When my children were small, I wanted them to know Jesus. As the African-American mother of bi-racial children, I desired a church where my kids could see the gospel of Jesus lived out in a loving way between people of different races and cultures. It bothered me that I’d grown up singing that Jesus loved all the children — red and yellow, black and white — but I’d seen Jesus-followers look at other-colored brothers and sisters in Christ in unloving ways.
I’d seen an advertisement about a new church meeting in a school. I grew up in a traditional Black Baptist church, so it was a little weird going to church at a school. As I opened the doors, I wasn’t surprised that none of the adults looked like me. But I was shocked when two small African-American children ran by and disappeared around a corner. I looked for their parents but gave up and went into the auditorium. People were friendly, but it was still uncomfortable for me. It was a similar feeling that my Caucasian friends would describe when they drove across the unfamiliar side of town at night and got caught at a traffic light.
The pastor came out and introduced himself by his first name, Lee. My eyebrows raised because that kind of informality was shocking to me. At some point in the message, Lee mentioned that he and his wife were foster parents and I realized that those two little Black kids were his foster children.
That was the moment I decided I would attend that church.
Not only was I grateful to hear Lee teach about the gospel, but he also lived the gospel — lived like he truly believed God loved the whole world, meaning all people. The pastor not only embraced color but invited color into his home with love.
Far too many Christians get defensive or uncomfortable when skin color comes up in church. Let’s not forget that color was divinely created by a holy God and therefore, inextricably woven into the gospel story. Racism is an injustice against God’s creation that grieves the heart of God. Therefore, our problems with race and color need the blood of the cross, too!
For centuries around the world, the topic of race is and has been one of the biggest barriers between Jesus-followers. Even after the massive civil rights movement of 2020, the most segregated space in America is still within our churches. If the gospel that we preach is only to people who look like us, we’re robbing ourselves of witnessing the full beauty and glory of what a colorful gospel looks like. The early church shows us an intentionality few churches have today. Most of all, the early church shows us the blessings that we’re missing out on.
After the Day of Pentecost, Peter taught and thousands came to Christ. Then, Acts 2:39-47 documents how all the believers met together. Who were all the believers? You better believe that “all” included Jesus-followers from different races and cultures who’d come to Jerusalem. They had differences in how they looked and lived, but they still intentionally tucked themselves around communal tables. Look at what happened next. Notice the word “together” after their activities:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
Acts 2:46 (NIV)
After the sermon, people didn’t have to continue to worship together, meet together, or eat together, but they chose to! As a result, non-believers were attracted to the remarkable community. Non-believers were probably astonished by the unlikely love and shocking unity between people who looked and lived differently. That visual scene plus the power of the gospel message resulted in many non-believers getting saved (Acts 2:47).
It’s my belief that we can never be the best version of the gospel if we’re not connected to those who look different from us but are an essential part of our “together.”
As a Black person, I’ve wondered often why God created us with different skin colors because it has created much hardship and heartache. Yet, God shifts the atmosphere of any struggle when we let Him in. So, if God’s character is love, grace, holiness, and justice and we invite God into the abyss of our racial struggles, then God’s glory will overpower what we can’t fix on our own.
In the most well-known civil rights speech of all time, Dr. Martin Luther King cast his vision. Notice how Dr. King’s words reflect the beauty of the Jesus-followers’ togetherness in Acts 2:
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
Dr. King is right. God’s gospel glory is revealed when we as believers are intentional about standing together. Maybe today God is prompting you to pray about finding the Jesus-followers who are the other part of your “together.”
If you are passionate about the gospel and excited about taking a new fresh dive into your faith this year, check out Barb’s new book, Finding Jesus in the Psalms.