Race, Culture & the Gospel

If you are anything like me you enjoy a pithy quote that hits hard and makes you think. I recently came across a quote by Tim Keller that did exactly this. He states, “Racial pride and cultural narrowness cannot coexist with the gospel of grace. They are mutually exclusive.” When I read this so many thoughts flooded my mind. To get the full impact of what Pastor Keller is saying the quote needs to be defined and to some extent dissected.

Racial pride- To some extent the term race rubs me the wrong way, because it is not a term that is entirely biblical. It is more of a modern term to explain one’s ethnicity or ancestry. The term racial pride I would take to mean as a sense of arrogance or superiority in ones ethnicity over another’s. These attitudes are completely contrary to the scriptures. As a Christian, in 1 Peter 5:5 we are admonished to show humility toward one another and also reminded that God resists the proud. It also, inherently has a sense of finding one’s identity in their ethnicity.

Cultural Narrowness- This is a belief that one persons culture is the ONLY way something should be done. A silly example would be where I grew up, carbonated beverages are called pop and I stubbornly refuse to call it soda, coke, or worse compromise and call it soda pop or any other foolishness. Of course I say this in jest. This attitude can move from a small matter like what we call food or drink to how we respond to others who are different, or worse how we craft our churches to be only one culture. Neglecting the myriads of other cultures in our area that may identify with Christ.

Both of these are extremely troubling in our society and in our churches. The reason we call ourselves Christians is not because we are white anglo-saxon in heritage that was passed on from our Western European ancestors. We are called Christians because we are followers of Christ and IDENTIFY with His death, burial and resurrection as the payment for sin debt that by faith we through identifying with Christ are now IN Christ. We no longer identify with race or culture.

Gospel of Grace- The gospel of grace is the good news that God’s wrath against sin was poured out on His Son instead of me, and by God’s gift of faith, His grace and mercy is given so that I am given the life that Christ secured when rose victorious from the grave. This good news is not to a certain race, nation or even culture. Galatians 3:28 is clear, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is stating two important truths for our topic. Race and culture are not to be boasted in and that our identity is found in Christ.

If we are to carry out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations then Tim Keller’s quote must be truly thought through. The Apostle John writes of a vision where he hears a song being sang in heaven, where it is not merely one style of people but literally ALL groups before God. Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sang a new song, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.”

May we have the heart of Christ and take part in the ministry of reconciliation to see this ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation come to their Lord and see them grow in the gospel of grace.


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