Heaven and Race Relations

Feb. 8 is Race Relations Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. If there was ever a time churches needed to observe a denominational calendared emphasis, it is now. Tensions have run high across our nation because of the events in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. I am heartbroken over the loss of life. I grieve with those who have been robbed of their loved ones.

The immediate past president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Mesquite Friendship Pastor Terry Turner, launched a “Look Like Heaven” Emphasis during his tenure. Many SBTC churches have started to reach out to those of different racial and ethnic groups. In Christ we have the answer for our culture. The lordship of Jesus in our lives will enable us to see others as brothers and sisters.    

Revelation 7 gives us a glimpse of the people who will be in heaven. In my eschatology these are people who will be saved during the tribulation period after Jesus takes away the redeemed. Even if this is not your view of the end times, this passage teaches that there will be people of all races, ethnicities and languages in heaven. Revelation 7 gives us an example of what heaven will look like.

Heaven is multi-racial because we all share the same creator. We all came from God’s hand. Although we are different in some ways, we are only one race. It is the human race. We are all the children of Adam. God shows no partiality by race when it pertains to having a relationship with him.

Because all humans have the same progenitor, we have the same curse. Born with a nature that goes against God, we choose to go away from God. Black, white, red and yellow, all are guilty before a holy God. Every person needs a savior. John 3:16 is the universal good news. By repentance and faith we come into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. On earth, all believers have equal standing before God in Christ. We will be in heaven together for eternity!

Racism was rampant in New Testament times. Jews discriminated against Gentiles. Most of the people who read my column are Gentile. I’m so glad God included Gentiles in his salvation plan.

All people struggle with the same cares. Regardless of skin color, language or some other difference, we share life in a sin-cursed world.
Believers are in a spiritual warfare together. The burning alive of an Indian believer causes me distressing sorrow. Daily I pray for a man I’ve never met, Saeed Abedini, because Jesus is our common bond. I rejoice in knowing that the SBTC provides scholarships for African-American and Hispanic, Spanish-speaking students at two seminaries. When SBTC Disaster Relief goes into action, no one checks the ethnicity of the people we are helping. All of us have needs, and we need one another.

Heaven will be a wonderful place. We will sing. We will fellowship. Jesus ate food in his glorified body; maybe we will eat without counting calories. Indications are that we will retain our ethnic identity. With all the positives, there is one activity that will end for us. We will have no opportunities to change lives with the gospel.

Jesus gave us the ultimate lesson in race relations with his story about the “Good Samaritan.” Following his principles we can see lives changed while we are on our earthly journey. As we die to self we lose our rights in submitting to the lordship of Christ. We are to live the gospel by caring for our neighbor’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs. This kind of love will extend to all people because everyone is our neighbor.

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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