In the ongoing story over Mallary Baptist Association and its historic decision to disfellowship a church over racism, Director of Missions Hans Wunch shares insight on how its churches struggled with the question of when is it appropriate to take such drastic action. The hard decision was the first time in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention that a church has been disfellowshipped due to the charge.
Where’s the Line?
Earlier this year, it became clear that one of the churches that was in our Association was behaving in a way towards another one of our churches that was unkind, unloving, and quite frankly racist.
Several meetings followed. Wisdom and assistance were offered to see if reconciliation could occur. We thought that progress was being made early in the process. But, just as quickly as that positive movement was made, it was followed by several negative actions.
Our Association holds up the Bible as our ultimate authority. Jesus told us in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Thus, we felt we must take action to disassociate with the offending church. When we did that, we became the first SBC Association to disassociate a church over racism.
All of this caused me to wonder, where is the line? Where is that point where everything before that is poor taste and everything after that stems from a false belief that certain races are better than others?
In other words, at what point does being rude turn into being racist? Let’s face it, some people are rude to anybody, regardless of their ethnicity. I know those people, you probably do to. But some individuals are only rude to certain races. They are sweet as sugar to people who look like, talk like, act like them. But, if the other person has too much, or not enough melanin, well, this individual already assumes the other person is not in the same class. In my opinion, this is racist. But where is the line?
There are those who point out racism more than others. So called “race baiters” seem to find racism around every corner. Like the little boy who cried wolf, this makes others skeptical of actual racism. Racism is real, just like wolves are real. Just because some chose to “play the race card” with regularity, doesn’t mean that racism is a myth, or that people aren’t judging others “by the color of their skin, instead of the content of their character.”
Again, I ask, where is the line?
Racism is more than skin deep. If God created man in His image, then all men are created equal. However, if certain races are only 3/5 human or even if one race is in some way “better” than another, then the image of God is diminished, or not present. It seems to me that the easiest way to look down on another race, is to refuse to see them as image of God bearers
Make no mistake, denying someone, anyone, their standing as an image of God bearer is to call God a liar. We have a common heritage. All of us come from the line of Noah, who came from the line of Adam. All humans bear the image of God. Denying that someone bears the image of God, makes it easier to hate someone. Believing everyone is an image bearer makes it easier to love one another.
That is where the line starts, with the belief that every human, of every race, of every nationality, bears the image of God. Thus, the line does not separate one side from another. Instead the line encircles us. The line doesn’t stop there, because that belief compels us to love our neighbors as ourselves, no matter who are neighbors are.
The line continues to share the greatest gift of love, the good news that Jesus Christ died that we can trust in His sacrifice for our sins. That He laid down His life for us… all of us, regardless of melanin, or ancestry. Which means the line is the Great Commandments lived out through the Great Commission.
The line begins at our feet and leads us to “Go and make disciples of every nation.”
For an earlier discussion of the origin of the human race – the world’s only race – click here.