By Gary L. Wyatt, Sr.
Few people think about the challenges that come with conforming to the image of Christ as a Black man living in America, a country filled with racism on all levels. This is not to say that Whites do not have challenges in conforming to the image of Christ, but I am saying that there are more challenges for people of color in America to conform to Him since people of color have to deal with the evil that racism projects daily in our society. God help us!
Unfortunately, this includes people of color having to deal with racism in the body of Christ as well. I will add that whatever the race, God can be counted on as being faithful to give more grace when He is requiring His people to be conformed into the image of Christ. Those people who accept this challenge can expect “all things” to work together for their good according to the Romans 8:28 promise. This promise levels the playing field personally for me as a Black man.
When I was asked to write about racism, I asked God what He would have me write. I didn’t just want to pour my heart out as it relates to my Black context and Black experiences although they are very real, relevant, and do matter. It was more important for me to convey things from a Kingdom perspective, which matters much more than anyone’s context and experiences. It didn’t take long for God to respond. In fact, God responded within ten minutes of my prayer, and by the Holy Spirit’s leading I knew exactly what to write.
Here is my issue as a Black man. If I approach the challenge of conforming into the image of Christ based only on the lens of my unfortunate racist experiences at the hands of some evil people who are white, then I would never ever reach out to White people who need Christ. However, if I approach the challenge of conforming to the image of Christ based upon the lens of Christ’s own example then I would reach out to all people, including some evil Whites, which is the lifestyle Christ exemplified. Right or wrong, I do have a choice. As a believer, I choose to use the lens of Christ’s example and submit to what He is requiring of me, which is not easy but is doable with His sufficient grace.
God immediately captured my mind and caused me to focus on the story of Jesus and the woman at the well found in John 4. This story serves as one Kingdom template for all believers to study, consider, and apply no matter the color of their skin. From it the Holy Spirit revealed to me six Kingdom specifics that I hope to convey to all races. The challenge of conforming to the image of Christ requires us to do these:
- Be daring (verses 4-6). Jesus was daring enough to cross the racial divide because He was being led by the Spirit to a woman that needed His living water. The woman at the well stated that Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other, and yet Jesus was daring enough to cross that line because He was the one that God was sending to meet this woman’s need for His living water.
As a Black man, I became a member of a predominately White organization simply because there was a “need” for me to do so. The boldness and courage were given to me by the Lord as I walked in obedience to His call; I could not do this in my own strength. If we are going to conform to the image of Christ, there will be times when God will require us to be daring enough to cross the racial divide in hopes of addressing a need that God desires to use us to address. In these cases, we can expect God to give us the courage to do so.
- Initiate dialogue (verse 7). Jesus initiated dialogue with the Samaritan woman – not just for reconciliation between races, but mainly and more specifically for revealing Himself as the Messiah and reconciling this Samaritan woman to God.
There is a whole lot of dialogue between Blacks and Whites right now due to the heightened awareness of the racism that is prevalent and should be eradicated in our country. We must not forget as believers that our conversations with those of other races should not mainly be for the purpose of eradicating racism, although this is very needed. Conforming to the image of Christ is more about eradicating sin and reconciling all races to God, which is what Christ was demonstrating as He went to Samaria.
- Start dealing (verse 9). The Samaritan woman was conveying to Jesus that typically there was no association between Jews and Samaritans, and yet here Jesus was, not only daring and dialoguing but also dealing with this Samaritan woman. I wonder how many Kingdom opportunities people have missed to reconcile men and women to God simply because they didn’t want to deal with people outside their race. If we are going to conform to the image of Christ, His example is that of dealing with those of other races – again for the sake of reconciling all races to God. There is no transformation without association.
- Offer drink (verses 10-15). Jesus’ motive for daring to start a dialogue and deal with this Samaritan woman was to create the opportunity to offer her a drink of the living water that would quench her thirsty soul and meet the longing for real love which she so desperately needed. This is the Kingdom point of conforming into the image of Christ: being daring, initiating dialogue, and dealing with other races in hopes that all people will drink of the living water that comes from the well of salvation.
It would be a shame as well as an error to offer the living water to people only of our own race. This would be like saying that the only people that need to be redeemed are White people or Black people or Hispanic people, etc. The reason for offering a drink to all people of all races is that that’s what God had in mind when He so loved the world (John 3:16). Offering a drink to all reflects God.
- Be discerning (verses 16-18). I like that these verses reveal that Jesus discerned what the woman’s real issue was, and His discernment was not to hurt her but to help her. As believers it’s imperative to discern the real issues other races are personally dealing with. This too reflects the image of Christ – discerning what people are dealing with in order to reconcile them to the God who alone can solve their issues. This requires being sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings, which is something we must work on because it’s lacking.
Sometimes we won’t even have to discern; sometimes it just takes listening to people while they are talking. Often if we listen well enough they will tell us what their issue is. While Jesus was discerning, Jesus was also listening.
- Building Kingdom dominion (verses 28-30). The homerun in this story is found in verses 28-30: “The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?’ So the people came streaming from the village to see him.” The Kingdom of God had come to this woman, and through her testimony to the Samaritans, the Kingdom of God was beginning to dominate the city. Thy Kingdom come!
Now, what does all of this have to do with my being a Black man facing the challenges of conforming into the image of Christ? To me, Kingdom dominion means drawing and converting all races into the “Kingdom Race.” In my domain this only happens when I, a Black man battling with racism, see the Kingdom picture and resolve to conform to the image of Christ, the only image that loves, saves, and redeems all. I’m resolved that Kingdom matters (Matthew 6:10)!
About the Author
Gary Wyatt, Sr. has been the lead pastor of SureHouse Open Bible Church, an urban ministry in the inner city of Tacoma, Washington, for over 25 years. He is the author of The Art of Blending, a book intended for racial reconciliation within the body of Christ. He is the Northwest District Director for Open Bible’s Pacific Region and serves on the Open Bible Unity Commission.