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In this article, I used African Americans as an example, but this applies to every racial, ethnic, or social group.

I love being African American, because of the community. If you walk into an African American barbershop, you immediately feel the effects of how close the culture is. Most of the time, you will simultaneously feel you have been brought into a family.

This reminds me of my time serving in a predominately African American church; every time a guest came through the doors, we announced to them that they were family to us. It’s beautiful to see that type of care be displayed towards strangers.

Other cultures should seek to learn from the family mentality that is often seen in our culture. But, I do want to highlight some problems that arise due to the connectedness of the community. This is seen when the community is willing to defend or support their other members without just cause or reasoning. Sometimes this is done without knowing the facts.

This has been a point of tension for African American Christians because our community could seek to defend something that is against the Gospel. On the other end, there are many issues within the African community that is an issue and the Gospel calls us to respond to that issue. So what do we do then? Who do chose? Do we pick a side, or can we wrestle with the tension?

Who Do You Identify With More?

Who we identify with is going to drive our response when the questions arise. If someone is saved by the grace of the Gospel, they have been brought into a covenant community: Family of God. Meaning, Christ the husband, laid down his life for the bride, so that we could be reconciled into this family. We should be filled with joy because we have been brought into this family.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
(Galatians 4:1-7 ESV)

Paul is laying out how we have been redeemed from our enslavement to sin, and adopted into the body of Christ. This adoption gives us a new identity, one that isn’t found in our racial, ethnic or social group, but is found in your position before the God of the universe as a son or daughter. This type of adoption shows us that we are known first as a follower of Jesus, and nothing else comes before that.

This doesn’t leave room for us to primarily identify with our racial, social, or ethnic group. Do you feel like you are known as a black Christian or a Christian that happens to be black? There are two entirely different mentalities with each phrase. The former emphasizes that you are a black person first and the latter, being a Christian first. The way we dialogue with people about our trust in the Gospel and race, affects the way we live. Which leads more people to be more proud of being black than a follower of Christ. We have an issue with our theology if that’s the case. We should never have to tack-on our ethnic group to the word Christian.

Thoughts For Evangelicals to Consider

There have been countless examples of how the body of Christ has failed to give their white brothers and sisters in Christ the benefit of the doubt. When someone has been reconciled to Christ, we should assume they have the best intentions, but we have been seeing a growing trend of the opposite. This is a reminder for myself as well. Regardless of someone’s background, we should lean toward giving our brother and sister enough respect to expect them to see culture in light of the cross. The same family approach that was described earlier can be seen in Evangelical circles where people want to side with the conservative or liberal culture, and not the Body of Christ.

Lets all seek to apply Matthew 12:46-50.

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Our brothers and sisters are those who do the will of our father. I am not implying that our families don’t matter, but the advancement of Jesus’ mission shouldn’t be hindered by our families. Jesus distinctly mentions we should seek to take care of family members (John 19:26, Mark 7:11, Matt 15:5). The best way we can aid our family is by pointing them to Jesus with our actions. As believers, we should be thankful for the body of Christ and being co-heirs and adopted into the family of God. We should seek to defend the body of Christ, as fast as we are seeking to defend the various people groups that we belong to. I pray that we would remember that as we are interacting and engaging in conversations with people.

 

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