The Role of the Church
Church as an institution has had a spotty history regarding slavery, necessitating deep repentance for the part the Church has played in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
But, for hundreds of years, countless individual Christians have worked tirelessly and sacrificially to bring about the abolition of slavery, to help slaves find freedom, to help them rebuild their lives, and to bring them to Christ. The believing Church, through the power of Jesus Christ, is the only hope for healing of the deep scars of slavery and for rebuilding the nation in justice!
Participation in Slavery
Throughout the ages, the institutional Church has taken part in slavery and in some instances, actually owned plantations. To justify slavery at one point, the church had to disseminate the lie that Africans weren’t fully human and therefore could be mistreated, subjugated, and enslaved for their own protection. For this and other travesties of justice, the church must deeply repent.
The Church’s Mandate for Reconciliation
Once we start looking at the New Testament for scriptures on reconciliation, or for living in peace with our fellow man, it is hard to understand why there are so many divisions in the Body of Christ. Worse yet, it is especially hard to comprehend the cruelty and pain caused to our Black brothers in Christ through slavery!
Because we have been reconciled to God through the death of Jesus on the cross, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. In fact, we are called, “Ambassadors for Christ” to the world to help reconcile God to man (II Cor. 5: 18-20). When we, as sinful beings, are reconciled with a Holy God, we will, as an outflow of that relationship with Him, become reconcilers—man to man.
The Call to Unity
As Christians, we are part of the same body—the body of Christ; therefore we are to protect others in the body, appreciate God’s design for all parts of the body, and to not disrespect any part of the body. When the hand hurts, the whole body should hurt!
Jesus’ final priestly prayer for those who would believe in Him in John 17 appeals to the Father: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as You loved Me” (vs.22-23). The great harvest of souls coming to Christ will only happen when we demonstrate the unity of believers that He has called us to!
“For He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that He might create in Himself One New Man in place of the two [Jew and Gentile—and every other racial division], so making peace” (Eph. 2: 14-15).
It is only Christ who has the answers for the divisions in this world, and it will take His power to heal those divisions! It will take His power working in us to cause us to seek and find that “…wisdom from above [that] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). It to peace that we are called and He will get us there.