By: Jenni Walker
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2 & 10)
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Just how does a Wholehearted Woman, regardless of race, cultural background, or skin color, yet also in consideration and celebration of them, navigate this topic of race relations in a God-honoring way that is biblical, Christ-centered, and Spirit-led?
Last week, we took a look at how race relations is a topic swirling throughout nearly every aspect of our American culture right now, and it is one we as believers must navigate with God’s truth, wisdom, and mighty love. It is only with these that we are able to respond with gospel-centered humility and discernment. How many of us have read an online comment, review, or Tweet that basically said, “See?! Look how awful you/this product/they really are!” around topics related to any kind of personal or societal injustice? There are so many cultural buzzwords swirling around that can become divisive when people talk about them because they get heated, defensive, or refuse to listen to another’s perspective.
As we said last week, that is not what we are going to do here. Some of those buzzwords represent important topics, while others can lead to unbiblical paradigm shifts in thinking. Our goal is to look to the Lord, listen and learn from the experiences that some of our sisters in Christ share with us about this topic, and to draw closer to one another and to the Lord as He speaks to our hearts.
Where to Begin?
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…” (Galatians 6:2)
What does bearing one another’s burdens even mean? We must start with the gospel. Romans 3:23 states emphatically, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All humans no matter where they are from or what they look like start life with separation from God, brokenness, and a love of darkness. (John 3:17) The cultural tendency is to shine a light somewhere else so my darkness doesn’t seem quite so dark. Joining together in a worthy cause (remembering that the ONE who we all get our worth from should be who we look to navigate such matters!) is important, but just looking for the flaws of others and pointing them out (even for “good reason”) is not gospel-centered or God-honoring. As such, it does not shine the light of Christ, which is what our broken world is so desperately in need of!
Yet, as Christians, it is also important to not respond to someone’s pain with a heart attitude of, “Well, I’M not responsible for what happened over there/then/in that person’s life.” We should never respond with a passive attitude toward injustice, brokenness, or pain in this world. No matter your background, there may be a call to action the Lord is leading you to in your neighborhood, community, state, or even particular part of this world.
Our friend Ronda Tyson has been led by the Lord to partner with missionary friends in Moorish villages of The Gambia in Africa to spread the gospel. Her friends there are Caucasian and have faced difficulties in building trust with the people they are called to reach with the gospel. The Lord has used Ronda and her husband, both black Americans, to help build trust and pave the way for the light and love of Christ to reach hearts and transform lives through the Spirit-led partnership of this missionary couple and Ronda and her husband – together! (Read more of Ronda’s story HERE.) What a beautiful example of the Lord at work in and through His people to reach broken places and to draw lost hearts to Himself!
It also demonstrates what the Lord has called us to as believers in our interactions with one another. We looked at 1 Corinthians 12:5–6, 26–27 last week, and it bears repeating here:
“There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
If a brother or sister in Christ shares with me of a painful or hurtful interaction (past or present!) due to something such as skin color or cultural differences, we as members of the body of Christ must check cultural attitudes at the door (self-righteous finger pointing, thinking “I’M not responsible,” etc.) and, instead, respond with empathy and godly compassion in Christ as described in this passage. How do we treat one another as believers? “If one member suffers, all the members suffer…” Galatians 6 describes how we as followers of Christ are called to both spiritual restoration and good works toward one another: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are the household of faith” (v. 2 & 10).
Earlier in the same book of the Bible, Paul reminded the churches of Galatia “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…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” (Galatians 3:26 & 28). Our worth is not first from our race, our gender, our upbringing, our status, or our works. Yes, as humans, all of us are made in the image of God and are loved by Him (Genesis 1:27 & John 3:16). But we will never be “one” apart from Christ. We must begin with the gospel! Our need for Jesus is the great “unifier” of us all as humans on this earth!
Paul instructs us in Romans 3:19-23, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
When we live our lives as Christians rooted in these realities, it changes not only the way we interact with all people we encounter in our daily lives, but it also transforms how we treat one another as Christians and how we respond to the hurts of others in the body of Christ.
“He’ll show you the way…”
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
I was listening to a Revive Our Hearts podcast episode recently hosted by Nancy DeMoss Wolgelmuth in which a mother and daughter named Robyn and ReNay, both black Americans, shared from their hearts about some difficult, racially-charged experiences they and their family members have had. Amidst the discussion, several statements jumped out at me in light of what we have looked at here today:
Robyn expressed her desire for others in the body of Christ to draw close and get out of their comfort zones by listening to one another’s difficulties and to see one another with the eyes of Christ, saying: “To know me is to know my experience…and then to see why we hold so tightly on to Christ.”
Her daughter ReNay observed, “So my call to us, to myself, has been, let us seek Christ in a way that rids us of our comfort and rids us of our fears. May we get into the trenches together to educate ourselves, to relate to one another in ways that may be uncomfortable, to have conversations, to meet with people who might not look like us, to get out of our comfort zones.”
To which the facilitator replied, “Yes, you’re helping us with so much Bible. Because the Bible tells us that when one suffers we all suffer together, that we’re to weep with those who weep (see Rom. 12:15), that we’re to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), so we can just enter into each other’s pain and each other’s suffering. How powerful is [saying], “I see you, and my heart hurts because your heart is hurting.”
How is the Lord leading us to bear one another’s burdens? Dear Wholehearted Women, “Let us do good” (Galatians 6:10)! Jesus spoke to His disciples in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Paul wrote to believers in Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His holy people…” That is what each of us in the body of Christ are!!
Near the end of that same letter, Paul wrote, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). Ladies, the whole world needs Christ. It needs us to share in one another’s sufferings as followers of Jesus and to also rejoice together. And we need that, too. God uses us in one another’s lives to do good and to minister His healing to hurt places. And HE is the One who gives us endurance, encouragement, and a spirit of unity among us as His followers, and to make us a His holy people who are dearly loved by Him – to His glory!
Perhaps you have experienced suffering of heart in this area. Or maybe you have not ever really studied God’s truth about it or even been affected by it. No matter your background or experience, each one of us is a wholehearted follower of Christ who gets to both weep and rejoice together and experience true unity through the work of Christ in and through us. But where to go from here? We will hear from a few more sisters in Christ next time, but I will close this week with the following encouragement: “Let me assure you, Jesus knows what you’re going through. He knows your weaknesses. He knows your struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16)…Have you been living according to your own natural abilities without considering what the Holy Spirit desires to do in your life? Have your abilities even kept you from seeking Him with all your heart? Come to Jesus, and learn from Him. He’ll show you the way.” (Experiencing the Spirit by Henry & Melvin Blackaby)
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