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Racial riots and the gospel

July 2003 | by Elisha John

Hardly a day passes without an incident of racial discrimination or riot being brought to our attention, whether in the UK or around the world.

It worries me when people dealing with these issues make superficial claims that they will eradicate this problem from society.

They display an unrealistic idealism and create a false sense of peace. Racial riots between people of various ethnic communities tell us that racism is an ongoing problem among people of all colours and cultures.

I know of no race that is pure and free from this problem. It exists because, in Adam’s sin, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Political correctness

On a human level, genuine efforts are being made to bring some sort of racial harmony. But whatever welcome success they enjoy, all such attempts fall short of achieving lasting peace.

There are those who, led by the spirit of Antichrist, seek harmony by holding multi-faith services. This only produces further chaos, confusion and deception.

The old English saying, ‘All that glisters is not gold’ would be appropriate to remember when such efforts are hailed as the way forward.

Sadly, the political correctness of our day avoids facing the real issues and speaking the truth, for fear of offending others.

Preaching peace

A recent visit to Mannigham in Bradford has prompted me to say something on this issue. You may remember Mannigham as the area where racial riots took place last year which were featured in the national news.

Watching news broadcasts at that time, I prayed for the people and desired that the Lord would take me to that place to preach the peace of Christ.

This peace only comes through the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for the sin of the world.

By God’s grace I was able to preach the Word to a group of Muslims right in the heart of Mannigham, even among the charred remains of last year’s riots.

Differences

In spite of the tension, I was blessed to see the power of the gospel in some souls. I believe in the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the gospel (John 14:6), which alone can make the difference and break down racial barriers.

The time is ripe for the church to seize the opportunity to make Christ known to people of all tongues and tribes – especially those on our own doorstep.

In secular Western thinking, difference and diversity are often thought to lead to racial disharmony. As a Christian from an Asian background I challenge this position.

It is possible for people of different faiths to live side by side as human beings, while keeping their distinctive faith identities. The reason is that one knows where the other is ‘coming from’.

This is true of many (yet not all) Muslim countries as well as many individual Muslims. They would say to Christians, ‘You believe in Jesus, we believe in Muhammad (peace be upon him), yet we can be friends’.

The basis of peace

Our concern as Christians, of course, is not just to live alongside others without disturbing (or being disturbed by) them. It is rather to see the gospel having its effect on people’s lives.

For example, contrary to popular ideas, to befriend an Asian one must not water down or compromise the gospel. Christian love cannot be expressed at the expense of truth.

True love demands ‘speaking the truth’ but doing so ‘in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). Peace with God and peace with our fellow neighbours are twin blessings wrought by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-22 are proof of this. The best model of racial harmony on earth is the church of Jesus Christ – though it is only a best model, not a perfect one.

Through the work of Christ, perfect peace already exists between God and the believer. But perfect peace between men will only be possible in heaven where there is no more presence of sin.

Reality now

Nevertheless, peace through the blood of Christ can be a practical reality even now between believers of different races and cultures; Ephesians says God has broken down the division between us, not that he will do so at some future time.

However, even the church still has a lot to learn in overcoming racial prejudices and problems. The gospel must be preached to people of all colours and cultures, and then worked out in the practical living of those who are born again.

Christian love and light must be displayed in a world where racial riots are bound to occur – where nations continue to be at war and beset by rumours of wars, until the end of this age when Jesus Christ will come to judge the world.

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