1] Just as man has an obligation
toward his Creator, he also has responsibilities toward his fellowman. A
Christian must love his neighbor as himself, regardless of his
neighbor's racial, ethnic, religious or social background; he must be a
light to the world by setting a proper example, and he must do good
toward all men as the opportunity arises.
Christians do not live in this world by themselves. They are just one
segment of humanity, and are surrounded by persons of other religions,
backgrounds, nationalities and creeds. In fact, all humans must face the
reality that they live in a world consisting of other humans who are to
a greater or lesser degree different from themselves. The Christian
fully recognizes this reality and strives to live in harmony and peace
with all men everywhere.
apostle Paul set some basic guidelines for how a Christian should
respond to the world around him when he says that the true believer must
live in the world (i.e., function within the society in which he finds
himself) but not be a part of those practices, actions or attitudes that
are contrary to God's way of life (I Cor. 5:9-10). John wrote that
although Christians must be "in" the world, they are not to be "of' the
world. Jesus did not pray that God should take His disciples out of the
world, but rather that God should protect them from evil (John. 17:15).
Race Relations in the Church
Himself laid down the highest standard for a human in relation to his
fellow man when He described the second most important command as being
"you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:39). This love for
neighbor must transcend the human barrier of racial, ethnic and social
background. It arises above the human weaknesses of jealousy, envy, hate
and bitterness. It teaches man how to hate the sin, but to have
compassion for the sinner, and it must grow to the place where a man
will even have love for his enemies when they are persecuting him.
course, the ultimate example of Christianity for all generations and
times was set by Christ Himself, who gave His life for all sinners.
Philippians 2 shows that He emptied Himself of His power and glory as a
member of the godhead and came to the earth, not to be served or waited
upon, but as a servant of all mankind. His every action and thought
while on earth depicted the epitome of true Christian outgoing concern;
this serving attitude is perhaps best illustrated by His willingness to
die pitifully on a tree between two criminals. Thus Jesus Himself
personified the greatest love a Christian can have for another which, by
Jesus' own words, was to lay down one's life for a friend.
one's neighbor means that a Christian must not harbor racial prejudice
within his heart. The official doctrine of the Church is that
discrimination toward persons because of race or ethnic origin is wrong
and totally contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Almighty God is the
Creator of the different races of man. He puts no spiritual distinction
between these races (Acts 15:9; Gal. 3:28; etc.). In the Kingdom of God,
there will be no racial stigma of any kind. The Church of God strives to
reflect the coming Kingdom of God in its attitudes toward race at the
7] God is no
respecter of persons; He shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35; Jas. 2:2).
He deals justly with all men. There is no double standard with the
"There shall be one law for the native and
for the stranger who sojourns among you" (Ex. 12:49; cf. Num.
8] How to
deal justly and how to love one's neighbor is set forth plainly by Paul
in Philippians 2:2-4:
"Complete my joy, by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind. Do
nothing from selfishness or conceit; but in humility count
others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to
his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
giving of esteem, one to another, is a two-way street. To love one's
neighbor is to be concerned for his spiritual and physical welfare. To
love one's neighbor means to respect him, to admire his accomplishments.
The point of Philippians 2:2-4 is that a Christian must radiate the
attitude and the actions of unselfish service toward his fellow man. He
must esteem his fellow Christians better than himself, because he knows
his own weaknesses in contrast to his brothers accomplishments. It is
this attitude of love and concern which is imperative if we are to have
proper individual and group relationships.
integration of the races is as much a factor of modem western society as
was integration of various ethnic groups in the Roman society of the
first century. The example of the early history of the New Testament
Church was to show no partiality between Jew, Greek or any other ethnic
I perceive," said the apostle Peter, "that God shows no partiality, but
in every nation everyone who fears Him and does what is right is
acceptable to Him" (Acts 10:34-35). And again, God has "made no
distinction between us and them" (Acts 15:9; Gal. 2:11-16).
the political situation in some few areas of the world may require a
limitation of social integration, this is not a doctrine or overall
policy of the church. In matters of church fellowship and office, there
is no discrimination because of ethnic background. Different ethnic
groups are free, of course, to preserve their own culture and identity,
including having such church-sponsored ethnic socials as a Latin dance
or a German evening. But the church does not teach or practice a regular
segregation of different ethnic groups in its services. Members are
encouraged to get to know the members of groups in its services. Members
are encouraged to get to know the members of groups other than their
own. Only then can they appreciate the qualities of others and practice
that love of one another which is the central message of the Bible.
matters of church fellowship and office, there should be no
discrimination because of ethnic background. The criteria for baptism
are repentance and belief. Ordination to the ministry-at whatever
level-is based on those spiritual criteria indicated in the Bible, such
as conversion and calling. Ethnic origin is no factor. This is the
present belief and practice of the church, and it holds this to be in
accord with the Bible and the mind of God.
the years, the term "integration" has been tarnished with the corrosive
taint of emotionally loaded epithets. Webster's New World Dictionary
defines "integrate" in the primary sense to mean: "to make whole or
complete by adding or bringing together parts ... (secondarily) unity."
15] God has
integrated His church to teach us His way of harmony between peoples. It
is this Christian unity, the Christian culture and the mind of Christ,
rather than the rigid ideas and entrenched biases of men, which unites
rather than separates us and which will determine how "integrated" or
fitly framed together we (the Church of God) really are (see I Cor.
Misunderstandings have often arisen from incorrectly interpreting
another's thoughts or motives about what is true integration. When the
topic of race relations is brought up, many in the white community tend
to think immediately of the question of racial intermarriage. The black
and other minority communities, by contrast, are more concerned about
having the same opportunities for education, work, advancement and
economic reward that the average white citizen has, than about
interracial marriage or ethnic assimilation.
Minority people perceive their struggle for justice, fair play and
racial equality to be life and death attempts to stay afloat in a
competitive society while shooting the rapids of racial prejudice and
injustice. Human cultures have their inherent weaknesses. So long as
this present evil world stands, there will always be unjust weights and
measures-something God Almighty hates.
history reveals that the attitude of contemporary society has, to one
degree or another, always been reflected in religion. But we in the
Church of God cannot allow society to determine our racial mores and
standards, nor to force us into its mold of racial bigotry. Our conduct
is rather to be exemplary of the principles set forth in the pages of
the Bible. Our unity cannot be artificial, but a clear expression of
relations in the church can be termed human relations-the attitude,
respect, appreciation and brotherhood that should be expressed among all
races. We are admonished by the Word of God to be willing to lay down
our lives for our brethren: not just loving in word or speech, but in
deed and in truth. And who are our brethren? Christ clearly answers this
for us: "For whosoever [regardless of race] does the will of my
Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Mt. 12:46-50).
God does not see as man sees, nor does He look on the outward
integrated Church of God is the herald of God's Kingdom and a new
culture, wherein God's perfect government will at once banish racial
discrimination, while urging all families of the human race to develop
to the fullest their unique ethnic human potential.
21] In view
of the grave importance of marriage-for what it symbolizes, for the
stability of society and for the happiness of the individual-the Church
of God strongly urges that dating and marriage emphasize similar racial,
ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The reason for this is to insure the
greater likelihood of mutual compatibility between marriage partners and
the predictability of patterns of appearance, talent and temperament in
their children and that their children may fit in with society more
Furthermore, God created the races and national groupings of families;
He created the diversity in man to encourage the richness of cultural
experiences and to generate the combined creative product of divine
contributions to society. Consequently, God wants each ethnic group to
take pride in its own origin and heritage. In the world tomorrow,
there will be different races and nations and each will be encouraged to
maintain and strengthen its own identity and culture; most marriages,
therefore, will preserve this identity and culture by remaining within
marriages are those which match people suited for each other.
Compatibility may be determined by consideration of the many different
traits of personality, cultural background, intellect, character and
even physical features. A marriage in which neither partner properly
understands the other's language is not likely to be the most
fulfilling. The same general considerations come into question when
people of two obviously diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds consider
marriage. Two people could, hypothetically, be compatible though of
diverse racial backgrounds. In actual practice, such differences usually
imply other important differences which will compete with rather than
complement each other.
church cannot and does not forbid people of the same race or
ethnic background to marry even when unsuited for one another. Likewise,
we cannot and do not forbid people of different racial or ethnic
backgrounds to marry even though such marriages may not be wise. The
church simply does not attempt to regulate who one may or may not marry.
(And no stigma must ever be attached to children that may result from
such a union-though in the world they may well face social strains and
is no limit to what the Holy Spirit can do through the individual that
submits himself to God. God's church is exhorted to break the bonds of
prejudice by putting on the "new man" which is renewed in knowledge
after the image of Him that created him: "Where there is neither Greek
nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision ... bond or free: but Christ is
all, and in all" (Col. 3:9-11); It is the responsibility of each
church member to repent of past wrong attitudes toward those of other
race or ethnic groups. We are all one in Christ and must have that
Christian love for all which only God's Spirit makes possible.
Christian Responsibility in the Community
Christian must set an example in all areas of life. He is not blind to
the evils of this society. He sees that the vast majority of nations and
individuals are living and acting in opposition to God's perfect law.
The effects of crime, pollution and immorality are all obvious-the poor
are oppressed, wars are waged, hatred between peoples flourishes. But a
Christian must differentiate between sin and the sinner, between evil
and the evildoer.
proper attitude is for a Christian to hate the deeds of the evildoer,
but to retain love for the one who Himself set a perfect example in this
regard by deprecating sin and by giving His life for all sinners at the
same time (John. 3:16). This love for the evildoer is not a
self-righteous, condescending attitude, attitude, however, but rather
compassion for one who is essentially ignorant of his own spiritual
blindness. Indeed, every Christian himself was and is part of this
society and has been, and unfortunately all too often still is, a
partaker of its sins.
28] But to
condemn everything the world has ever done as "evil" would be
shortsighted in the extreme, and would broadcast one's ignorance of the
vast advances mankind has made in the areas of science and technology,
medicine, art and literature, and also the good millions have done
through charity. Christians are nevertheless admonished to avoid
"worldliness." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the
world ... For all that is in the world, the lust of the-flesh, the lust
of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the
world" (I John. 2:15-16). Worldliness is partaking of the norms of
society (vanity, false pride, greed, envy, lust, strife) instead of the
godly values of love, concern, giving and helping one's neighbor. A
Christian should avoid those activities and attitudes of mind which
oppose God's law in its letter and in its intent.
29] The church places great
stress upon the need for Christians to serve their fellow man: "...by
love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word ...
love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal. 5:13-14). The obligation for us to
"look on the needs of others" (Phil. 2:4) extends beyond the family and
the church to embrace all of one's neighbors-indeed humanity as a whole,
who do not as yet have the blessing of knowing God's truth. Christians
should "always seek to do good to one another and to all" (I
Thess. 5:15), and be zealous for good deeds" (Tit. 2:14). A Christian is
thus ultimately known by what he does, and not alone for what he
professes. "Pure religion," as defined in James 1:27, "is to visit the
fatherless and widows." Caring for the needy, or neglecting too, is
tantamount to doing the same to Christ, according to Jesus' own words
(Mt. 25:31-46). The church acknowledges that the need to serve one's
fellow man should be filled both by the individual himself, and by the
collective body of believers, the church. All persons need to be "rich
in good works, ready to distribute" (I Tim. 6:18). in his own private
30] One outstanding example
is that of the "good" Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37. This story was used by
Christ to expound the second great commandment, and to define "who is my
neighbor"; thus, the Christian learns whom he should serve. Jesus' point
is that anyone in need is our neighbor, and believers have a duty to
help others in such spontaneous one-on-one situations. We are encouraged
by God's Word to earn extra money for the sole purpose "that he may have
to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28). Likewise, those employed in
certain service-oriented positions in society should use their
individual opportunity to exert extra effort to improve the welfare of
their fellow citizens within and without the Church of God.
told His disciples-and by direct extension He is telling all
Christians-"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot
be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a
stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your
Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16). What "good works" is Jesus
referring to? It cannot be the "good works" of prayer, Bible study,
fasting, etc.-these must be done in private and not before men (Matt.
6:1-2). Obviously, the "good works" that Christians can do which
non-Christians will praise must reflect a genuine, unfeigned outgoing
concern for other people.
32] The church as a whole has
an affirmative biblical responsibility to serve the nonbeliever by
demonstrating its collective outgoing concern for the surrounding
community. Since the church is a body with "many members," it develops
the strength from those members to accomplish with an integrated,
organized structure much more good for society and civilization than
could its individual members accomplish by themselves.
local church congregation, as the microcosm of the whole Church of God
in the local community, should extend itself in whatever way will best
serve its neighbor such as through programs to help the elderly, the
sick and the blind. Such activities may vary from two church members
simply volunteering their time to major church sponsored events. During
time of disaster, emergency, or other special need, the membership
should be willing to help with whatever physical and spiritual needs are
made manifest. Each church congregation should strive to establish
itself as a respected, giving part of the community, whose every
motive and action is that of helping, serving and encouraging-in every
way setting a positive example of the true Christian way of life. The
church strives to carry out the apostle Paul's admonition: "As we
therefore have opportunity, let us do good to all men."
Christian is also aware of his civic responsibilities and privileges.
Paul wrote that Christians should be subject to the constituted human
authorities. This included paying taxes and rendering due respect to the
symbols of that authority (Rom. 13:1 ff). Jesus Himself paid a tax which
He legitimately could have avoided (Matt. 17:24-27). Joseph and Mary
went to Bethlehem because of the edict of the Roman emperor. The New
Testament is filled with such examples of complying with government
legislation and national custom where they did not conflict with God's
laws. Church of God members have always shown patriotism by saluting the
flag and singing the national anthem of their own country.
35] In some
countries, voting is put on a par with other governmental requirements.
The New Testament no more prohibits voting than it does paying taxes.
The church does not attempt to legislate in the matter of voter
registration or voting in local, regional or national elections.
Church as an organization does not enter into this world's political
affairs. It does not support any political party, nor attempt to
influence its members to support or not support any issue or person. Of
course, the church's values are well known in the community, and
its very existence should therefore strengthen the support for moral
decency, obedience to the constituted authorities and civic pride.
church continues to stress the transient nature of earthbound political
institutions. The Kingdom of God is not going to be voted in by men, but
forcibly established by Jesus Christ. When the time comes, "The kingdoms
of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). This is the ultimate
goal of the Christian, and it is toward that eternal kingdom that he
should expend his greatest efforts.
Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world." The kingdom a Christian
looks and longs for is an eternal kingdom or government, not a temporal,
physical, human one. Yet when Jesus said His disciples are not of
this world, He also recognized all Christians are citizens of one of the
many countries in the world. Neither does this negate the principle of
having our "citizenship [state or country] ... in heaven" (Phil. 3:20,
NIV). The apostle Paul, who wrote the preceding statement about our true
citizenship was himself a physical Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-28).
area of civic concern is that of holding public office and serving on
juries. The church in no way prohibits its members from such activities,
and indeed the community would be well served by having true Christians
fulfilling these functions. There are cautions here; Christians may find
making certain judgments and rendering specific decisions difficult,
because the laws of God can conflict with the laws of men, and their
primary responsibility must be, to the former. Also, one who may serve
(or wish to serve) in an elected governmental capacity must not involve
himself with unchristain practices commonly associated with politics. No
Christian should ever consciously compromise his inviolate values of
love for God, fidelity to God's law and love for one's neighbor equal to
himself. Nonetheless, the biblical examples of Joseph ruling Egypt and
Daniel ruling Babylon are powerful statements about the capacity and
opportunity of a true servant of God to serve (albeit rarely) in
responsible governmental positions, even though their governments were
still of this world.
Associated with jury duty is the question of whether a Christian should
seek legal redress through the legal system. I Corinthians 6:1-9
categorically states that a Christian should not go to court against a
fellow Christian. It says to do so is a "shame" (v. 5) and the one who
does so has "[done] wrong" (I Cor. 6:8). Matthew 18:15-20 adds that a
Christian who feels that he has been wronged by his brother should
approach that brother personally to resolve the problem. If the brother
will not hear, he should take one or two witnesses and approach the man
again. If he will still not respond, the injured party should take the
matter to the officials of the church where a judgment can be made.
(There are, of course, areas over which the civil authorities have total
authority, i.e., the legal granting of divorce; in such cases, the civil
courts must be resorted to, but only after all Christian duties toward a
brother or a sister have been fulfilled.)
The question of whether a Christian should take
a non-Christian to court is more complex. Obviously, a Christian should
still use the same basic approach outlined in Matthew 18-first trying to
resolve the issue between him and the offending party. However, it is
equally obvious that a non-Christian will not abide by, or submit
himself to, the authority of the Christian's church. This means that if
a matter is still unresolved, a Christian may take a legal dispute to
the recognized civil authorities (to whose authority the non-Christian
will, of course, have to submit). The question of whether a Christian
should take one to court under these circumstances must be an
individual decision, based upon a balance between the principles of
Christian forgiveness. and the man's responsibility to maintain his own
integrity and rights before the laws of God and of man.
Questions also arise about a Christian's responsibility toward military
service. It is axiomatic that human welfare and the attitudes
behind it are the exact antithesis of God's law and the Christian way of
life (Jas. 4:1-2). Therefore, a Christian, who must put God's laws
before man's (Acts 5:29), can in no way conscientiously participate in
warfare. A Christian's firm conviction in this regard in no way negates
his feelings of loyalty to his country, nor lessens the amount of
positive Christian service he is willing to render for his country. His
loyalty is, however, even deeper to his God and to his religious
beliefs, and it is to God that he must be loyal when conflict between
God and man arises (Acts 5:29). True patriotism thus puts one's country
second only to one's God.
summary, we as Christians and brothers of Christ must follow His example
of genuine outgoing concern for our neighbor in our thoughts, actions
and attitudes. This love for our fellow human being is far from being
merely an emotional feeling in our hearts, but it is the very real act
of living as servants by following the examples of Jesus Himself.