Natasha to Trillia: Dr. Piper writes, “I think that one of the reasons some Christians have a hard time relating their Christianity to issues like racial and ethnic harmony and justice is that their view of what happens in conversion to Christ is superficial (160).” Do you agree with this statement? In what ways does American Christianity seem superficial? What are your thoughts about relating Christianity to issues like racial and ethnic harmony and justice?
If I understand Dr. Piper correctly, I think what he is saying is that Christians do not understand what happens at conversion universally. In other words, we need to understand not only what happens in us at conversion but we also need to understand how conversion affects the whole of our relationships to one another. It’s possible that people don’t understand that at conversion we are welcomed into a new family, a new identity, and we are a new creation (Ephesians 1: 3-10).
If that is what he means, I agree. I think if Christians truly understood the significance of being reconciled to God and all the benefits of that relationship, there would not be a need for this conversation. We’d know without a doubt that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t think this understanding is limited to race or ethnicity. I think if we understood our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ, we would all have a greater love for each other.
Racial and ethnic harmony and justice are at the heart of our Christian faith. I think you could sum it up in the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). I wonder if more people would engage in the topic of race and ethnicity if they saw it as a way to apply this commandment. I think we get caught up in America’s grievous history and it actually hinders reconciliation. In other words, we focus potentially on the past rather than what God has made a new—namely our hearts.
Trillia to Natasha: In Chapter 11, Dr. Piper quotes Romans 6:1: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” He then writes: “Given the way some professing Christians think and feel and act today toward people of other races, it seems that this distortion is alive and well. Salvation is by grace through faith, so there is no necessity for a change in how we feel or think or act toward people on the basis of race or ethnicity. God forgives and gets more glory for being more gracious. They don’t say this out loud. But their actions show that they live by this superficial view of conversion (2356 Kindle edition).” What do you think? Is there an abuse of grace on display when the Christian refuses to extend love to their fellow man on the basis of race?
There is abuse of grace on display whenever we knowingly sin, and “yes” unfortunately, professing Christians do so all of the time. The relational aspect or lack of love for fellow humans is only one area where the abuse of grace is prevalent. There are way too many points to consider here, but I do think it is important for each of us to be honest about our faith, personal relationship with Christ, and how that impacts our thought life and actions.
I agree with your response to what happens at conversion, and I also believe at least part of the deficiency is a result of the American approach to evangelism. We have conditioned people to believe that all they have to do is say a prayer and individually they have a right to the gates of Heaven. Compare this to the Apostle Peter’s message to the thousands of converts on the Day of Pentecost. He said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38 [NIV]).” While offering the gift of salvation, Peter ensured the people knew repentance was in order. They needed to turn away from sin and go in a different direction towards God. There, they would receive forgiveness. Additionally, salvation results in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit would live in them and enable them to live in a manner pleasing to God and in harmony with others. We see this in Acts. The point I am trying to make is: the free gift of salvation is not simply an insurance policy into Heaven as some believe (though they may not say it). The gift of salvation is a call and response to be God’s agents of change in this world and we can only do that through the power of the Holy Spirit.
For devout believers in Christ, there is a cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-35) and we should all consider it regularly so we do not take our salvation or the gift of grace for granted. As I respond to this question and reflect on the grace we extend in our relationships, I am compelled to reflect on the simple yet profound question: Has the cross touched you? Leighton Ford writes:
There is a story of the distraught father whose son the disciples cannot heal because they do not know how to pray (Mk 9:14-29). Jesus is asking: Has the cross touched your prayer life?
There is a controversy among the disciples over who is the greatest (Mk 9:33-37). He asks: Has the cross touched your judgment of others?
There is his teaching about cutting off our rebellious hand and picking out our wayward eye (Mk 9:42-48). He asks: Has the cross touched your self-discipline?
There is the welcoming of children (Mk 10:13-16) and the question, Has the cross touched your attitude to the little ones?
There is the story of a rich young ruler who will not give up his many possessions to follow Jesus (Mk 10:17-23), and the question, Has the cross touched your attitude to money?
There is the request of James and John to sit at his left and right (Mk 10:35-45), and the question, Has the cross touched your ambition? (Transforming Leadership, Ford, IVP, 1991, 155-156)
Here is the real question to faithfully ponder my friends: Has the cross touched you? Has it touched me?
We are discussing Chapter 14 next week.
© Trillia Newbell and Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012 #RacialRec