Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, 'Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?' And the Lord heard it" (Num. 12:1-2, NKJV).
Right at the beginning of this intriguing story, Aaron the high priest and Miriam the prophetess are seen operating in the spirit of racism. Ministering in a prominent gifting or office never ensures purity of attitude in us.
Aaron and Miriam were not only Moses' siblings, they were also leaders for the entire Israelite nation. But instead of being straightforward and confessing their pride, they cloaked their attitudes in a religious cause while choosing to believe their motivation for being critical was spiritual.
No one is immune from pride. And because racism is a form of pride, no one is immune from racism. Racism is incompatible with Christianity.
One of the marks of Christian immaturity is the stereotyping of a group of people-- attributing the actions of some to all within that group. Those who thump their Bibles and proclaim the superiority of one race over another are motivated by the original sin of pride that has caused so many to stumble.
Though I hope I have learned a few things from my experiences through the years, I must confess my real lack of wisdom and insight when dealing with race relations. Living in the Deep South is an ongoing lesson in prejudice and its root of pride.
My first experience was as a third-grader, stepping onto the grammar school campus on the first day back to school after summer vacation. I had just had my barber's specialty, the buzz cut, and was also very tan from spending all summer in the sun. A couple of older boys came up to me, got in my face and said, "Hey, we don't allow n------ in this school." As an 8 year old, I was devastated and never have forgotten that scene.
Years later in high school, the only African American on our basketball team suddenly found himself without a home, due to his parents' marital problems. Our family asked him to come live with us until things were straightened out with his folks. I had bunk beds at that time. My friend slept on the top bunk, and I slept on the bottom. I suppose that would not be a big deal in some places, but in south Georgia during the late 1970s, it was something people talked about.
Later, when I attended Bible college in Florida, there was only one African American man living in the dormitories my first semester there. I don't have to tell you who his roommate was, do I?
All of these little encounters are insignificant in the great scheme of things, except that they really helped me later in life. Now 43 years of age, I find myself pastoring a church (still in south Georgia) that is racially integrated. People from a variety of ethnic backgrounds are also reflected in our leadership team, with minority groups represented at all levels of leadership from deacons to cell-group leaders to elders.
Leadership needs to be racially mixed. Many pastors have a deep desire to see their congregations racially mixed. I believe a key to seeing that happen is to "put your money where your mouth is."
If those who visit your church do not see people of other races involved in your leadership team, they will likely think, Well, they want me here as long as I follow, but there will never be an opportunity for me to lead. And so they will leave, possibly ending up in a place where they see faces similar to theirs, whether or not that is God's highest and best for them.
I recall the first person of color who we raised up years ago to pastor a cell group. Our leaders at that time had a concern that our black members would be drawn to his group and our lighter-skinned members would not, hence creating a "congregation within a congregation." Guess what? The opposite happened.
Avoid excessively preaching on race. Another key is to resist the temptation to excessively preach or talk about race, though your heart may be greatly burdened to see change in this area. Sometimes our efforts, particularly by those of us who are lighter skinned, can bring too much attention to our differences and bring about more of a divide than was there before. Continually bringing up the matter of race can make those we are trying to embrace uncomfortable.
We are not seeking the perfect racial mix in every congregation. Quotas in the church do not work. But all of us must allow the Holy Spirit to deal with any attitude in our churches that may prohibit people from being all God has called them to be in Him. We have to relate to Jesus, not from a white perspective or a black perspective, but from a Holy Spirit perspective.
Racism is demonic. Racism is one of the most powerful demonic strongholds in our world today. Pride is not becoming to a man or woman of God. Humility is still a command from the Lord for Christians who want to walk in God's ways.
Leaders in the Christian community, whether black, white or any other particular tint, must rely on God's call and anointing on their lives to grant them the visibility and voice they then use to lead. When that visibility is used for personal race agendas, the onlooking community becomes confused as to whether that individual is representing God or his or her own personal views.
When our cause or color becomes our rallying point, it is just as unbecoming as when our churches or denominations become the common threads that hold us tight, rather than our relationship with Christ.
Someone once said, tongue in cheek, that the only problem God has with His eyesight is that He is colorblind. May God help us to see every person through His eyes.