JESUS IS THE ANSWER TO RACE RELATIONS
This writer was born November 8, 1942, and grew up during the days of segregation. He went to an all-white school. Those of other colors went to a separate school made up of people of their race. Public fountains were provided for each group. They were labeled “white” and “colored.” Generally, white people could go anywhere they chose to go, and stay anywhere they chose to stay. Other races, whether Jewish, people of color (then called colored), Italian, and others, were limited as to where they could go, stay, and what they could do. Most lived only in a community of their own ethnic make-up. A group made up of whites, called the KKK, existed, and frequently took the law (or their view of it) into their own hands. They and others mistreated and/or killed people who did not conform to their way of thinking. People were divided along ethnic lines. Sadly, some still are.
This scribe is thankful that he was born into a Christian family, having a father and mother who were devout Christians in name and deed. His father, James Andrew Pilgrim, Sr., was a sound gospel preacher until his death. His mother, Cora Lee Elliott Pilgrim, was a devoted Christian and preacher’s wife until her death. Andrew, as he was affectionately called, preached primarily for small churches until they could afford a full-time preacher. He would then move on to another. Though he preached primarily for white churches, he was asked by the West Fifth Street Church of Christ, Summerville, Georgia, to teach a mid-week adult Bible class on Thursday night. He gladly and willingly accepted their gracious invitation. In a time of deep segregation and racial prejudice, a white man and his family joyfully assembled with a congregation of different color. Christians were supportive of this.
One of the families of this congregation was named Black. They had several children, one of whom, Matthew, preached the gospel. They also had a son names Sammy, the same as the writer’s brother’s name. He was a little older than the penman, who looked up to him. Many good memories of this church have been in the writer’s mind through the years. Paul told Timothy, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee,. . . .” (2 Timothy 1:5). The remembrance of the faith of this good congregation has lingered as precious memories through the years. The good and spirited singing, especially, “He Bore It All”, the young and older who led so well, the warm fellowship of those of like precious faith, the love shown to all, and so much more, lingers. One highlight was hearing an energetic and effective preacher, Capelton, from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The highlight was attending tent meetings and hearing the late and beloved Marshall Keeble. He would have young boys dressed in suits set on the front and read scripture at his beckon. One can still hear him over the PA system tell those living near that the gospel was coming through the key hole to get them.
Space limits so many other things from being said. Question: How could this have happened, especially in such controversial times? Jesus Is The Answer. While some others were doing wrong, the people of God were at peace, serving Him. Dear reader, please prayerfully, reverently, and carefully allow the word of the Lord to resolve any questions you might have about race relations.
First, let it be stated that this writer has friends in many races. He has enjoyed so many delightful things over the years as a result of these friendships. In addition to the foregoing, he worked in campaigns and preached for and worked with the Brighton Hill Road Church of Christ, Devonshire, Bermuda. The church was made up of Bermudians, American and English black, Portuguese, Canadian, and others. He worked in campaigns and preached in some campaigns in Trinidad and Tobago, where there were West Indian, Black, White, and others. He has been asked to preach in various congregations made up of different races. He has been gratified and his joy has been made full. He has enjoyed the friendship of so many others whom he has met along the way. He and his wife, Sammie Joyce, owned a mobile home park, made up of Hispanic (Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, etc.), American Indian, White, Vietnamese, and others. Among his friends are those where he frequently ate, Italians, Black, White, Libyan, and others.
Second, so much joy and pleasure has been enjoyed by not being limited by prejudices. Among those are meeting people who have been helpful, watching their young grow, marry, and have children of their own. Further pleasure has come from being given birthday parties, enjoying delicious food, and even having the face pushed down into the cake. Prejudiced people limit themselves.
Third, how has the foregoing and so much more been accomplished? Jesus Is The Answer. Genesis 3:20 says, “Eve. . .was the mother of all living.” Eve means life or living. She is the one through whom all came, including Jesus, the giver of life. Some either do not know or fail to remember that they speak despairingly of relatives when they vilify others. Be careful what you say about relatives of other races, because God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:24-26). A blood transfusion from another race will be fine, if it matches.
Fourth, “God is no respector of persons.” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). God told Israel, “Thou shalt not respect persons.” (Deuteronomy 16:19). Solomon, inspired of God, wrote, “To have respect of persons is not good.” (Proverbs 18:21). The inspired penman James said, “But if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.” (James 2:9). The verse before says, “But if ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well.” (Verse 8). We teach our children to sing the VBS song, “Jesus Loves The Little Children, All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves all the children of the world.” WE NEED “not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). Such love lets us “know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” (Verse 18). “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar,. . . .” (1 John 5:20).
Fifth, Jesus sent His disciples to “all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20) to “every creature” (Mark 16:15, 16). When Peter in doubt and ignorance questioned God about being sent to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-11:18), he was told not to call anything common or unclean that God had cleansed (10:14, 15), but “go with them, doubting nothing:. . . .” (10:20). Peter went, preached to the Gentiles, and baptized them. (10:25-48). He then had to explain his actions to Jewish Christians (11:1-17), who then concluded, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (11:18). The book of Acts is a picture of God preaching to all. For example, truth was preached to “Jews, devout men of every nation under heaven” (2:5, 9-11); priests (6:7); Samaritans (8:5); a sorcerer (8:9-13); an Ethiopian treasurer (8:27-39); an educated Jewish Christian persecutor (9; 22; 26); Gentiles (10:1-11:18); Lydia and other women (16:12-15); a Philippian jailor and his house (16:22-39); immoral Corinthians (18:8); and 12 Jews who had received the wrong baptism. (19:1-7). Read the three missionary journeys of Paul, his voyage to Rome, and his trips as a prisoner from his own hired house. (Acts 13-28).
Sixth, the writer has heard some say, “All whites look alike”; “All blacks look alike”; “All Hispanics look alike.” His response is always the same, “No! They do not.” Look at people! Look at their eyes and faces. Put two of any race together, and look at something other than color. Unless they are twins, blood relatives, or such like, they do not look alike. Did Elvis look like John Wayne? Did Sammy Davis, Jr., look like Michael Jackson? Look at people! Get to know them. A current skin disease commercial has people saying, “Look at me.” DNA, fingerprints, etc., may be different, but we are all here by virtue of creation and reproduction. We must learn to look at others as a product of God, and respect one another’s peculiar ways, centering on oneness in Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:10; Amos 3:3; Matthew 12:25; 2 John 9-11). We may compromise matters of opinion, but not ways of faith.
Seventh, race relations, and all others will change only when Jesus Is The Answer, when people are saved, converted to Jesus. He will lead people to love neighbor AND enemy (Matthew 5:43-48) and all in between. One will treat others as one desires to be treated. (Matthew 7:12). Jesus died for all. (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). What kind of love? (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Try it Jesus’ way, and watch prejudices vanish. “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). The plea of churches of Christ (Romans 16:16) is to be united in matters of faith (John 17:21); liberty in matters of opinion (1 Corinthians 8); and love in all. (Romans 12:9).