Of all the powder keg issues, this is the one that potentially brings the most glory to God.
During the height of McCarthyism, all you needed to be recognized as a communist was for someone to call you one.
Similarly, these days the label of “racist” which used to be serious and meaningful has now become little more than a vague insult, like calling someone a “Philistine,” a “Commie” or a “Nazi.” You could add to that list “booger head” or “poopy pants” and “racist” would carry about the same force as any one of them. The over-application of a term is sure to land it in the dust bin.
The point is we seem to have lost our way in the midst of interracial squabbling, and of settling scores. Even among Christians, a nearly idolatrous focus has occurred, settling upon skin color, and we seem to have forgotten God’s intentions for race itself.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).
The vision showed the Apostle John the amazing breadth and redemptive power of the blood of the Lamb. That cross, which at first seemed limited to a tiny corner of the world, has reached out through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit to cleanse an amazingly disparate multitude of people.
Sin had ruined every race in its own particular way, turning the globe into a diversity of evil—perhaps beautiful and interesting to our damaged eyes, but lost to the Father God. The blood of Christ answered that need. The scope of His sacrifice was such that regardless of culture, color, or language, no human being can claim His death on Calvary was not for them. John’s vision saw it.
And yet this vast cross section of mankind doesn’t draw attention to itself as though it were an accomplishment of enlightened sociology. It exists for nothing less than to praise the work of Christ.
In the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” we find a joyous call to the nations:
Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
The wormwood and the gall,
Go, spread your trophies at His feet.
And crown Him, crown Him, crown Him,
Crown Him Lord of all!
Though every one of these people groups is sinful in its fallen state, each has achieved some sort of “trophy”—distinctions related to their native ingenuity, talent, prowess, or endurance. You could call these bragging rights, and that is exactly what they are used for in a world where self-aggrandizement counts for everything. Without Christ, such successes are tools used in the horizontal quest for mastery or recognition.
However, in the wake of Christ’s blood, all racial accomplishments become trophies at His feet, mere avenues that demonstrate the triumph of His grace.
I ran across a Christian writer who spoke of how proud she had always been of her racial heritage, especially for its faithfulness under persecution. She always thought of her people as “the good guys.” But then one day she discovered that at an earlier time period, these “good guys” had themselves been complicit in persecuting others. Having read the historical accounts of what they did, she felt the shame of it marring her earlier pride. Rather than trying to excuse it away, she had to admit that race is a shaky thing that only the most short-sighted and naive rally around.
Be assured that whatever heritage you come from, there is a sin-stained history firmly attached to it somehow. Only the lamb of God can redeem, crystallize, and elevate those things in us that bring Him rightful glory.
And only then is race at its best.