Grace vs. Race

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Racism is a big problem and has been for many years. Society has looked at a lot of ways to eradicate racism. We are making some progress, but we have a long way to go.

A recent study by Oxford University researchers has shown that a beta-blocker pill, propranolol, appears to have the effect of dealing with racism, at least on a subconscious level. Researchers asked white volunteers to group pictures of black and white individuals with positive and negative words like “sunshine” and “sad.” Some of the volunteers took propranolol – others took a placebo.

The volunteers that took the propranolol were far quicker to identify black faces with positive words, suggesting that they were less prejudiced. Propranolol does alter nerve circuits in the brain that govern panic, so the study suggests the notion that racism may be rooted in feelings of fear. Whatever the biological effects, some good results did emerge. Oxford philosopher Julian Savulescu was quoted by the London Telegraph, “Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history.”

I am excited about any kind of pill or medication that could help eliminate racism. But is that the best solution?

We have placed a big focus in eliminating racism with education. Studies have shown that people with more education would tend to have less prejudice. That is a good move in the right direction, but education has not solved the problem.

Politics and the legal system have been very helpful in making strides forward to eliminate racism. There are a lot of laws in place today that help protect the rights of all individuals. But this has not totally solved the problem.

While medicine, education, and the legal system are good, I propose that the best way to eliminate racism is to meet the need for a change in our thinking and our actions which only comes by the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ. This transformation by Jesus Christ allowed the early Jewish Christians to accept, love, and work with Gentile converts. Because of grace Paul wrote Philemon asking that he restore a slave to a proper position. Only the grace of Jesus Christ could transform Saul, a persecutor of the Christians, into Paul, the most high profile advocate for the Christian faith in the early church.

I have seen this personally. I have had the privilege of speaking at racial reconciliation rallies in places like the delta of Mississippi, Selma, Lowndes County, and others. I carried with me two people – Wes Strane and Tommy Waites. One is white, the other black. Both hated people of the other race. When Jesus Christ transformed each of them, He transformed their way of thinking and acting. He transformed hate into love!

They first met when Tommy Waites was speaking to a Sunday School class at Frazer. Tommy grew up in the ghetto. He learned to hate white people, especially white policemen. But God changed his life. Sitting on the front row of that class was Wes Strane, a former policeman. He stood up and approached Tommy and nobody knew exactly what was going to happen. Wes said, “I grew up hating black people, especially convicts. But now the grace of Jesus Christ has transformed me.” They embraced in front of that class. Wow! What a Sunday School lesson!

I am a proponent for medication, education, legal changes, etc., but I’ll give my life for the principle of the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate answer!

Paul said, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (II Corinthians 5:17) That will eradicate racism!

Grace beats race every time!

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