My name is Alex Sands, I pastor Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. It is truly a blessing to be here this morning with you. As Peter shared, Kingdom Life is a 15-year-old church. We started with 12 of us in the Mauldin Library off of Butler Road. I’d never been a pastor before, didn’t know what I was doing, and I was quickly in over my head. And I began to pray, and I said Lord, “Please help me. Is there a pastor or someone I can connect with to help me along in this journey?”
The Lord laid Peter on my heart. I’d only met him once a couple of years beforehand, but the Lord laid him on my heart. And so, I called, and his secretary set up an appointment, and he met with me. That doesn’t always happen. He met with me and talked with me and shared with me, and what he shared has stuck with me all these years. He shared with me the importance of keeping my personal relationship with God of first primary importance, to make sure I carve out that time with all the busyness of pastoring and shepherding and the responsibilities of being a father, keep your relationship with Christ vibrant, make it a priority.
I thought to myself, “Man, he’s pastoring a large church. Man, I’ve got twelve people. And he makes this a priority.” And that has stuck with me always. So, thank you Peter. As we’ve gone throughout the years we’ve touched base now and then and just broke bread together. He is a good friend. Thank you, brother, for inviting me here today. Thank you, North Hills, for allowing me to come and share on this very important topic on racism.
Today’s emphasis is going to be on unity, on unity. My wife and family aren’t able to be here for second service. My wife is actually at Kingdom Life right now working in the youth ministry helping with their audio visual service, the A/V. But Shana and I been married for 23 years, two boys, Christian and Blake 15 and 13. We have lived 22 out of the 23 years here in Greenville, calling it home. And 13 of those 22 years we have lived in the same house, in the same subdivision.
And like many subdivisions we have a homeowners association. Anybody have a homeowner’s association in your neighborhood? We have a homeowner’s association, and one of the things that our homeowner’s association used to do is they would award a yard of the month. Anybody have the yard of the month in your subdivision? For those of you who don’t know, what they would do, there would be a committee that would go around the subdivision every month and look at the various yards and pick one, select one that was the best, that looked the best. And they would put a sign in the yard, yard of the month. And that would stay there for the whole month. They would be the reigning champ, reigning yard of the month.
You know I didn’t think much of it, whatever. I didn’t think much of it until my neighbor won it the first time. Notice I said first time. And I can remember driving home one day and pulling up to the house, this is my next-door neighbor, and pulling up to her house and I looked. Man, he won yard of the month. Now, not that anything was wrong with his yard. But I thought to myself, “Hey that’s good. That’s cool and everything but my yard looks just as good as his yard. But hey that’s cool, that’s awesome.”
The sign stays there. He’s yard of the month for about a month, stays there, meaning the sign stays there. I can’t remember all the exact number of days. And then it’s gone, and it’s gone for a while and it’s all good. Well, one day I’m coming home and bam, there it is again. Yard of the month.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. Now it got to me because I’m saying to myself, again? I looked again at his yard and my yard and I’m thinking to myself, “There’s not too much of a difference between his yard of mine. …Maybe it is a little bit better than my yard.” It kept gnawing on me that the committee going through the neighborhood stopped – I don’t know if this is how it worked but I’m envisioning in my mind – they’re driving around the neighborhood and they stop and they’re in in-between my yard in my neighbor’s yard. They’re looking at his, at mine, and then giving it to him. I said, “You know what I need to raise my game. I need to take my yard to another level.”
So, you know we had a guy that was cutting our grass and he did an excellent job especially with the edging. You know it’s all in the edging. Anybody can cut the grass. It’s in the edging, the details. He did an excellent job edging in, and I got some mulch, you know that dark mulch the colored mulch that doesn’t fade real fast. I got some of that from Lowe’s and I put that all in the flower bed. And we had some flowers that just bloomed and they’re popping, you know. Knock-out roses are going in, and I’m feeling really good. I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah, you’re yard of the month now.”
The sign went away. Couldn’t have been more than a few days later. Bam. Then, there it is again in his yard. I mean I’m thinking to myself, “I did everything right.” Got the sprinkler system on, we have sensors that are on the roof you know they can detect how much moisture is in the air, how often it has rained and then adjust the sprinkler system accordingly. I had all that working. Yard is lush and green.
Nevertheless, he won again. So, one day my neighbor’s wife, she just happened to be walking down, Shana and I are in our garage, and she happened just to walk up. She pulls up and we talk we have a nice conversation and eventually I just told her, I said, “You know, there’s a lot of pressure living next to yard of the month. I mean, you keep winning everything.”
She’s like, “What are you talking about?”
I said, “You know, yard of the month. I’m feel like my house is bringing your property value down.”
And she’s like, “Oh you mean the sign. Oh, we bought that online.” So, I’m like, “What!?”
So, she goes, “Yeah, the committee just kept giving it to the same couple houses every month, and we just decided, you know what? It’s just time for us to be yard of the month, so we just bought one online.”
Of course, I’m looking at them. And she’s like, “Did you think that was real? Oh, that is so funny!”
And she dies laughing. That is hysterical. And so, after she gets a good laugh and composes herself, she’s like, “You want to borrow it?”
Sure! So, guess what? We won yard of the month. Now it doesn’t stop there. One day I’m basking in the glow of being the yard of the month winner, I’m out in the yard, and my neighbor across the street just happens to come out. You know where this is going right?
He pops out and he’s like, “Hey man, congratulations on winning yard of the month.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
I told him the truth. I couldn’t keep it up. I told him the truth. And he stars dying laughing, and I’m like, “You want to borrow it?” “Yeah!” So, amongst the three of us we just start sharing it with one another. Next door and then him across the street. We all won yard of the month, and we would take it a month at a time.
It doesn’t end there. Remember I told you about the guy who cut our grass? Well he comes by to cut our grass when I’m the reigning champion of the yard of the month, and he happens to come by and I’m not there, and he sends me a message.
He says, “Congratulations on winning the yard of the month.” Read between the lines, we won yard of the month. It’s just a funny thing at how that all this came about. And there’s a point to the story and the point is this: Being yard of the month didn’t matter to me and I didn’t think my neighbor’s yard looked any nicer than mine until I saw that sign. And then I started to behave differently. Because at that sign, seeing that sign and interpreting that sign meant that somebody had determined that his yard was nicer than my yard, and then I started to internalize it and adjust my behavior. Then, learning later that that sign didn’t mean anything at all – anybody could have made it or purchased it online – I realized that sign doesn’t matter. Just like I thought in the beginning it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not that significant.
Friends, race is just like that. You have to be taught to think that certain races are superior to others. You have to be taught. Children, if you watch them play at a playground or at the beach, it doesn’t matter what their skin complexion is, they just see kids and they play. It’s not until they grow up that an adult tells them, “Oh they’re Black” or “Oh, they’re white.” And start putting restrictions on them.
Friends, let’s all come to an agreement that the whole concept of race is a lie. It’s a myth. Scientifically, when exactly does the table turn where someone becomes Black? Technically. Do we have an explanation? I mean, is it four people in your family tree? A great grandparent? There are all kinds of diversity and color and everything else. And what does this even tell someone about me, the fact that I’m Black, I have darker complexion. What does it say about me? Nothing.
Race is about as easy to define as a Chicken McNugget. What is in a Chicken McNugget? What part of the body of the chicken is the Chicken McNugget?
We’ve held onto it. It’s shaped our culture, and unfortunately it has shaped the church, the history of our church, our church, the body of Christ in our country for centuries and can I tell you, it is time for it to end. It is time for it to end. It is time for it to end in our country, and the only institution that can make it happen is the church of Jesus Christ. There is no other answer.
This morning, I want to share with you four realities, four realities that are going to build up on one another. Four realities. Then I’m going to share two motivations for us to move towards unity in the body of Christ. And then lastly, I’m going to finish up with two applications, two simple things that we can do to help again move the ball forward on the issue of unity in the body of Christ.
The first reality is, there is only one race, the human race. There is only one race, the human race. Where did this whole concept of race come from? How did we get here? In April’s issue of National Geographic, they have an article is entitled, “There’s no scientific basis for race. It’s a made-up label.” In the article, the author shares some of the history about the “science” of race. They tell the story of a doctor named Samuel Morton, and he hypothesized that there were five races. Five races that come from five different acts of creation. And he did an “experiment” where he gathered human skulls from battlefields and skulls that had been donated to him, and he measured the size or the volume of the brain case and concluded based on those measurements of the handful of samples that he had that the white race was the superior race. Caucasians were superior because they were the most intellectual. Next were the eastern Asians, then the south eastern Asians and then Native Americans and lastly Blacks, Ethiopians is what he called them.
So, he defined this pecking order. This is in the 19th Century, and southerners who were committed to slavery picked up on that “research” and used it to justify the evil and corrupt institution of slavery as practiced in this country. They used it to justify and to show and even in churches they taught this – that the white race was divinely-given, created by God to be the superior race, and that the Black race was made to serve the white race. Given by God. 19th Century pseudoscience. Everybody knows that’s not real. A middle school student will tell you that doesn’t follow the scientific method.
Nevertheless, the lie has been propagated from generation to generation to generation to generation. I’ll bet some of you have family members who still believe it or taught you the same myth. Now modern science has proven what the Scripture has declared for thousands of years, and that’s this in Acts 17:26.
The apostle Paul says,
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods in the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
This is Paul in one of his sermons saying, he made from one man every nation. Scientists have determined that genetically, regardless of skin complexion, we are all the same. The Bible has been teaching that all along. I mean it has been right there. It’s not a mystery. Nevertheless, the lie is propagated, and it’s still present with us today. Sometimes in ways we don’t even see. But it’s still present.
I remember reading or watching on the news around the time that Dylann Roof killed nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Right around that same time, I remember reading or seeing on the news a gentleman who talked about how in the arrest of Dylann Roof the narrative was, “there’s something wrong with him. Bad upbringing, mental health issues.” That has to be the reason why he did what he did. And this gentleman was saying, “Well, what if he was of Middle Eastern descent? What would the narrative have been? Radical Muslim, ISIS.” It wouldn’t have been that individualized as this issue. The narrative, the assumption would have been, radical Muslim just based on complexion, based on how someone looks.
Now, that’s just one example. But there are countless others. And friends, everybody knows there’s differences. Everybody can tell that my complexion is darker than most of your complexions. Everyone can see that. Everyone knows that there are differences in things that we say and things that we do. That’s not a problem. Praise God for diversity. Praise God that there are, different complexions and everything else. God is a God of diversity. Look at the wonders of his beautiful creation. God is an artist.
It’s when you begin to assign attributes or make judgments about individuals such as their intellectual aptitude, their morality, their work ethic. When you begin to make those judgments based on skin complexion, based on the myth of race, that’s when it’s sin. And friends, race at its core is diabolical for a diabolical purpose, to separate. And the evidence has been out there that it’s a lie that it is not the truth. The evidence has been out there for a long time and when people stubbornly refuse to believe a lie even in the presence and evidence of the truth that will contradict even when they’re presented with the fact that their beliefs contradict each other. Even in the present, if someone resists the truth, that’s evidence that it’s not about facts and it’s not about science, it’s about the heart.
Which leads us to the second reality: the gospel is the only cure for racism. It’s the only cure for racism in our in our country. It’s the only cure for racism period. Because the gospel has the power to transform, to make someone a new creation. Old passing away, the new has arrived. A new person, new potential, new thought processes. The gospel makes people new. As it’s believed and as someone begins to take the truth to heart and understand what Jesus has taught. And what he gave his life for, a transformation begins to happen, thoughts begin to change, strongholds are torn down strongholds that have divided race.
It all begins to come down. And scriptures like Galatians 3:28,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Those truths begin to grab a hold of your heart and begin to work in a person and the Holy Spirit does a transformation. And even how Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16,
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.”
A change happens. The gospel is the only cure for racism.
Which leads us to the third reality. If there is a Christian who has stubbornly resisted the Holy Spirit doing a work in their life in regard to racism, it is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Third reality: Racist attitudes words and actions are signs of a believer’s spiritual immaturity. When someone who professes faith in Christ yet still holds onto the lie, talks about people of different races and everything else and how they’re not this and they’re not that. That sign that is a sign that Christ has not grabbed a hold of their heart in that area, and they need to grow.
Therefore friends, when we talk about racism, when we deal with race and we deal with unity in the body of Christ, understand it is a discipleship issue. Everybody with me? It is a discipleship issue. If you refuse to be one with your brother or sister based on race, it’s a sign of your spiritual immaturity. That’s just laying it out as it is.
Which leads us to the fourth reality, which may sound a little strange in you’re hearing, but let me work with it for a second. The fourth and last reality is simply teaching the gospel is not enough. With the understanding that racism and the disunity that it causes, understanding that’s a discipleship issue, then we also have to come to the conclusion that simply preaching and teaching the gospel is not enough to change. You know I used to believe, even up to recently, that if I just teach and preach the gospel, then unity is just going to naturally happen. And just naturally what’s going to happen is that races are going to come together and is just going to be. I’ve since had a change of heart.
Let me give you an example. I want you to imagine that Shana and I are having marital issues. And let’s just say that I called Peter and said, “Peter I need help. Man, I need help in my marriage, things are not clicking. I don’t understand her, she’s not understanding me, and we just fight all of the time. I need help.”
And Peter says, “Sure, I’ll meet with you. Let’s talk.” So, we sit down, and we talk, and I lay all of this out. What if Peter were to say, “Well you know brother you’re a Christian, she’s a Christian. You all are one in the eyes of God and oneness is just going to happen. So, just be blessed. Let it happen naturally. Again, oneness just happens.”
What if Peter did that? Would you consider that to be wise counsel? No. What Peter (or anyone who’s mature in Christ who listens to me share about my problems) is going to tell me is, “Listen, Alex, first and foremost you need to understand your responsibility. You are called by God to be the head of your marriage, which means you are the servant leader in your home. You have to be willing to die.”
And then he would lay out to me ways that I haven’t been listening to my wife that I haven’t listened, and I’ve sinned against her and now I would need to repent. And then he would go through and perhaps give me some curriculum, a book to read, a series, a marriage retreat, something because I need to grow as a disciple and then as I grow my marriage is blessed. So, in order to be one in my marriage, it takes work. We grow in it.
Friends, it’s the same way when we talk about unity and oneness in the church as a whole. It’s not going to happen just by accident. It’s not going to happen, we’re not going to just happen to stumble across it. It takes intentionality just like every discipleship topic requires intentionality and focus. We need to pay attention and focus to unity – unity in the body to tear down these walls of racism.
I commend you guys, because many churches won’t even address the issue of racism. They don’t even want to talk about it, won’t discuss it at all. There are many churches in this city that I wouldn’t be welcome in, pulpits I wouldn’t be welcome in.
Let me share the story really quick. We moved into our current church building four years this fall. When we first moved in, we were meeting neighbors and everything else. We have a pretty large property and people walk their dogs on our property, neighbors. I go out and there’s one person, she’s walking along every day three times a day. And I engage with her, talk with her and everything else. And one day as I’m getting to meet her. This is again early on in our time at the church at the building. She’s like, “You know what. I’ve met a few of your members. You know you guys are really nice. You seem really nice. Let me just ask you this. Do you allow white people at your church?”
Seriously. She asked that question. Now I was taken aback, and if I had really been thinking about it I might have said, “Well, we do, but we reached a white people quota so far and we’re not taking the applicants. We’ve got a waiting list. Just come back.”
I was floored that even the question was asked, and she’s a believer. It’s not going to happen by accident. She never even challenged the fact that we are to be worshiping separately. No one even addressed it.
So those are four realities for realities, and understanding this is a discipleship issue, and understand we need to focus on it. Now what I want to talk about is how we move it up, the issue of unity, to make it a higher priority in the body of Christ because again there are all kinds of discipleship topics that we rightly address. For example, marriage, parenting, finances all of these things we address and have series sermon series on them, Bible studies, life groups and so on. We address these topics. Well how do we move the issue of unity, tearing down the walls of racism, how do we make it a motivation to make it a priority? How can we move it up? How can we be motivated to take it to a higher level? Well, first two motivations.
Number one understand Jesus prayed for unity in the body. Before Jesus was arrested and crucified, he prayed to the Father in what’s called the high priestly prayer in John 17. In that prayer, he prayed for the disciples. And I want you to listen to verse 11, John 17:11. He prayed,
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
So, he’s praying here for the disciples, praying for them to be one to be united and the standard being a oneness in the Godhead. Now they need it all the prayer that they could get, because the disciples had all kinds of issues, bickering, comparing who was going to be the greatest. They needed Jesus’ prayer. But we dropped down a little bit further in verse 20, we see that he also prays for the church in general, those who would believe as a result of the disciples’ testimony. Verse 20,
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one just as you, Father, are in me, and I and you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus prayed for unity in the church and this is again, he prayed this before he died. Understand that means that it’s significant, it’s important. Unity was significant enough for our lord and savior to pray for it before he was arrested, before he died. Now how many of you know if that’s one of the last prayers that Jesus made, how many of you know that means it’s important? It’s significant. Significant to the point, that we see in Scripture is that Jesus evaluates churches based on how they handle the issue of unity.
Second motivation: Jesus is actively evaluating and rewarding or disciplining churches based on unity. Actively evaluating and rewarding or just disciplining churches based on unity. We have examples of that in Scripture. In the Book of Revelation, what we find is that Jesus is actively in the midst of the churches. He sees everything that is going on, and he gives instruction, correction and at times commendation to the churches for what they’re doing. So, Jesus is active, moving in the church and he’s doing that right now.
In every congregation, Jesus is present. He actively evaluates and blesses and disciplines. We have two examples I want to share with you. The first one is in the Book of Acts. This is a positive example. In the Book of Acts, remember the early church was Jewish. Jews had gathered for the Feast of Pentecost. They gathered together, and the early church was all Jews and Jewish proselytes. But what we find in Acts chapter 6 is there was a problem in the church. The church exploded on the day of Pentecost. A great number of people being saved.
Well, there was an issue. Beginning in verse 1.
“Now in those days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.”
Now you see there in verse 1 a reference to the Hellenists, the Hellenist Jews and the Hebrews. And what that’s referring to is, there were Jews from outside of Palestine who called who were called the Hellenists. They spoke Greek, very little Aramaic, and they embraced Greek culture more than the Jews who lived in Jerusalem and in the vicinity there. They are what’s called the Hebrews. They spoke Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke and the disciples. They spoke Aramaic and a little bit of Greek, and they were hesitant to accept Greek culture. So, they’re both Jews. Both groups are Jews without the same beliefs, but they worshipped in different synagogues because they spoke different languages. The Hellenists, their services would be in Greek, and the Hebrews, those called Hebrews their services would be in Aramaic.
So, there were differences. But in Christ, Christ puts us into one body. And when they got saved all of them all together there in Jerusalem. And if you remember early in the early in chapter 2, those who were wealthy, gave their life to Christ, they’re saved, they’re wealthy, they sold their lands and their possessions so that the apostles could distribute them amongst the poor. So, there were resources available to take care of the poor saints. Well a complaint arose by the Hellenistic Jews who presumably were in the minority because this is Jerusalem, after all. Many of those who were of the diaspora, they had gone back home. They are in the minority. They are the ones that say, hey wait a minute. In the daily distribution of food and resources for the widows, our widows are being neglected, overlooked. Now the apostles had been the ones who has been responsible for dividing all the resources, but it got to be too much for them. And they say listen, they summoned all of the disciples, Hellenists and Hebrews, and they say it’s not right for us to give up preaching. Our emphasis needs to be the word and prayer. We should not give that up to serve tables.
Now listen to what happens in verse 3.
“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty, but we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Verse 5. “And what they said pleased the whole gathering,” [emphasis again on whole,] “and they chose Stephen a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.”
Church, this is amazing. Catch this. Again, it’s the whole gathering, Hebrews, Hellenists all together. Peter and the other apostles, they say you choose seven men, good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, your choice for the whole group. They pick these seven, and church every one of them has a Greek name, which means all of them were Hellenists, the minority group, in the whole group selected, they selected that group. I’m sure that there were plenty of good, outstanding men who came from the Hebrews, but this I’m convinced was intentional because it demonstrated unity, and to commit the church’s resources to this group demonstrates again unity. Making a statement, and this is intentional. And the group made this choice, and I want to I want you to see how Jesus blessed them, how the Lord blessed their actions. Verse 7,
“and the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
“By this men will know you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another.
That’s a positive example. Now there’s a negative example as well in Scripture, and we find it in 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth the church of Corinth had all kinds of issues, all kinds of drama was going on in their church. There were there was divisions, factions. There was a partisan spirit. One group said I’m of Paul, the other group said I’m of Apollos, and everything else, so they had that going on. There was gross sexual immorality taking place in the church. Members of the church, they were taking one another to court, and so it was just a mess. And Paul addresses the issues one by one by one by one. Well then in chapter 11 he addresses abuses at communion, the Lord’s Supper. Take a look at chapter 11:17-19. He says,
“But in the following instructions I do not commend you because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
There’s going to be separation in the body of Christ because some are progressing faster in the faith than others. And there’s going to be some separation between those who are immature in their faith and those who are mature. Now the practice of the Corinthians was, when they would gather together to take communion, the Lord’s Supper, they would have what they called a love feast beforehand. And the love feast was like a potluck dinner. Everybody brought something to the meal. And the church at Corinth was diverse. There were free people, there were some that were slaves, different backgrounds, rich and poor. What had happened was a good thing like the love feast. Great idea. Ended up being a cause for judgment. Look with me at verse 20.
“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” [In other words, there is no way you can call this the Lord’s supper.] “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”
“What!” You can almost see Paul saying, say what?
“Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
So, what was happening here is that the wealthier saints, they came early, and they brought the high dollar items. They brought the meat and everything else, the filet mignon if you will, all of that, the salmon and so they brought all of that. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. They’re bringing all of that to the meal and all of them gather early. And they share, they eat their own meal there together, and the day laborers who came later because they had to work throughout the day, they’re working with their hands, so they come in later. By the time they show up nothing’s left. And if they can bring anything all to the meal, they can only bring vegetables and sometimes they couldn’t bring anything, and they show up. They’re hungry. They’ve worked all day and they show up, there’s no food left, and the wealthy are believers. They’ve eat everything and been there long enough to get drunk.
So, there is a separation that’s taken place, whereas they should have waited. Waited together. And especially those who were wealthier should have waited with their food to make sure their poorer brothers could have something to eat. They didn’t. They just took it upon themselves and then said we’re going to have the Lord’s supper together, and Jesus who is the one who died for unity that the two may be one and there will be may be no division no schism, Jesus who gave his life for that, they were disrespecting his sacrifice in their behavior leading up to communion in a voluntary dinner.
They angered Christ so much that he disciplined them. Watch, verse 29,
“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly we would not be judged. But when you are judged by the Lord we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
He says some of you are sick, some of you have died because you didn’t respect the lord’s table evidenced by what you did of head a time dividing among socio economic lines, getting drunk which is a sin. Doing all of that and then taking the Lord’s table is disrespect, and that is why some of you have been sick and even some have died.
Now listen church, there are a number of sins that are listed in 1 Corinthians, a number of vices. But this is the only one that I’ve read a known of where death is a direct result of the sin. That’s how serious Jesus treats unity. Paul says look, if we would just evaluate ourselves, we wouldn’t have to be judged.
Unity is at the core of the gospel, that two are made one, that these differences that are out in the world, they don’t matter in the church these distinctions, There’s no black / white. The world has proven it already, and we see it in the gospel. And yet we can still hold on to it. Church, we should tear down these walls of racism because unity means so much to our Lord and King.
So that being laid out, I want to share with you just two simple applications really quick two simple things that we can do that can help move the ball down the field so to speak in regard to unity. And you know we’ve already talked about the history of race. We’ve talked about how it’s a discipleship issue. We’ve talked about all of those things and the importance of unity and how much it meant to the Lord Jesus. I want to take you back to Scripture and show you what Paul said, his instruction he gave to the church at Corinth. Just listen to this. Verse 33.
“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home – so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things, I will give directions when I come.”
He says listen, just wait. Hold out. Wait the extra hour or two hours until all of you can come together, rich, poor, that everyone can be at the table. Wait until there’s unity. Simply wait. If you’re hungry or you know that you get hungry right around 5:00, whatever, 4:00, he says eat at home. Eat at home. Eat some Nabs or something. Eat at home so that when you gather together you don’t bring judgment upon yourselves. It’s simple, yet it’s deep and profound when you think about it. The message here from Jesus through Paul is, listen the food is not the priority. It’s not about getting your belly full. It has nothing to do with that.
There’s a greater purpose in our gathering and the gathering is to showcase the unity in Christ, not just talk about it but to show it and be intentional about it. Change the purpose of the gathering so that it is intentionally diverse and representative of the body of Christ. Just eat together. Wait so you can eat together. Plan your day so that all of you can eat together and show the unity that I gave my life for you to have.
First application is just simply share a meal with a Christian of a different race. Simple. Pray and just see. I know there are other believers that are white, that are Black, that are Hispanic. Lord, I just want to connect with somebody. Help me, Lord to connect so I can listen. Because there may be things, in fact I’m sure there are things, Lord, that I don’t understand, and I want to have understanding, and I want to know how to minister to my brother or sister. Because if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Just one meal and just talk. And even if it doesn’t sound politically correct or whatever, who cares. You could go to someone and just to say look, I just want to talk with you. And yes, it’s because you’re my Black brother in Christ or you’re my white brother, sister in Christ. I don’t know what to call you, African-American, but I just want to break bread, have a meal together. I just love you and I want to connect. Simple. And it’s amazing what you’ll learn.
Just listen, carry a spirit of humility, also you’re not easily offended. And that works on all sides. As believers we’re not easily offended by things that are said, just being patient and listening. It’s amazing what the Lord will do just in a meal.
Secondly, have a real conversation about your experiences with race in America. Have a real conversation with that brother or sister or others that you build a relationship with, have a real conversation about racism, questions that I’m sure you’ve had but are just kind of afraid to express, have that conversation. You know it may be uncomfortable but talk about it.
I have a pastor friend, and during all of the whole midst of the shooting in Charleston, in various things that are going on, he just texted me and said, “Alex I just want to meet you for lunch, and I just need help understanding. We are partners in the community and I just don’t understand what what’s going on, from your perspective. Will you meet with me for lunch?”
We met and talked, and I got to share some and listen. And then we started talking about being pulled over, police issue with police brutality and those kinds of things. And he said, “Talk to me about this.” And I had a chance to share with him, you know when I was coming up, my brother who was nine years older than me, before I could drive, I was 12-13 years old, and he’s 9 years older than me. At that point, he talked to me about being pulled over for DWB. And you may have heard of DUI driving under the influence.
Well he talked about DWB, Driving While Black. It’s real. He said it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when. So, when you’re pulled over for no reason, when it happens, this is what you do. And it happened multiple times. Now look at me. I look like Carlton on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If you had to place me on the spectrum of Tupac or Carlton, I’m over here. Now admit it. I’m over here.
I have been pulled over at least four times on Interstate 95 for no reason. I’ve been told I don’t need a reason by an officer. I’ve been frisked, I’ve been put up against a wall, all of that. In one case I was pulled over and frisked just because I had a box haircut. Back in the day everybody had a box haircut. You know that was it.
I started to share this with him and share how I’m not angry and bitter or anything like because this is what God used to help shape me. This is a fallen world and it’s going to express itself in different ways to different people. Do you know church, he couldn’t eat any more. He started to cry. Put his fork down. He said, “I’m so sorry.” I said,”You don’t need to apologize, but pray for my sons. My oldest son likes to wear hoodies. And he wears them all the time and he loves to run. He runs everywhere. Pray for him. One day he doesn’t just have his hood and he’s running and somebody think that…”
He didn’t know to pray for that. He didn’t know how much, that scenario… I fear that. I do. It is a real. And he prayed for me about that. Now he wouldn’t know to pray for that. Then then he did. Have a real conversation. We’re one. We are one. Christ died for us to be one.
And if anyone were to ask, well what you know what did you learn today at North Hills, and what did that you know short Black preacher I have to talk about that morning. If someone were to say this afternoon, what was that all about? After talking about race and after talking about the myth of racism and everything else and how it’s a discipleship issue, after all that you can share with them this one thing, the big idea. And the big idea is this. Unity requires intentionality. It has to be a priority.
We have to do whatever it takes to help get us there, understanding there are differences, and also understanding there’s much more in common than we have that are different. Jesus called us to be one. We need to make it a priority. Will you pray with me, please?
Heavenly father we just thank you so much for today and I thank you God for this wonderful church. Thank you, Lord for what you’re doing in North Hills and what you’re doing in the church in Greenville. You are making changes happen, Lord. And I pray God that we will continue to grow in unity. And Lord as we grow in love, we will grow in love for you and for one another, regardless of our background or anything else. But we won’t allow that to divide us, the world’s way of separating that will that will not infiltrate the church, that we’ll will stop it. It’s time to tear it down. Help us to do that. Thank you again for this time. Thank you for the truth of your Word. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.