Seeing the news out of Charlottesville, I am reminded how antithetical racism is to the Kingdom of God, as well as how easy it is to give racism a pass in our hearts and in our churches. Why is this so? Why is it so easy to rail against other prevalent sins, but not against racism?
Is it possible that racism is the silent sin because it is the most universal? Homosexuality is a temptation many people never experience, as is abortion. Yet racism is not so easily avoided. It would be possible to side-step the issue by dismissing racism as undefinable, an ambiguous vice that can be seen in others but avoided in the mirror. But the Christian cannot find false comfort in denying this sin that is present in all of us.
Racism is, at its core, a manifestation of personal pride magnified to the level of community. Pride is a self-focused sense of superiority, and racism is the belief that those who are most like me are superior to those who are not. Resisting the idea that every human is made in the image of God and therefore equally and infinitely valuable (Gen 1:27; Jam 3:9), I project my own superiority onto those who remind me most of myself. When I tie this sense of superiority to my race (which has been done from nearly the beginning), the silent sin of racism begins to pulse through my veins.
And it runs through yours, too. Or at least the cancerous cells are there, waiting to metastasize. Sometimes the symptoms are subtle, sometimes obvious. The double-take of the black man walking toward you on the sidewalk. The assumption that the Latino applicant will not be as disciplined as the white one. The inflammatory language of the Alt-right or the torch-bearing rally of a White supremacist group. All of these grow from the same self-loving cells that lurk within us. The problem is, as long as the cells aren’t apparent—as long as my racism doesn’t overtly and directly impact my day-to-day life—it’s easy to forget they even exist. Yet one need not don Klan robes to harbor racism in the recesses of the heart.
By God’s grace, the Gospel reminds us of our disease. The purity of Christ’s blood exposes the cancer that defiles our own. Jesus died to bring an end to the enmity between brothers that is an inherent part of our nature as Adam’s sons (Eph 2:11-22). It is Christ’s blood that brings us near to God, and it is his blood that brings us back together as brothers, redeemed from the fall and united in the Spirit. God offers this grace freely to every tribe, nation, and tongue, and because his love is available to all, I know it is available me. As Christ’s blood speaks in our defense, it exposes the silent selfishness inside us. Interposing his own blood, Christ cures the cancer of our racism, and every other sin that infects us.
As Christ’s church, we are called to be the living embodiment of the equity, grace, and love that Jesus’s death purchased for all those whose cancerous sin would have killed them. Yet because of Christ, we confess with Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ.” (Gal 3:28). That truth is as radical as it could possibly be, both then and now, both in the streets of Charlottesville and in the depths of my own heart. Ultimately, racism is the demonic alternative to the pure, ground-levelling, blood-bought love found in the Gospel. We have been adopted into the only family where true brotherhood can flourish. Church, because our racism is drowned in Christ’s blood, let’s no longer be silent.