Have you ever been left out?
I have. I remember as a kid hearing those words. “You’re not invited.” It broke my heart. I couldn’t believe it, someone didn’t want me at their party. Ha! I know I know… Ashley, you’re a 42 year old man… get over it! Well I am, but it wasn’t my first experience with exclusivity but it was one I’ll remember for as long as I live. Through the years I would continue to hear or feel the effects of elitism or exclusivity in some form or fashion. I’m not playing the victim by any means but I do know it helped shape my Christ consciousness and how it helps me view others the way He did.
My experience with being left out is quite different than many of my friends who are of a different race or nationality. As a matter of fact it doesn’t even compare. It’s hard for me to even identify with it. So to all my friends who aren’t white, please have patience and grace with me as I try and approach this subject with as much care as possible.
I just can’t keep quiet because of the horrible acts that have been taking place in Charlottesville. Growing up in the south I have been around people who are on both sides of the fence, people who are racist and those affected by it. I could never sit idly by and watch it happen. I have never experienced racism personally because of the color of my skin. I probably will never know what that feels like. What I do know though, is that the racism is from the pit of hell and it isn’t something we are born with, it’s bred. It’s a learned behavior. Thankfully I was raised to love and accept all people. That same mindset has helped me serve in many different multi-racial churches and has always given me a value of racial reconciliation along the way.
I remember when I was about 21 years old and my life had gotten lit up by God in a beautiful way. I was growing as a Christian, I was serving and tithing at my local church, and I had a pretty good job framing houses. I remember one guy I used to work with. Everyone called him “The Roof Nazi” because well… he was a white supremacist. And white proud he was… he had swastikas on his hard hat, he’d wear punk bands that endorsed the neo-nazi lifestyle and even more he had nothing but hateful things to say about anybody outside of his race. He’d say things to me all the time but I’d just divert the conversation towards the things of God. He would always try and get me riled up because he knew I didn’t agree with him at all. He knew I was a Christian and he wanted to get me to blow my witness in front of the other guys. I didn’t take the bait. I grew ALOT in grace during that season.
Eventually God called me to N. California where I became a full-time youth pastor the following year. I remember getting a random phone call and there was a guy on the other end of the phone. He said, “Hey Ashley, it’s Doug!” I responded, “Doug? Doug who?” He said, “Doug man! We used to work together.” I thought for a moment and responded, “Sorry man doesn’t ring any bells.” He then said, “The Roof Nazi!” I immediately knew who it was! Oh Doug! We had some small talk but I knew he was calling me for a reason. He went on to tell me how his dad was a pastor and how he had run from the call of God on his life. He then proceeded to tell me that he had gone back to church and got radically saved. He had gone home from church that day and was so convicted by the Spirit of God that he burned all of his Nazi paraphernalia and severed ties with the white power organization he was a part of. I was in disbelief and in awe of God at the same time. (It’s weird when you ask God to do something and He does it! ha!) I asked him why, what happened that made him take such radical steps. He said that he could trace it back to our interactions on the roof and how I never lost my cool but instead just listened and responded like Jesus would have. I’m not bragging on myself but I want to encourage you, that our response matters! I don’t know where Doug is these days, but I do know that God can change the hearts of men if we just continue to live the gospel of love in front of those who’s hearts are filled with hate.
As I read through the gospel, I realize that it is entirely inclusive. Anyone who touts that they are supreme based on the color of their skin is sadly misinformed to say it politely. Anyone who also says that they are God’s elect because of the color of their skin is insanely deceived. As my friend Sam Hinn says, “Race is a biological not biblical.” Racism’s purpose is to bring division and strife. Like all sin, it’s birthed out of pride. I’ve heard it said that if we skipped an entire generation, racism probably wouldn’t exist. It’s an interesting thought but who knows? Hate is an evil force in the world. It’s why God has commanded us to love. The more we love the more hate dissipates.
“The greatest sin of our time is not the few who have destroyed but the vast majority who sat idly by. ” Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a Christian, it’s our duty to stand up and say what isn’t right. I’m not talking about protesting or picketing or things of that nature. I’m talking about actually being the church. When we gather on Sunday mornings we have the opportunity to protest hate by worshipping with people from every nation and every tongue. If you are finding yourself in an “all-white” church… it’s not alright. If you are finding yourself in an “all-black” church… again it’s not alright. We must find a way to come together as one people under the name of Jesus. We must be proactive in our churches to hold the value of racial reconciliation as high as we can. This is how we combat racism.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Genesis 11:5-6 NKJV
It’s interesting that from Genesis to Revelation we see a theme of unity. Unity is God’s heart for people. In the passage in Genesis we see that God himself said that nothing we do in unity will be held back from us. The gospel we believe is inclusive by nature so in turn by nature we should be inclusive. I want to challenge you to be more intentional about building relationships with people outside of your race not just for that sake but because you need a friend of a different race. That friend could be your lifeline someday!
My heart is just saddened and disgusted with the level of hatred that is happening in this day and age of 2017. I’m just blown away. Racism isn’t ignorance it’s sin because people choose it. We always have a choice. Choose unity. Choose humility. Choose love.
It’s not our call to say who’s invited and who’s not.