The following is excerpted from a recent interview between Ray Williams, the Network Team Leader for CityChurch Network, and Harold Nash, Teaching Pastor at Fellowship North and the Founding Leader of the CityChurch Network Race Under Grace Initiative.
Ray: While the recent Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd and new police shootings since have rekindled the racial tensions in our country, you have been concerned about true justice and unity for a long time. Tell us a little about your story and why this is important to you?
Harold: I grew up in an area of East Arkansas where there was intense racism. My first experience with racism I can remember came when we integrated schools in East Arkansas in 1972. It was not only the first time I experienced racism, it was also the first time I experienced hate. As a young third-grader, I learned to hate from people who hated me only because of the color of my skin. For years after that experience, I hated white people because I was convinced that white people hated me and would rather see me and other black people dead rather than alive. I carried this hate in my heart until four or five years after I had given my life to Christ. God used His word to help me to understand that He is a God and Father of every race of people. He helped me to understand through His word that every race of people cry “Abba Father.” After God convicted me of His truth regarding race, He began to put me and my wife in situations where we had to leave our comfortable place of only fellowshipping with Christians who are black to where we begin fellowshipping with Christians who are white.
My wife and I have been on this journey of building unity with brothers and sisters of every race since the 1980s. God has helped us to understand His teachings in the word regarding race and has allowed us to grow and apply His teachings in how we live our lives. For us, the gospel of Jesus Christ is first and foremost. If the gospel is first and foremost for us, then how we live toward others who are not the same race as we are will be influenced by the gospel of grace.
When it comes to the situation with Derek Chauvin and the senseless murder of George Floyd, as a believer in Jesus Christ and a leader in the work of Christ, I have to allow God’s word and God’s Spirit to inform my heart and my actions. Justice and unity are both very important to me because justice and unity are very important to God. If I allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to be first in my life, justice and unity will be evident in how I live. I am convinced that Christ has left His Church here on the earth to be the salt of the earth in these situations of injustice. I am convinced that Christ has left His Church here to be the light in these dark racial injustice situations. I am convinced that Christ has left His Church here to share the good news with all people. Unless the Church begins to faithfully live as a unified family of God, we will continue to see racial tensions increase in this country. Although I believe the jury got the Derick Chauvin verdict right, I don’t believe the Derek Chauvin verdict will heal the deep pain of injustice in the US. Only the church has the message of true hope for authentic healing if only we will.
Ray: Some look at what’s going on in our culture and believe things are worse than they have ever been. Others would say we have made progress but still have a long way to go. Where do you think we are?
Harold: I cannot say things are worse than they have ever been when it comes to race relationships. I cannot imagine things being worse than slavery or worse than Jim Crow days. I would think a person’s viewpoint of where racial issues are may depend on their personal experiences. I can say that social media contributes to the perception of some that things are worse than ever. Now people can see racial evil happening in real-time. Many people had lived insulated from the reality of racial hatred until the emergence of Facebook live and YouTube videos. I am convinced that the Church has the responsibility to work to bring about unity in the body of Christ across racial lines. If the Church continues to ignore this problem things will get increasingly worse.
Ray: Do you have realistic hope for genuine progress and if so, what is the source of this hope?
Harold: I do have a realistic hope for genuine progress as it relates to race. The reason for my hope for progress is because of my belief that a movement of God’s people in the body of Christ will be the difference-maker.
Ray: In what ways can the church provide leadership in offering genuine hope in the midst of this critical moment?
Harold: The Church can offer genuine hope by teaching sound Biblical truth regarding race. The Church can foster opportunities for relationships to be built across racial lines through small groups. The Church can begin to pray for unity across racial lines. The Church can organize opportunities for Race Under Grace, where men and women can gather in a room together and discuss race from a biblical perspective. The Church and its leaders can begin to build authentic relationships across racial lines.
Ray: Do you have any concluding ideas or perspectives you would like to share?
Harold: The people in the world don’t have a solution to the racial problem we have in the US. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope. We must practice loving one another, we must practice caring for one another, we must practice forgiving one another, we must practice submitting to one another, we must practice sacrificing for one another, we must practice being Christ to one another across racial lines within the body of Christ so that the world will know that God did send Jesus to save the world.
Note: For more information about how your church can provide a Race Under Grace experience in your church contact Windsor Williams at email@example.com.