Monday, March 17, 2008

Red and Yellow, Black and White (Part 1)

By Taft Ayers

I am a minister. Well, we ARE all MINISTERS, no matter our occupation, I just get a check to support my family for our ministry.

I work in Memphis, Tennessee. I worship with a church that only has a handful of folks that aren't Caucasian, and this frustrates me. Therefore, I write on this subject, one I will be covering for the next four Tuesdays, Lord willing.

We humans are a strange breed. Why on earth do we feel as if we have to discriminate between others based on our differences with one another? Where they live, or the color of their skin, or if they are rich or poor, a Southerner or Yankee, blue collar or white collar, English speaking or Spanish speaking, and on the list of differences can go into near infinity.

I recently heard a story of a boy on his first day of pre-school. He met his very first black person, another classmate. When his mother came to pick him up from school that day, he wanted to show his mom this neat and fantastic thing he had discovered. "Come here, Mom. Come here. This is Johnny. Feel his hair. Isn’t it neat?!"

How wonderfully different our world would be if we were to see the differences between us as fascinating and neat as they are seen through a child’s eyes. Instead we view them as threatening or inferior.

James the brother of Jesus tells us, "as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ’Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin."

We have the "royal law" which refers to the whole law in the Old Testament and the New Testament as it is interpreted by Jesus, the Author of Life. It is summed up in the commandment to love your neighbor. James takes the command one step further, saying to show partiality is to sin. I wonder if this is true of showing partiality to the poor as well?

God does not show favoritism and neither should we! Human beings have been wonderfully made with the capability to make choices about many things. We can choose what kind of cars we drive, the food we like, the clothes we wear, the houses that we live in, and the people that we associate with. We can make a choice regarding the kind of food that we like by considering the appearance, texture, taste, and health benefits before we receive or reject the food. This is the mature way the brain makes choices.

However, there is also an immature way. Many people make decisions without having all of the facts. That is the nature of human prejudice. According to the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary prejudice is:

A judgment or opinion formed without due examination; a mental decision based on other grounds than reason or justice; especially, a premature or adversely based opinion.

White church, Black church, Oriental church, Latino church. You can pick any that you wish to find. Many people will correctly view this as separation among churches of Christ.

Is it fair for us to attribute all separation to prejudice? Is some of it just mere preference. Much of our separation is chalked up to culture alone.

Many, in fact most, American churches do not speak multiple languages. We need to be careful not to allow the language difference to grow into division and separation in the church. Fellowship still needs to exist between English speaking congregations and those who speak other languages here in America.

The major differences, however, seem to be in the "white churches" and "black churches." The perceived differences in culture have allowed us to differentiate and to somehow make this chasm seem "OK."

The past thinking seems to be that white people prefer living with only other white people and all black people prefer to live within their own cultural community. This type of thinking has lead most blacks and whites to prejudiced thinking laced with generalizations when it comes to preachers and congregations.

Many black folks think that all white preachers and congregations are quiet and unemotional, and they perceive this difference as boring.

On the contrary, many whites believe that all black preachers and congregations are loud and overly emotional and they perceive this to be disorderly and "showy."

Do these differences in appearance matter to the only observer who truly matters? Does the Lord God really reject worship and praise based upon the cultural differences that He inspired so long ago? Who are we to reject His wondrous variety?

One must ask themselves, "in the final analysis, do these things really matter?" The most important thing to our brotherhood should be the emphasis upon truth.

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