Pastor's Column - April 30, 2014

Making a Difference
One of the greatest problems facing the 21st Century American Church, in my opinion, is that we have allowed ourselves to be shaped more by our culture than by the Holy Spirit of God. Rather than transforming our culture under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we have simply yielded and allowed the culture to shape us.
I see this in many aspects of life. As just one example, it used to be unthinkable to conduct business on Sundays. Now it's simply accepted. I'm sure you can think of many areas where this occurs.
Today I'd like to talk about one such area in which I think the Church has an opportunity to genuinely transform culture. It is in regard to race relations and racial reconciliation.
Recent news has featured two prominent cases of racism. One involves Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher battling against the Bureau of Land Management. Whatever sympathy he may have had from those who saw him as David against the Goliath of government, he squandered by opining that African-Americans were better off during the era of slavery than now receiving government subsidies. Most recently, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has allegedly been recorded telling his girlfriend that he doesn't like her bringing African-Americans to the games.
This is an area where our culture has clearly failed and is clearly continuing to fail. It is a monument to the failure of politics, which does not have the power to change a single human heart. It is a testament to the inadequacy of the law, which may prevent me from harming my neighbor but cannot compel me to love him. And it is a prime opportunity for the Church to let the light of Jesus shine through into this dark and quiet corner of our society that we still don't want to talk about.
How can the Church make a difference? How can we make this an area where we do not capitulate to social norms but instead act as salt and light? By standing united for the inclusive love of Jesus Christ and against such hateful attitudes. By saying with one voice that this is wrong. And by holding out the hope we all have in Jesus for forgiveness in this world and the richness of eternal life to come.
Before the throne of God stand people from every family, every nation, every language, and every ethnicity on this planet. Before God, there is only one race-the human race. The church should reflect that here on earth, leading the way forward, showing the world that there is a better way-God's way.
We should not wait for cultural African-American leaders to try to address this. We, the body of Christ, need to address it. We need to address it in our own hearts. We need to address it in our respective congregations. We need to address it in our communities and in our institutions. And we need to address it now.
I'm happy to pastor a congregation that includes a number of African-Americans and people from other cultures. We recently received into membership our third family from India. These are not "token" minorities, but active members and church leaders. My life, and the church I shepherd, would be immeasurably poorer without them. It is a foretaste of heaven for me and for the church.
Don't you want that?
Keith Richardson is the pastor of Barnwell First Baptist Church.