During my address to messengers at the recent annual meeting of our Baptist State Convention, I spoke of how many churches and their members have lost their vision to see people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Some of the sad and tragic reasons that believers are not interested in reaching out to people living around them are because they speak a different language, have a different cultural background or have skin that is a different color.
Frankly, many don’t share the gospel with others because of their personal prejudices toward people of different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which goes against the very gospel that we proclaim.
I am thankful that a short while after I concluded my message, messengers took a strong stand against all forms of prejudice, bigotry and racism by adopting a “Resolution Denouncing Racism” by a near unanimous vote.
I deliberately chose not to make any public comments about the resolution prior to our annual meeting because I respect and believe in the processes and procedures that we have in place related to resolutions and other business matters. I wanted to allow the members of the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials to do their work, and I wanted the messengers to have their deliberation and debate free from any influence that expressing my own opinions on the matter may have caused.
Now that the resolution has been affirmed by our convention – passing by an overwhelming majority – I want to take an opportunity to let North Carolina Baptists know what my personal thoughts, beliefs and convictions are regarding the issue of race in general and this resolution in particular.
First, I applaud the work of the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials, which is entrusted with the responsibility of reviewing and deciding which resolutions will be brought before the convention for consideration. As is their responsibility and right, members of the committee wrote and presented this particular resolution to messengers.
In an explanatory article released in conjunction with the original draft of the resolution, the committee called racism “a critical and perennial issue in our culture” and wrote “that the Convention needs to formally express a biblically grounded opinion on the cultural issue of racism in America.”
Also, I affirm the words that Committee Chairman Jonathan Blaylock spoke when he quoted from the resolution in presenting it to messengers during the annual meeting. Blaylock said, “North Carolina Baptists denounce racism in all its expression as sin against a holy and just God.”
Although the resolution that passed was slightly amended during the time allotted for debate, no changes were made that diminish this clear and strong statement.
Furthermore, I believe, just as the resolution states, that any form of racism is a sin against Almighty God. The issue of race is not merely a cultural issue or a political issue. It is a biblical issue, and it is a spiritual issue.
Every individual is made in the image of God, and each person is precious to Him. What is precious to God should also be precious to us. As believers, we should not allow anything to come between our love of God and our love for our neighbors – and I believe the Bible really does mean anything.
The apostle Paul wrote that as believers we should be careful not to allow our rights and our freedoms to become stumbling blocks to others (1 Corinthians 8:9). The resolution adopted by messengers states that “the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples must take precedence over the important personal preferences of individual Christians.”
It also calls on “North Carolina Baptists to joyfully set aside anything that might create a barrier for the sharing and hearing of the full truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Ladies and gentlemen, may I submit to you that there are many things around us that are modern day stumbling blocks to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and to others whom we are trying to reach with the good news of the gospel. When an individual who professes Christ allows things like Confederate flags, monuments, statues or anything else to occupy a place of prominence in their life over and above the gospel, they must carefully examine their heart and ask, “What does this say to my neighbor?”
My allegiance to Jesus Christ and His gospel comes before my allegiance to any nation, to any flag, to any political party or to any person. I have a biblical mandate as a believer to serve and minister to others in accordance with the gospel. I am willing to lay aside anything that gets in the way of that mandate. Are you?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Milton A. Hollifield Jr. is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)