Vivian Malone, a young black woman, enrolled as a student at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1963. Federal troops helped ensure her entrance into the school, but Governor George Wallace tried to block her way. When he failed, Malone became the first African-American student ever to graduate from the University of Alabama. Years later, Governor Wallace was taken in his wheelchair to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, where he asked black people to forgive him for his racism, bigotry, and specifically his ill-treatment of Vivian Malone. He asked Malone for forgiveness. Malone said she had forgiven the governor years before. When asked why she had done that, Malone said, “I’m a Christian, and I grew up in the church. I was taught that we are all equal in the eyes of God. I was also taught that you forgive people, no matter what. And that was why I had to do it. I didn’t feel as if I had a choice.” 1 Vivian Malone had it right. All are equal in the eyes of the Lord. We don’t have a choice about walking in love and forgiveness. Obeying the Bible; believing the Word of God just like it says; rising up against the spirit of division with the love of God, is the only real cure to racism.
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Each week’s podcast contains a call to action. The Word of God will not produce in your life unless you put into operation.
This week’s call is:
Racism, strife and division are evil works of the enemy which have no place in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Recognizing the enemy, pulling him out of the shadows into the light is one key to overcoming it.
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Each week’s podcast also contains a question designed to encourage testimony. Testimony is vital to a believer’s life. We overcome by it (Rev. 12:11).
This week’s question is:
Question: How has the spirit of division impacted you or those around you? Did you recognize it? How did you overcome it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
You can find additional information on Racism in the Church in the resources listed below.
- #S3:034: How to Overcome Racism in the Church [Podcast]
- #S3:035: More of How to Overcome Racism in the Church [Podcast]
Emery committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ over 40 years ago and has served as both a full-time pastor and an itinerant minister. Both he and his wife Sharon of 35 years emphasize personal growth and development through the Word of God. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is both the focus and the hallmark of their mission. Read more about them here.
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- We stopped in last week’s podcast in James chapter two.
James 2:1–4 (NKJV) 1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
- The saints of God James addressed in his epistle, were swimming in social racism.
- They catered to the rich and excluded the poor.
- James uses a Greek word which the NKJV translates as partiality.
- The Greek word partiality means an inclination to favor one group or view or opinion over alternatives; especially considered as an injustice.
- The saints of God were favoring the rich over the poor to the point of injustice.
- They were giving the rich man who attended service special seating and casting the poor man aside.
Who Was This ‘Gold-fingered’ Man?
- Who was this rich man?
- The words ‘with a gold ring’ mean gold-fingered.
- It points to a man with many rings, not just a single ring.
- The rings, on this man’s hand’ reveal a 1st-century man of wealth and status.
- This guy had tons of money.
- He had rings on all his fingers.
- He wanted you to know it, too.
- The prodigal son’s father was also a man who believed in rings.
- He puts a ring on his returning son’s hand.
Luke 15:22–23 (KJV) 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
- There are Bible commentators and expositors who believe the rings show a wealth level like Forbes Billionaires List.
What about the Rich Man’s Clothes?
- Not only did this man have rings but he had duds also.
- The King James says the rich man wore ‘goodly apparel’ or fine apparel in the ESV.
- What clothes are goodly apparel?
- You get a clue by looking at the word ‘goodly’ throughout the New Testament.
- During Jesus trial, Herod put a goodly or bright and shining robe on Him.
- He did this to mock him.
Luke 23:11 (KJV) 11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
- The word gorgeous is the same word ‘goodly’.
- It’s just translated differently.
- An angel appeared before Cornelius wearing the same garment.
Acts 10:30 (KJV) 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
- The saints of God (Revelation 19:8) and His angels (Revelation 15:6) have this adjective linked to their garments.
Revelation 19:8 (KJV) 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
- Finally, the river flowing out from God’s Throne has this brilliance.
- The garments the rich man wore are bright, shining and magnificent.
- Head of the class stuff.
- Knockout Wall Street Fashion duds.
- 1 Samuel 16:7 mirrors the happenings within the walls of this church.
1 Samuel 16:7 (KJV) 7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
- The men of the church were looking at the outward appearance, the wealthy man’s clothes.
- They were not looking at his heart but staring at his wallet.
- They had ‘respect for the man with the fine clothes.
- In James congregation, what did this amount to?
- It means special seats for special suits.
- It means maneuvering for money.
- It means giving the rich man ‘the big seat’ so he will give ‘the big offering’.
- What a naturally carnal way to think.
- The saints of God, in James day, were thinking about how cost-effective to have a rich man in their hip pocket.
- Why not, no need to trust God for anything, then.
- Why you can pull your rich man out when you need him.
- It’s like having a Jack-in-the-Box. Just wind him up.
- Can you hear the song? “Oh we need some money – Oh we need some money – up pops the rich man – up pops the rich man.”
- Mark this down and don’t forget it.
- Not having to trust God is part of what makes filthy lucre filthy.
- 1 Timothy 3:3 is written to church leaders.
- It says concerning them that they are not to be greedy of filthy lucre.
1 Timothy 3:3 (KJV) 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
- But, this admonition is not just for church leaders alone.
- Church leaders are to be examples to the people.
- That means this admonition is for everyone.
- There’s a steep cost for self-dependence.
- The jockeying seen in this example is nothing more than do-it-yourself, self-help religion.
- A religion as old as Cain.
The Rich Man Was Asked to Sit in a Good Place. What Place is That?
- The word ‘good place’ is an adjective meaning an excellent place.
- Matthew 23:6 says, it is the best seat in the synagogue.
Matthew 23:6 (KJV) 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
- These were special chairs set in front of the Holy Torah Ark and facing the congregation.
- The teachers of the law sat in these seats. 2
- The Holy Ark contained the holy Torah scrolls making this spot in the synagogue the holiest place in the building.
- It sat on the east wall so the congregation faced Jerusalem.
- According to the saints, the rich man deserved to sit there.
- What image does all this conjure in your mind, money mixing with the Word of the Most High God?
- Do you remember the term Ichabod in the Old Testament?
- The glory left Israel because they tried to mix idolatry with the worship of God. (1 Sam. 4:19-22).
- No matter how you cut it, prejudice and racism just has an icky feel to it, doesn’t it?
- So as we close today, here’s a question for you.
- Is there anyone in your life you’re trying to impress to the extent of losing your moral code?
- Are there people you are currying favor with while excluding a brother in Christ?
- Are you esteeming an unsaved person over a saved one for gain sake?
- Have you discarded any family in Christ because they don’t have deep enough pockets?
- These questions and others in this neighborhood are pertinent questions if we want to overcome prejudice.
- Making these adjustments will cause an increase in God’s glory in our everyday lives.
- But, there’s more kinds of racism than just the social variety.
Isaiah 65:2–5 (NKJV) 2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; 3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; 4 Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine’s flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels; 5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.
- Did you hear that ‘holier than you’ in verse five?
- The elitist, separatists, more spiritual or the ‘more holier than you’ crowd are smoke in God’s nostrils.
- Jesus had to deal with this mindset in His earth walk.
Luke 18:10–14 (NKJV) 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- What was this Pharisee doing?
- He was magnifying the religious difference between himself and the publican.
- You know there’s a brutality aspect to racism.
- You’ve probably seen or heard or even experienced some heinous stuff along this line.
- Racism starts way before it ever gets physical.
- Racism is an attitude.
- It’s wrong thinking.
- It’s wrong believing.
- It’s wrong information.
- It’s severe error.
- Racism is spurred and motivated by the evil one of this world.
- It’s all this which is brewing in people leads to brutality in its ultimate expression.
Mark 2:16 (NKJV) 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
- There it is again, this separatists, elitist thing.
- The religious leaders of Jesus day were holier than thou.
- Jesus addressed their mindset in the following parable.
Luke 18:9–14 (NKJV) 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- The Greek word ‘despised’, here in verse nine, graphically tells the story.
- The word means to utterly disdain.
- It means to treat (someone) contemptuously as if completely worthless or despicable.
- Isn’t this what racism is, treating someone as if they were worthless or despicable?
- Now, add skin color or eye shape or gender or social position or religious affiliation to this.
- Mix all of this up and you have a racist.
- Jesus made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that racism is self-exaltation.
- The person or group who engages in it will be humbled.
- They will come crashing down.
- The early church struggled in these areas.
- For the first ten years of the church’s existence, the focus was on reaching the Jewish population with the gospel – that is until Acts chapter ten.
- An angel went to visit a Gentile, something the church itself would not do.
Acts 10:1–6 (TNIV) 1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” 4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
- So, Cornelius does exactly what the angel instructs him to do.
- He calls for Peter.
- Peter preaches the gospel to that Gentile household and the Spirit of God falls upon them.
- That move of the Spirit startles Peter into concluding that God has extended the message of Jesus to Gentiles also.
- The church could no longer be elitist.
- They could no longer be separate.
- They could no longer be just a Jewish group.
- Peter expresses himself about this events.
Acts 10:28 (NKJV) 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
- Let’s look at the Greek word ‘common’ here.
- The word ‘common’ means to be unclean.
- It means being ritually unclean understood especially as having the quality of the ordinary as opposed to the set-apart.
- The word means being of little value because of being common, ordinary, or profane. 3
- Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 91. ↩
- J. M. Wilson, “Best Seat,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 463. ↩
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 552. ↩