Unfinished business, legacies and racism

On Sunday I preached about unfinished business between David and the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21). . We saw how Saul’s actions a generation earlier were still having an affect under David’s reign. We saw that superstitious concepts about generational curses are wrong but that there is a Biblical principle that our actions can have far reaching consequences.

I had not planned to say this but found myself talking about the legacy of racism and segregation within the church. We are now with the third generation or more since people arrived from the Caribbean and other parts of the Commonwealth. Those from the Caribbean were often believers or at least with a strong Christian heritage, those from the Indian Subcontinent were often Sikh’s Hindus or Muslims.

They came at our invitation to fill jobs that we could not. They got off of the ships and walked past signs that read “No dogs, no blacks.” Then they walked into churches and what did they find? Sadly, the testimony is that they experienced racism and rejection there too. They were treated as lower class, as servants. They were subjected to offensive comments -passed off as joke, left uncorrected.  They heard people saying “I agree with Enoch.”

Some churches did seek to welcome. The challenge was about what you did when people came with a different culture, different styles of music, different approaches to time, more relational, less process focused. Sadly, what often happened was that new churches were started to accommodate culture. That was often seen as the best option but I want to challenge that a little. The assumption was that they were the new-comers and had to either conform to our culture or go and start their own thing. In fact, it is perhaps only in the last 10 years that the idea that the majority culture might be the one that needs to make the first move to change has gained currency. I want to push it a bit further and suggest that within the church, there isn’t a host culture, just brothers and sisters meeting together as part of the family.

In any case, the result was a divided church, famously in the US referred to as “11am, the most on Sunday, divided hour in America.”

If we see the affects today of racial segregation, of disaffected young people and of churches built on ethnic foundations, then we need to take responsibility.

 We need to recognise where there has been sin and we need to repent. We need to recognise that like David, we need to make the move in asking those who were sinned against what needs to happen to resolve things. We cannot sit with unfinished business.