciliation. Amen.
Learn more from Pete’s teaching on Luke, What Will Jesus Do?