What an odd question. Obviously, an alien sinner (i.e., non-Christian) will not go to heaven even if he or she is not prejudiced. One must render obedience to the gospel to enjoy eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9). It is unfortunate that a Christian would treat another Christian differently because of the color of one’s skin, the level of income one makes, or one’s physical attributes and appearance. Yet, some things seem to prove that prejudice is alive and thriving in some places in the Lord’s church. Borrowing a phrase from James, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (cf. Js. 3:10).
First, consider the presence of “black congregations” and “white churches.” With what authority do such segregated bodies exist? In fairness, when it is decided by all races in a multi-racial area to meet separately to more effectively further efforts of evangelism, that would seem fair and acceptable (so long as no one is refused or mistreated who wishes to worship at one of the other congregations). Sadly, however, in churches which are predominantly one race, visiting minorities have been ostracized and avoided. In the days before the civil rights of black Americans were improved, a “mixed” congregation was a rare exception. While strides have been made, there are still congregations who would be quite uncomfortable having an African-American preacher preach at the congregation they attend or participating in any public way in the assembly.
Also, think about the strategy of “taking the gospel to the community.” Evangelism can be the greatest weakness of a congregation anyway. When a church does seek to reach out to the community, minorities seem to be passed over frequently. Why is the “black community” or the “Hispanic community” at the bottom of the strategy list? It would be dangerous to make judgment, but, could it be fear for our personal safety? Could it be fear of having success in that community? Could it be an unwillingness to reach out to someone “different” from us? These are not legitimate excuses in God’s eyes.
Finally, ponder the need for equality in the Lord’s Kingdom. A common phrase is, “There are no ‘second class citizens’ in the Kingdom.” Amen! So wrote James, inspired by the Holy Spirit. He penned, “ My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (Js. 2:1-4 ASV). Would we be willing to serve under an elder or with a deacon who is financially poor, who is of different ethnic background, or who has “only a high school education”? Remember, “God is no respecter of persons…” (Acts 10:34,35; Rom. 2:11). Despite racial, economic, and geographical differences, all faithful Christians are “the body of Christ, and severally members thereof” (1 Cor. 12:27). Paul reminds us that “there is one body” (Eph. 4:4). The Bible reveals only one heaven and one hell, not one for each race and social strata.
Christians who do not get along with all races and labor as equals in the Kingdom with faithful brethren on earth should not expect to bask in the glory of an unprejudiced Father throughout eternity. It is hard to fathom that our soul could be red, yellow, black, or white or that one’s soul would “appear” differently because of the model car he drives, the size of her bank account, or the kind of house in which one lives. As we “press on unto perfection” (cf. Heb. 6:1), let us “put away” the besetting sin of prejudice (cf. Heb. 12:1) so that God can fully bless our labors for Him!
–Originally printed in Fulton County Gospel News, October, 1995 (Ted J. Clarke, editor).