Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and Christ is in all.  Colossians 3:11

 

Racial tension is NOT a new subject for America.  We have battled race issues from our inception.  Our history with everyone from Native American to Irish, African-American to Chinese, is littered with overt and covert racial overtones.

Racism is prevalent for lots of reasons.  For example, cultural differences can cause us to look askance at each other (on a good day, we visit a cultural affair and admire those differences).  Skin color has caused more than a few misunderstandings and misconceptions (prior racial theorists developed continuums based on “whiteness” and “blackness”).  Language barriers are always difficult to overcome.

Then there are some that are more difficult to peel away.  One involves religion (not faith, but religion), and battles for supremacy that can be waged by different groups.  And another involves jobs and displacement, as a newer group moving in causes insecurity, fear and even bitterness among existing groups, igniting racial tensions.

You may be surprised to learn that racial tension is not a rare subject in Scripture.  The entire New Testament, we might argue, while fleshing out the fledgling Christian beliefs for a new movement, occurs within the backdrop of huge racial tension.  The Jews—God’s chosen people, to bring redemption to earth.  And the Gentiles—Pagan usurpers who had begun moving into places that Jews had had proprietary involvement before.

So, a book like Romans, while dealing with lofty theological issues about our salvation and call, will spend significant time talking about how Jew and Gentile are to view each other and live together.  Ephesians is rich in such thinking (Christ “destroys the dividing wall of hostility…”).  Of course Acts, with the stories of expansion of the gospel to Gentiles, highlights those tensions amid God’s purposes to knock down racial walls.

Underlying the radical New Testament thinking is an idea, that in Christ, our differences, our anger and bitterness, our estrangement, will begin to disappear.  So Paul can make his claim in Colossians 3, “here (in Christ) there is no Jew or Gentile.”

Does he mean that our racial identities go away in Christ?   No, he means, in Christ, those identities are no longer a way to create hierarchy, ladder, estrangement, indeed, racism.  Christ means for his church in America, like his church in Scripture, to be on the front line of both knocking down walls, and living in rich community together.

Jeff Arnold is the senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Beaver, PA.  He lives with his wife Karen in Beaver, PA.  They have three grown children.

 

First Presbyterian Church is an Evangelical Presbyterian Church located in Beaver, PA.  They have four worship services on campus, two that are more traditional and two that are more blended contemporary.  They have active ministries for all ages.