In these days of division, our earthly kingdom seems to be splintered beyond repair. We should long for unity and reconciliation. We should long for a kingdom with no tears from the pains and consequences of partiality. We should long for the eternal joy and equality we were created for. But most importantly, we should long for the King who made it all possible by becoming poor in order that we might become rich.
By now you’ve probably heard about the dangers of social justice, critical race theory (CRT), white nationalism, and all the other isms and ologies found within that conversation.
A great misconception is that we need this sort of language to overthrow the racism and division found in our world today. While there are certainly tools and perspectives that may highlight the reality of what’s happening in our nation, we have something far greater than secular social and economic theories.
We have the Word of God. The kingdom of God has come (Mark 1:14–15). We have a hope that transcends social policies. We have the gospel.
A Grander Kingdom
With the gospel comes responsibility. As Christians committed to the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, we find great hope in God’s Word, but we also find God’s pattern for kingdom living. It is there, for example, that James warns us: “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1).
As Christians, we don’t have the option of showing partiality toward people with the same skin tone, ethnicity, political affiliation, or economic status as us. We hold “the faith,” and it’s a global faith that transcends epoch and welcomes people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
In context, the call to “show no partiality” refers to giving preference to rich people while dishonoring the poor (v. 6). However, the broader principle of the passage reminds us of something magnificent. God has chosen the “poor in the world to be rich in faith” (v. 5). While some advocates of liberation theology use this passage to argue that God doesn’t elect the rich, that’s not what James is saying. Certainly, there are physically poor people who will be rich in faith. There are also poor people who will reject Jesus as Messiah. However—and more importantly—those who are “poor in Spirit” (Matt. 5:3) or “poor in the world” have been chosen by God.
These “poor in the world” will be rich in faith. They will be “heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). Their economic status and social clout may be near the bottom of the barrel, but they will inherit a kingdom that is above and beyond this world. Even if equality on this earth is never found, they will be in the unstoppable kingdom of God.
Similarly, those who are poor today can be rich in faith. Whether a person is in the top 1% or makes less than minimum wage, they have a place in God’s kingdom through faith in Christ. This applies to today’s racial animosity, too. Regardless of where someone lies on the political, sociological, or racial spectrum, the gospel can open their eyes to a grander kingdom than anything found on this planet. America will one day pass away, but the kingdom of God will remain forever with the triune God forever reigning in victory.
As we fight against and long to see the end of racism, we must not lose sight of who the kingdom of God is truly about. Notice James’ wording: “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” The most radical, earth-shattering, life-changing need for the church today is not a more robust understanding of secular social justice. The world doesn’t need more Christians who are committed to secular conservatism or American patriotism. If we want to see racism and partiality done away with in the church and the world around us, we need people to love Jesus in both word and deed.
A Kingdom-Minded Approach
What, then, does a kingdom-minded approach to racism look like?
1. Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19–20). Rather than being ready to respond to a differing opinion with canned arguments we stole from Twitter, we should listen. Even if we consider another’s perspective to be flawed, we must first hear them and understand where they’re coming from.
2. Confess your partiality if you have been guilty of sin (James 5:16). We all have blind spots, so you could have unknowingly shown partiality. If you have, then don’t let anyone stop you from confessing your sin. But if you’re not guilty of sin, then don’t heap false guilt on your soul either. That is the work of Satan, the accuser. Don’t just think about racism, though. Have you been partial to democrats or republicans? Have you labeled people so you can belittle them behind closed doors? Have you been a social media bully spreading false “discernment” pieces?