Archive for the tag “Race”

I am invisible…to myself

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This past week I was able to unplug, unwind, and just enjoy some time alone. Throughout the week, while I spent the majority of my time alone in my hotel room, I did venture out occasionally. While out there, I realized that there is a very big difference between myself, and the culture that I have grown up in, and other cultures that are present right here in my own backyard.

Our behaviors are driven by the cultures and norms that we grew up with. When we enter areas or get into groups that have norms that we don’t understand, we tend to interpret those words and actions through the lens of our own culture. The problem with that is that it can lead to misinterpretation of the culture and damaged relationships.

I would like to share an example of this from a business perspective, but understand that this can be seen across countless other “cultural” norms other than business.

In American business, we tend to expect people to say what they mean and take their word at face value. Unfortunately, that cultural norm doesn’t translate across all cultures. If an American manager assumes an Asian counterpart will understand words the same way, that American manager could be in for a rude awakening.

The American manager looked at his Asian counterpart and asked if he understood on how to move forward with a project. The Asian coworker said he understood and agreed with the American coworker on how to move forward. A few months later, however, the American manager realized that his Asian counterpart didn’t agree at all and the project had never moved forward.

In many Asian cultures, harmony is highly valued. It is rude and inappropriate to disagree with people face to face and even more so in the presence of others, such as in a meeting. So typically, an Asian person may nod and say “yes” but it simple acknowledgement that they understood what you said, not necessarily agreement with what you propose.

Many times, the only way to deduce whether someone Asian agrees or disagrees with you is by watching their nonverbal cues. Do they have a pained look on their face as they nod? Don’t expect them to agree with you.

A key takeaway from this is that the American manager should have scheduled a one-on-one meeting with his Asian counterpart and been more aware of his body language. This would have helped him understand that cultural differences between him and his counterpart.

That was only an example taken from a business perspective.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

But this past week has been very eye-opening to me. Mostly from a perspective of Caucasian versus African-American.

I’ve never subscribed to the political norms of the day. As a Christian, I am supposed to be right-wing, conservative, Republican. I am supposed to be wearing something preppy (I know, a throwback to the 80s) and focused on building my bank account instead of healing the world.

But that isn’t me. I am NOT a Republican (I am also NOT a Democrat). I am not totally conservative. I hold to some traditional conservative values (I am pro-life, for example). But I also hold some traditionally liberal values (I think we should take care of the immigrants in our country, for example).

I base my Christianity from the Bible, not from commentaries or political pundits.  I do not ascribe to political Christianity. We don’t live in a post-Christian culture. We have never lived in a Christian culture. Yes, many of our laws are based from the Bible, but we were never a Christian nation. At best, we are a pre-Christian nation.

But, what I realized this week is that even though I don’t ascribe to many of those cultural norms, they are ingrained in my psyche and my actions.

For so long, I held to the fact that I didn’t need to wear a mask. I thought of it politically. Why did I have to do something that various people (both Democrat & Republican) don’t have to do? On the Democratic side, why does Rep. Lewis get a huge funeral attended by hundreds while it is illegal for the average person to get a funeral for their mom or dad. As for the Republicans, why do I have to have my rights trampled on so I can’t meet at church while I can fill up a Walmart or Home Depot with tons of people who barely know how to wear a mask?

I still don’t fear this virus. I have no reason to. I have a God who is bigger than this virus. But what I need to realize is that my culture, the one I ascribe to, is not being targeted. It is not in jeopardy. I can still worship. I can still praise God publicly. I can still have friends over to my house to talk about the Bible openly. And we can, technically, still have church, even if you are in a state like California where they have banned inside services and small groups in houses (they can still meet outside, whether at their houses or at their churches).

Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

But this week….

I went away to rejuvenate. After doing ministry through this pandemic the past 4-5 months, I realized that I was a little burned out. The sheep have become more in need during this time and we are trying to reach a community for the Gospel that is not just dying spiritually, but now could very well be sick and dying physically!

I went about 3 hours away to southwest VA. In this area there were a lot of people vacationing. There were Caucasian, Asian, and African-American from what I saw.

All of the stores in the area are required to have a sign on their doors that say “MASKS REQUIRED.”

But that didn’t stop people from not following it.

And it wasn’t a cross-section of each population that was not wearing it. It was a single culture that wasn’t wearing masks…mine.

The Asian and African-American people were wearing the masks. Almost 100% of people of those ethnicities were in masks. But the Caucasians were not wearing masks well or at all!

My wife and I met with a salesperson while down there who spits while he talks. He was not masked as he tried to sell us on something. He had spit coming out of his mouth and landing on the table in front of him.

Then, I asked a few people why they weren’t wearing masks in the places they worked and they said, for example:

“I can’t breathe in them” (that was the most common answer…lame excuse! I have asthma and can breathe perfectly through the mask)


“I am not wearing a mask, it violates my rights.”


“Masks don’t save lives. The studies are all lying to us.”


Then, on Thursday, I went to a convenience store. Inside were 3 Caucasian people working and probably about 10-12 Caucasians buying stuff. Absolutely none of them (except me) had a mask on! Also in there were 7-8 African-Americans. They were all masked up.

So I asked them why they were wearing masks. Here are a couple of their responses:

“It is my duty to protect others.”


“The virus affects the black population more than the white population.”


“Masks work to keep us all safe.”


We can learn from so many people from all cultures and ethnicities. But ultimately, what does the Bible say about this?

My wife and I were interviewed om Saturday for a YouTube video that a couple of missionaries we support in Peru were putting together. During the interview, Mimi brought up a verse that I have always enjoyed to share with others, but never put a lot of thought into it.

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Now re-read those answers from the people above and see if they fit within Philippians 2:3 context.

So I need to realize that my own culture…even the one I like to say I don’t ascribe to…is invisible to me and I need to start taking Philippians 2:3 as more than just good words of advice to share with others and let it be something that leads my actions and words.

Wonder What Would Have Happened If I Had Actually Trained

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

So last weekend I did a thing.

I ran a 5k with my son.

Now please understand me here, I have never run a day in my life.


I am not athletically inclined.

I am a fat man in my late 40s.

I use the term “run” when I say to my wife, “I am going to run to the store for cookies” or “I need to run out and get more ice cream.”

A few weeks ago a sign went up in my town. It was advertising a 5k being put on by our little local fitness center ( I drove by the sign several times a week and finally asked my wife one day if she would like to run the 5k with me.

She gave me a look that can only be described as disbelief combined with humor combined with utter shock. I think she also wanted to smack some sense into me.

And she told me no.

She doesn’t run. She is so amazingly fit and works out in other ways at a different gym, but she doesn’t run. And she knew that I don’t run either.

So I dropped the idea for a few minutes and then said, I wonder if my son or daughter would like to run with me.

Again, the look of disbelief.

I called my daughter and got the same reaction as my wife. My son, on the other hand, said yes.

I started the plan to run a 5k.

Now I walk 4 miles a day average. I figured that would translate well into running a 5k. I’d actually be running less distance than I walk usually, so I should be good.

So I started my training.

Isaiah 40:31 – But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I put the dog’s collar on her and walked out the door. We took about 200 steps before we stopped to sniff some grass (the dog, not me). We walked another 300 steps and stopped to pee (again, dog, not me). A little while later we stopped to talk to someone else who was walking. Even later still we stopped to poop (again, dog not me). We would stop and start a lot on our 2.5 mile walk that day.

A few weeks of my “training regimen” and I was set.

The big day arrived. I couldn’t sleep the night before so I only got about 3-4 hours of sleep. I woke up and wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat anything. My son and I walked over to the area where the race would start. It was a nice warm up walk of about 1.25 miles.

Then we checked in and got ready to race. I couldn’t figure out how to put my number on me, but eventually got that figured out. They gave away these goodie bags in the beginning to everyone. When they went to make announcements I was the only person who had a bright green goodie bag on my back. I looked at my son and asked him to go hide it for me since I don’t want to look like a complete noob.

After the announcements we took our marks and the race started.

I got off to an amazing start! Out of the 150 or so participants I was in the front 30 for the first probably 50 steps.

Then I started falling behind.

By the end of the first half mile I was walking.

Then I saw people standing up ahead of me and a photographer so I mustered all my energy and started running…until I was past the photographer.

Then I went back to walking.

I saw a few more people and started running again.

This occurred all the way throughout the race.

2 Timothy 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

In the end, I ran the 5k in 41 minutes and came in 63rd place out of about 150.

Since I didn’t train, it was strictly my own determination that got me through that race.

Oh, a side note here, my son got 3rd!

But, what would have happened if I had actually trained?

For never running a day in my life and going strictly off my own power, I got 63rd. If I had actually trained I might have made it in the top 30 or 40. If I would have used a trainer or even wisdom from people who have done this in the past then I might have been better and possibly even feel better afterward.

Just so you all know, it is a couple days after and I am still limping like both of my ankles are broken. I even did all the right things after the race: I immediately laid down on the ground, after I was done laying down I went and got a snowball with extra marshmallow, and I didn’t eat anything else for a few hours afterward. (please note, that last sentence was meant to be sarcastic, but unfortunately every statement in there is true)

1 Timothy 4:8 – For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Training is a very important piece of this life. As a Christian, I find that this entire life is training for the next.

Especially in my Christian walk, if I don’t train myself to read the Bible or to pray regularly then I can fake it for a little while, but in the end I will be even more hurt than if I had trained properly.

Falling in love with God, or anyone for that matter, is all about training yourself to do it. Training is the key to success.

As an elder in my church, I can’t even tell you how many people come to Christ on Sundays who quit their walk with Christ a few short months later because it is too hard.

If you were to ask me to go out and start running the day after my 5k last weekend, I would have told you it was too hard and I wasn’t going to do it. The same happens with Christianity. The person is reading and praying and studying and communing with other Christians and life is getting better, but then something happens like their work schedule changes or sports season starts and now they don’t have time to train. They don’t have time to read their Bible or pray to God. They cancel appointments with other Christians and miss Bible studies and home groups because those are lower on the needs list. Who needs God now when He will always be there, right?

Just like with anything, you can fake it for a little while on your own but you will never reach the level you could unless you train properly.

This goes for 5k races and the Christian walk.

God has a purpose for you and it all revolves around training.

Who knows, maybe by this time 6 months from now I will tell you that I ran another 5k and placed better. I do know that I want to start training so that I can improve my results and feel better afterward.

But in the meantime, I will keep training on my Bible reading, prayer life, and Christian walk. That is the most important training anyone can do anyway.

Hebrews 12:11-13 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Black and White in a Gray World

People are interesting.

I remember going to Ocean City with my parents every October and staying at the same hotel, the Santa Maria that used to be on 15th street. Since it was October, it would be chilly, but that never stopped my parents from sitting on the large boardwalk-facing patio and watching people. As people would walk up and down the boardwalk, my parents would sit there and stare at them, sometimes commenting about them.

This would go on for hours.

One thing that never ceased to amaze me was just how long my parents could watch people. I started to think they were in the CIA and watching their next target.

As I have gotten older, I find myself on some days just sitting and watching people.

I’ve learned that people are so very different!

Some are tall, some are short. Some are darker skinned, some more fair-skinned. Some have hair, others do not.

And not only do people look differently, but they act differently as well. Some are loud and others are more reserved. Some people like to laugh a lot while others are more solemn. Some people like to be the center of attention while others like to, well, watch people.

And it is precisely our differences that cause us a lot of problems!

Lately we have had race issues causing division in our country again.

Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”

The gospel doesn’t stop us from dealing with social issues such as racial division. Just the opposite, it compels us to act.

Unfortunately, as a typical white male, it is very difficult for me to act without finding my every action or comment judged more strictly than if someone of color said or did it. And I understand this, but it doesn’t it make it any more right than a white person judging the statements or actions of a person of color more harshly.

We live in a society where race and racism is constantly in the forefront.

But God put the nail in the coffin of racism when he created man and woman. God created man and woman “in His image.” No person, or people group, is more or less human than another.

This means that if God, in the first few pages of His holy book, said that ALL people are formed in God’s image, then the people who are committing atrocities due to race have a distrust of God’s Word. All of the large scale, and small scale, genocides and ethnic cleansings that have happened in history is nothing short of a satanic plan to lead people away from God’s Word and led to people who believed they were more “human” than those they were cleansing, enslaving, or murdering.

Acts 17:26 – And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place

Paul is very clear in Acts 17:26 that all of humanity was formed through a single man. We all trace our ancestry back to a single couple, Adam and Eve. The Bible is basically the story of our unity through worldly diversity.

From one mom and one dad, we get all the diverse people groups around the world. Genesis 10 explains this perfectly! After the fall and the flood, the people were divided into their different clans, languages, and nations.

But if we are to be honest, how many times when a racial discussion comes up do we think about the gospel first? What is the first thought in your mind when you hear that a white police officer shot and killed an African American suspect.

I reckon that you are not thinking to yourself that we are all made in God’s image and that we are all from the same family. No, most likely if you are Caucasian you are quick to come to the defense of the police officer and if you are African American you are thinking about how this is probably a racial incident, or at least hoping that it is not.

That means that our inclination goes directly to the racial issue, not the gospel solution.

I want to challenge us to look beyond color. We need to look to heritage. Let’s not place our focus simply on the color of the person. Let’s look at their rich heritage in their cultural ethnicity. When we look at color alone, we are looking at biology. Ethnicity looks at social, cultural, linguistic, historical, and religious characteristics. Currently there are over 16,000 ethnolinguistic groups (people groups) in the world throughout 200 or so countries.

In America it makes no sense to call people black, white, or brown. We are Anglo-American, African-American, Latin American, Asian American and others.

One thing that I have heard a lot as I have tried to teach this to people is that I, as the white person in the room, am trying to let everyone off the hook and sweep all of the years of racial problems away.

But that is not the case at all!

I want us to move forward from it. Instead of keeping the focus on biology, which led to years of oppression and hatred, I would like us to move into an ethnolinguistic look at race. Racism is kept alive in only the biological realm, but when we move beyond that and look at a person for all of their ethnolinguistic characteristics, then we realize that focusing only on biology is a sin. The gospel message is unique in how it is able to bring unity in the midst of diversity.

The Bible has plenty of stories about evil pride and ethnic prejudice.

Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The evil turns to clan wars. The earth fills with more and more people and those people hurt each other more and more. Even though many of the Bible’s pages show problems between different ethnic groups, the Bible also shows a very different story, a God who loves every single person on the face of the planet, regardless of which clan, which tribe, or which people group you come from. In Genesis 11 all the nations rebel against God and in Genesis 12, God chooses Israel to be His people. But in Genesis 12:3 God promises that all of humanity will know the blessings that were given to Israel.

Genesis 12:3 – I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God then gave Israel laws on how to deal with diverse groups of people.

Exodus 22:21 – You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

And then God shows his anger when Israel doesn’t live up to those laws.

Ezekiel 22:29 – The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.

But humanity seems to get in the way and when the Christian church started, there was a deep chasm between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.

But Jesus was introduced as an immigrant fleeing persecution. Jesus’ family lived in Egypt as immigrants. When they returned to Israel, they were expecting a mighty king that would overthrow the government, but that thinking was too small for Jesus. Instead, He showed love to those from Canaan, Samaria, Greece and Rome.

For so long, those who were different were seen as inferior, even in the Christian camps (sounds like today, eh?).

Ephesians 2:12-14 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

Ephesians 2:18-19 – For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God

Those verses show how the gospel reunites people from different ethnicities.

It all makes sense now!

When the Fall happened and sin entered the scene, it not only separated man and woman from God but from each other. Christ conquered sin on the cross, giving us the way to unification with Him and with each other.

But we are not called to give up that which makes us different.

The gospel calls us to celebrate our differences, value our cultures, and acknowledge history. Regardless of our political leanings, the gospel does not show us that race is an issue to be solved. The gospel shows us that all are people to be loved. Men and women were made in God’s image, not our own.

Christians are not to associate themselves with a culture that views itself above other cultures. We must live a life that looks forward to the second coming of Christ, and all of the ethnicities represented.

Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands

So I finish by pleading with you to strive to erase the hatred and negative stereotypes associated with biological views of race and adopt an ethnolinguistic view of race instead, understanding people beyond their color and seeing them for the image of God inside them.

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