Racism isn’t new. In our nation, people of color have been fighting for their lives for over 400 years; fighting for basic human rights; fighting against racism, prejudice, and bigotry. Many people—especially Christians—will say, “I’m not racist. I don’t care about color! I don’t even see color!” If only eliminating racial inequality were that simple. But we live in a fallen world.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they brought sin into God’s perfect creation. And humanity isn’t the only part of creation affected by the fall. The Apostle Paul says:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand, (Ephesians 6:12, 13, NIV).
Racism is spiritual wickedness in high places. It’s a power, a principality, and a darkness—not flesh and blood. Or not merely flesh and blood, for there are true racists in our country. But the most insidious racism is the systemic, invisible, hatred that ensures racial inequality will continue. You and I must take a stand against those rulers of the darkness of this world. This spiritual battle requires the whole armor of God:
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Ephesians 6:14-17).
We stand with the belt of truth buckled around our waist. We raise our voices and speak truth, even when it’s difficult. Even when it’s scary. Even when we’re so tired of speaking up, of explaining our issues with inequality, of enduring the ugly rhetoric that comes in response. In this battle, we must stand firm.
We stand with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Often, we have to work twice as hard to be respected half as much. Do we need to be twice as righteous, too? In our own power, we cannot. We know it. But through faith, Jesus’ righteousness is ours! We stand in Christ’s power.
Our feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We seek to live in “shalom,” in life’s full abundance, at peace with all. When we denounce racist structures, we don’t use violence. We don’t use weapons. But we don’t dodge the responsibility to call out racism wherever we find it. We stand in readiness.
We take up the shield of faith that can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. When I think of this shield, I can’t help but think of the bullets that too many of our black brothers and sisters have taken without cause. I can’t help but recall the video of a knee on a neck that took away the life of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. The shield of faith is more important now than ever. God is our Rock and our Fortress. We stand in His protection.
We put on the helmet of salvation. We are not just saved from our sin. We are saved for a purpose! We are saved to be the church—and, together, to help usher in God’s kingdom. This is our salvation. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10). And we do more than pray, as Christ’s body on earth, we become the answer to that prayer. We stand in the knowledge that we are saved by His grace.
We brandish the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. This brings us full circle, back to the belt of truth. As Jesus prays, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth,” (John 17:17). We must speak the truth, learn the truth, and live the truth of Scripture. The Word of God is full of reminders that we are to love our neighbor, love the stranger, love the Samaritan, love those of other ethnicities and skin colors. We stand bearing the sword of the Spirit that teaches us love.
From the beginning, our story says that each one of us bears the image of God. Male and female. Jew and Gentile. Slave and free. Black, Brown, and White. That’s truth—biblical truth. You and I need to acknowledge this truth, repent of our sin, confess it, and receive God’s forgiveness. Repentance, of course, requires change. Until we root out and stand up against the practices, policies, and structures that enable and perpetuate racism, our confession is empty.
Let us work toward righting wrongs, making amends, and restoring relationships. Let us not ignore hard truths. Let us not be silent in the face of discrimination. Let us speak up for justice. Let us stand up for righteousness! Let’s take a stand!
CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.
This article is part of our 2021 January / February Issue