JESUS STANDS AGAINST RACISM
Mar 11:17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
One of the earliest examples of racism in modern History (A.D.) actually began with religion. And one of the strongest statements for racial reconciliation was actually spoken by Jesus Christ Himself dealing with religious exploitation in God’s house of prayer in the New Testament, Mark 11:17. Jesus Christ uttered one the most profound statements about the inclusion of all racial groups in his house of prayer, quoting from Isaiah 56:7, when He said, “My house shall be called of ALL NATIONS the house prayer.” The word, “All Nations” is the Greek word “Ethnos,” which is where we get our English word, “Ethnic or Ethnicity,” meaning people or racial groups.
I don’t believe Jesus only made this statement because of the corruption of the merchandising of animal sacrifices alone, which was going on in the temple during that time. Jesus was not only upset because of this buying and selling that was taking place in the temple, but I believe he was also just as upset because of where in the temple it was taking place. They were using the courts of the Gentiles to buy and sell animal sacrifices for the Holy days. The courts of the Gentiles were where the Gentiles were allowed to come and pray. This area was now being used by the Jewish religious leaders for unjust monetary gain for the temple, exploiting the Gentiles, while keeping them from coming to the House of God, probably out of their disdain and racists attitudes for the Gentiles. In this religious community and place of worship, racists’ attitudes were actually interfering with the Gentiles coming to the house of prayer. The premier verse displaying Jesus’ righteous indignation in scripture was displayed against racism in the house of God. We often quote the first part of this statement, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but forget or overlook the latter part of that verse which says, “FOR ALL NATIONS.” This part of Jesus’ statement reveals the purpose of God’s house, as well as God’s chosen nation, Israel – to be a light to the Nations (Gentiles). This phrase; “For all Nations” is as important as the first part of this statement made by Jesus, because it reveals what was actually the focus of His displeasure. The Gentile nations were being discriminated against and inhibited from coming to God’s house, keeping God’s house from the power of its purpose – PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS TO BE RECONCILED TO GOD. Thusly God’s house was not fulfilling its purpose as a House of Prayer FOR ALL NATIONS.
Sunday Mornings: Still the Most Segregated Hour of the Week.
In the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, in the midst of the struggle for desegregation in American society, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared that “11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” Sadly, this still holds true, even today, 50 years after the desegregation of public facilities in America. In the church which has lost its purpose and has cultivated a culture of prayerlessness, we still have a racially segregated Church in America, keeping the church from her purpose as a place of prayer for all nations. What’s even sadder for African-American Christians and unbelievers alike is that though the walls of segregation were removed by the sacrifice of our forefathers in the civil rights movement, who gave their lives to assure that we would have some of the civil liberties and privileges we have today, the church in this generation still gravitates to our segregated houses of worship. Our forefathers sacrificed being ridiculed, terrorized, homes and churches bombed, beaten, and some even killed, so that the walls of partition and separation keeping racial groups divided would be torn down in this nation, and so that we could be integrated into American society. Yet, in many circles of society today AfricanAmericans still acclimate to our segregated public accommodations.
No place is this acclimation to segregation in the public square seen more than in our segregated Churches. Our Churches are still the most segregated hour of the week. Our Church leaders still operate and run our churches by a bankrupt religious system that keeps our churches doctrinally and racially segregated, and many of our attendees and members still prefer these segregated churches. Though some of this is due to some systemic and economic demographics still at work in our society that keeps our neighborhoods segregated, by in large, we are still segregated in our churches because of either, the fear of stepping out of our racial comfort zones, religious tradition and control or cultural worship preferences that we are unwilling to let go of. And in some cases we’re still segregated within our churches because our church leaders still struggle with bitterness, and un-forgiveness that they are unwilling to let go of to assure that integration within the body of Christ is the norm in the church, and not the exception.
Our Houses of worship – both Muslim, Jewish and Christian – with their religious spirits, and misinterpretation and twisting of scripture, do more to empower racial oppression and continue to keep us divided along racial lines, than any other sociological dynamic today. We will see in Chapter 6, in The Origins of Racism, and Race-Based Slavery, why I believe this is so, and why racism still has its tentacles in the churches of America, along with what racism looks like and how it operates. We will also see later in this book what these religious, cultural and ethnic barriers are, that are keeping us divided and segregated in the church of this generation. Since racism in modern civilization did not start with Slavery or Jim Crow laws, but with religion, it can’t be totally done away with through governmental legislation. Racism in modern civilization, because it has its roots beginning in a House of Worship, between Jew and Gentile, must be dealt with through the spiritual weapons of prayer that produces a revelation of Jesus Christ. Societal desegregation through legislation was meant to deal with our laws that were keeping the races divided, but for us to be united and reconciled to one another our religion must deal with our hearts that keep the races divided.
Reconciliation Is a Two Way Street
In November 2011 at a 24hr Prayer meeting of 40,000 people in Detroit Michigan, during one of the twelve 2 hour prayer sessions, there was a time of prayer for the reconciliation of the blacks and whites in our nation. It was a very intense time, as a noted AfricanAmerican Bishop in Detroit recounted the history of racism in America, with Slavery, share-cropping and Jim Crow laws, and in Detroit, with industrial share cropping with the Ford Motor Company and Henry Ford. At the end of this time of retrospection of America’s unfortunate history of racism and discrimination this African-American Bishop turned to the white ministers on the platform and said, “My father, who is 96 years old, told me to forgive white people for what they did to our forefathers, and if I would forgive without anyone apologizing, he said one day a white person would apologize to me for what white people have done to our forefathers. “ He then turned to the white ministers on the platform and said, “So now I want you to apologize to me.”
At that time many of the white ministers began to graciously oblige his request by apologizing and asking for forgiveness on behalf of what their forefathers did to our forefathers. After this, a young African-American minister on the platform felt the need to also apologize to the white ministers on the platform for what African-Americans have held against white people for what they had done to our forefathers. He referred to it as “REVERSE RACISM,” saying he struggled with marrying his wife, who happened to be of European-descent, because of how he felt his family and friends would think of him marrying a white woman. He stated that many African-Americans struggled with these feelings about marrying outside of their race because of how they will be perceived, both by African-American women, and by bitter, unforgiving African-Americans in general.
He also went on to state that many African-Americans that voted for President Barak Obama just because he was Black operated in the same spirit of White prejudice and racism that has been perpetuated upon African-Americans for years. When he asked if all the African-American ministers could come together for a time of reconciliation, to apologize to our white brethren and pray for this counter thought pattern of prejudice, bitterness and reverse racism to be broken over our people, he was resisted by an older African-American Bishop, also from the city of Detroit. This Bishop stated that African-Americans should not have to apologize for any counter feelings of prejudice, bitterness or so-called “Reverse Racism,” because we are the ones that have been unjustly treated, and we’ve never received a formal apology. And no, doubt, he said, her family probably didn’t want her to marry you, as much as your family had reservations about you marrying her.
To say the least, this was a very intense time between these two people groups represented, being played out before 40,000 people on the stage at Ford Field in Detroit, and before millions by way of satellite T.V. and the live web-stream.
My Testimony of Racial Reconciliation
At this time, and in this setting, I was asked to share my testimony of deliverance from these same feelings of prejudice, bitterness and un-forgiveness, which took place 20 years prior in my life. Having grown up in the church I know firsthand how you can be a Christian whose faith has at the center of its worship a Jewish man who is of another ethnicity (Jewish) from 97% of his followers, (Gentiles) and still struggle with racial and religious bigotry and prejudice towards other racial groups. I know how as a Christian you can still be struggling with bitter feelings of un-forgiveness against other races for what was done to my ancestors, while claiming to worship a man who died on the cross for our sins, saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This was my experience growing up in my African-American Church expression of Christianity.
As an African-American my experience with bitterness and unforgiveness against Caucasians was not as a result of any personal negative experiences with racial discrimination, or prejudice. My bitterness and un-forgiveness against Caucasians was actually cultivated within my religious, African-American church experience. My sour racial mindsets stemmed from the fact that within our church upbringing there was a culture of distain and bitterness towards what was done to my ancestors, which was a part of our church culture. We were always talking about what Caucasians were doing to hold us back, or what they had done to us in the past.
Consequently, in our church setting we had no desire to associate or interact with other races, even though in society the races had been desegregated for over 40 years. Growing up in the 1980’s I really cannot identify one single personal experience with racism that I could point to and say, “They’re trying to hold me back.”
Again, that’s not to say that the system wasn’t stacked against me.
However, there were no personal experiences that would cause me to harbor bitter or unforgiving thought patterns towards Caucasians. And even though many in my family down through the years had experienced atrocious and tragic experiences at the hands of racially discriminating acts of persecution in Slavery, Jim Crow era, and Civil rights, I seemed to be aware that their experiences had paved the way for my generation, to continue the fight for a new era of justice and liberty for all.
However, in our churches and communities we were still segregated, and we wanted to keep it that way. With our church leaders not wanting us to go outside of our comfort zone to foster relationships with people of other ethnicities, I built my racial worldview exclusively on my association with preachers and teachers in our church denomination and culture who were still bitter, offended and distrustful from their experiences, or their parents and grandparents experiences with Caucasian people. So I grew up dealing with these bitter, distrustful and prejudicial thought patterns towards Caucasians because I had never been outside of my racial culture to experience any positive inner-racial relationships. While I didn’t have any negative experiences with discrimination, I did not have any positive experiences either, that would empower me to see Caucasian people the way God saw them. Our church bred in us an “us against them” mentality, in how we lived, how we worshiped, preached, prayed, and how we voted politically.
This Is Where I’m Sending You
This all began to change when my father started his own church in 1987 when I was 21 years old. I remember the first time I was challenged to come out of my familiar cultural surroundings. I was in my second year of ministry and desiring to go to Bible College. I had been praying about where God wanted me to go. One day I went to the mail box to get the mail at my parents’ house and retrieved a magazine sent to my baby sister, who was 12 years old. The magazine was from a ministry on the outskirts of town that I had never heard of. On the front of the magazine it had the pastor in a preaching pose, and 7 characteristics of the church of the 90’s. It was 1990 and the magazine intrigued me because I had just finished a message on the church of the 1990s and the coming glory of this decade. Everything that God had given me to preach was in the magazine article. On the back it had 10 reasons why you should come to this church’s Bible institute. I heard the spirit of God speak up in my spirit and say, “THIS IS WHERE I’M SENDING YOU TO BIBLE COLLEGE.” Immediately I began to make excuses for why I could not go to this Bible College. It was not an accredited institution and I was almost finished with College courses at an accredited State College in my City. Our church did not believe the same way concerning baptism, which was a major stronghold in the denomination I had grown up in. We were Oneness Apostolic. We worshipped one way and they worshiped another way. Our church was small and theirs a mega church. But what I was afraid of most of all was that our church was African-American and theirs was Caucasian-Anglo-Saxon, and I had never been outside of my race for any type of church or religious experience.
Obeying the Leading of the Lord
I thought that I had a way out of going to this school. My father was my pastor and I thought that he would never let me go to that church bible Institute because of the differing beliefs. Doctrinally, we were staunchly against Trinitarians, (which we thought was the teaching of the belief in three gods), and against anyone that didn’t baptize in Jesus name. We didn’t fellowship with anyone who didn’t believe the same as us in these areas. So when I went to my father and told him what God was speaking to me, I thought he would say, “We don’t believe the same, so I would advise against it.” Instead he said, “If God is dealing with you about going to school out there, you need to obey the leading of the Lord.” Well, to say the least I was very nervous about this step out of my comfort zone, but I obeyed the Lord and enrolled in this Bible College. I was one of about 10 African-Americans in the student body of about 500 students. However, through the spirit of God I began to feel increasingly comfortable in this new setting and surrounding I was placed in. I began to develop friendships with those of other races, denominations, and cultures. I soon realized that I was missing a proper understanding of other cultures, teachings and ethnic expressions of worship. My heart began to be knitted to the Lord’s heart concerning other nations, races and other aspects of Christ’s nature. I began to know the Lord in a way I had never known him before. My relationship with the Lord increased what seemed like 10-fold. I began receiving revelation from the Lord concerning His mission and calling for the nations of the world. I began to desire to pray and seek His face as I never had before. As a result of seeking the Lord in this manner, I began to realize that every ethnicity, people group, and denomination is a unique part of Christ. I understood that we won’t see the body of Christ functioning fully, until we come together in unity. I also learned that each ethnicity, denomination, and culture is a piece of the puzzle and a key that unlocks our own individual and corporate destinies in Christ. We were created to need one another to fulfill what God has called us to do and to be.
I was delivered from fear, bitterness, and prejudice, just by being in the midst of another ethnic expression and developing heart relationships with people outside of my own ethnicity. I learned what the Love of God is and what it is for, as I saw John 3:16 through the lens of the whole world, not just my little part of the world. John 3:16 says, “God, so Loved, the world…” (Polar opposites, God and the world, brought together by love)… “That He gave His only begotten Son.” I learned and saw firsthand in this multi-ethnic setting that the love of God is for OPPOSITES. It’s a sacrificial giving of self for someone that is not like you. It is for someone that has not treated you the way you might have wanted to be treated. It is for those that don’t look, act, think or live like you. When you learn to love those who are different from you and even those who mistreat you, you are walking in the love of God. When this happens, not only do you get out of you what’s in you from God, but you get what God has for you from them. You become a new man, enabling you to accomplish more for God, more for others, and more for yourself. As I came into a diverse community of believers in that Bible College over twenty years ago, I began to receive a new heart, and when I did, I became a new man. I soon realized, as God began to open my understanding about His end-time purpose for the nations coming together in His house of prayer that I was sent by God into this ministry as a first fruits offering of the coming together of God’s body in His house of prayer for all Nations. I was called to help prepare this church in my city to enter into reconciliation and the fullness of its calling. As I was given opportunities to grow in this ministry through serving, loving and speaking in this church’s Bible College, I began to see my place in this community of believers. Over a period of ten years, spanning from the end of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century, the racial landscape of this international mega-church in Columbus Ohio went from 5% African-American to 55% African-American.
Consequently, I came on staff at this church as its first African-American pulpit staff minister. The Caucasians and African-Americans within this ministry were completely integrated, thus positioning them to be reconciled to one another. This ministry became one of the foremost Christian ministries on the earth during that period. The scope of this ministry’s reach went from a local outreach influence to a national and international reach, influencing this nation and the nations of the world. I watched this ministry’s influence and affect in the world increase seemingly a hundredfold, as it embraced the nations and ethnic groups of the world. I believe I was sent into this ministry as a forerunner of the ministry of reconciliation to be a part of the establishing of the coming together of God’s house of prayer for All Nations (Ethnicities). I was sent to help prepare this ministry to be the prototype of what was coming in the twenty-first century; preparing His people for the coming of the Lord.
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you are able to help further this ministry of reconciliation, to get this message and messages like these out in the nation, you can give to Brondon Mathis ministries by clicking on this link to give your tax deductible gifts into the fertile ground of Hope for Columbus, 24/7 prayer, worship and evangelism for city-wide transformation, a ministry that’s bringing hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless in our nation.
Excerpt From my book Religion Racism and Reconciliation on Amazon.com