A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my perspective on the Ferguson, MO situation and some things we could take away from it, especially being Christians. And my dear sweet husband sent me another blog that I personally found convicting and full of exhortation as well. His blog was entitled: 50 Shades of Christ: The Other Side of a Much Needed Dialogue, and truly, he did present another side of a dialogue that very much needs to happen. So, though this is a few weeks old, I do encourage you to check out his blog, and freely comment on your thoughts and views. The conversation can only be helped and fostered by your participation. Now, after reading that blog, I had some final thoughts that I wanted to share here one last thought on race and the church with this basic question: Has anything good come from Black people that has benefited the church, and can it be acknowledged?
Now, you can ask this question about any people group you want, but I can only write from my own perspective. I’ve long heard of the contributions of women to the church. I’ve heard extensively about the contributions of white Europeans and the Puritans. I’ve read sermons by Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Jonathan Edwards. I’ve learned hymns by Toplady, Charles Wesley, Martin Luther, Fanny Crosby and so many other writers to the point that I’ve been able to recognize whether the tune to a hymn is familiar or not by looking at the footnotes. And I greatly appreciate all of the contributions that all of these people have made throughout the centuries, but I constantly wonder, where are the people that look like me?
And that is a familiar question to me. That’s the same question I had as I learned history throughout elementary, middle, and high school in Virginia. I always wondered: didn’t Black people do more things than become slaves? (And that slave history is well emphasized in Virginia history) Have we done anything? Contributed anything? I mean, beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the usual list of the first Black people to hold various professions and careers, did we make a serious contribution to mankind?
So, as my Christian walk has deepened, I have the lingerings of that same question, but posed now to the Church. If we are all made in the image of God, and if we have all received gifts from the Holy Spirit, and if we are all necessary to the body of Christ and its functioning, then what gifts do we, as a Black people, possess that really are a benefit to the Church? Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply thankful for every Christian that has come before no matter their color for everything that they have contributed for me to be where I am in the Lord today. Not only that, their testimonies are still a wonderful encouragement for all of us to put our faith in the Lord and to continue to trust in Him. Truly, we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” as the author of Hebrews stated.
I guess, I just wish that that cloud had a few people that looked a little like me. I don’t believe that when I get to heaven it’s going to have the same composition as our church in Colorado, our church in Louisiana, or our church here in Charleston. No, I’m pretty certain that there will be people there from every tribe, nation, race, and tongue. We will get a full picture of every member of the body of Christ, and it will be beautiful. Yet, in between time, I wish that we, as the church, could readily recognize all of the gifts of the body, not just the ones that we identify with most easily. I wish that we were more vocal about what the people in our congregations (and in the Church at large) contribute in general. I know that there will always be churches and people who are in error and need to be corrected (or even shut down if their spewing heresies), but to only recognize and condemn the worse things and say nothing else, tends to give the wrong impression. And to be honest, as a Black woman, the impression I’ve been given for the past two years is that outside of Andre Crouch, Black people haven’t contributed anything to the Church at large. We do not exist in the history of the Church, except in missionary expeditions to Africa. Now, that may be completely false, but it is the impression that I have received, unfortunately.
So, yes, this is my final thought on this topic of race and the church. I do pray that one day we would get to the place where we are one church, where we don’t divide over race every Sunday morning. But I also pray that we get to the place that all of the gifts to the body of Christ universal are recognized and appreciated, not just the gifts that come from one or two people groups.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)