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The Image of Jesus: Was He Black?

June 23, 2017 by Herbert Daughtry

The Search for the True Jesus: Historically and Theologically

Part Nine

“Christians Are Led by the Spirit

“Enough questions have been posed to demonstrate that it is not a simple matter to know what Jesus would do at any given time and place, and that to make passivity an inflexible tactic based upon Jesus as revealed in Scripture is a shaky proposition.

“What all this says is that people of God are moved by the Spirit to act in the highest manner possible. There are no fixed maps to be given ahead of time. But, is this not faith? To believe that God will guide in every situation? To say what one will or will not do is not necessarily faith. To say one will do whatever is the right thing to do, for God will now allow it otherwise, is a declaration of faith.

“This is not to suggest that there is no ideal. God’s people – of all people – have ideals. They have seen the Lord. They have a foretaste of glory, but ideals cannot always be realized.

“Oftentimes, maybe, most times, we are forced to choose between what is bad and what is worse. How do we know what to choose? God will guide us, faith affirms.

“Why the Question – What Would Jesus Do?

“Why this search for a Jesus that is relevant in a revolutionary situation? The obvious reason is we want to do the will of the Lord for ourselves, yes, but also for others. If we knew what Jesus would do, who knows what a difference that could make. Carl Braaten lists three reasons why we need to be involved:

“‘In order to practice Christian hope for the world, we must reflect on whether or how God may be active in revolutionary situations. There is a very practical reason why we as Christians need a theology of revolution. Without it, we will be at a total loss about what to do for the rest of the century.’ Then, he quotes Hannah Arendt in her book on revolution: ‘In the contest which divides the world today and in which so much is at stake, those will probably win who understand revolution.’

“Another reason he cites is: ‘The church is, to a large extent, responsible for the revolutionary consciousness that is emerging around the world. Indirectly, the church has sponsored the revolutionary process by preaching a message which sets things in motion by stirring up the imagination, arousing new expectations, and stimulating a crusading zeal to translate hopes, whose realization some would postpone for heaven above, already into the social structures of this world.’

“Another reason is the imperative for repentance on the part of the church. They stimulated or created the revolutionary process and then attempted to stifle it or walk away from it.

“Braaten stated, ‘While the gospel they preached pointed the way of hope for the future, the institutions they built impeded its coming. The official churches – as well as church officials – have been guilty of betraying the promises of the gospel for the sake of securing alliances with the classes tenured with privileges of power, property, and position.’

“Martin E. Marty, in his book, said, ‘The Search for a Usable Future,’ agrees with Braaten but warns that: ‘One would hope that the churches would take part not in order to attract attention, [not] to be relevant, [not] to assert their virility, but because of human need expressed in the situation. Nor need Christians step out of their role and stop being the church. They do not exist in order to become a revolutionary (or anti-revolutionary) political party but to do what situations demand, and situations demand more things and other things than being revolutionaries. Christians cannot, however, fulfill their missions and mandates without coming to some sort of terms with that aspect of life covered by the term ‘revolution’ or ‘radical social change.’ The alternative is to put oneself as a priority on the side of the status quo, no matter how evil and dehumanizing it be.’

“The Particular Role of Black Christians

“There is another reason for Black Christians. The places where the revolutions are taking place, for the most part, are Third World countries. The battle is on to win back land and resources. Black Christians are in a crucial position. They can play a critical role in the movements, or they can opt to side with the opposition. They cannot be neutral. To do nothing in the face of an evil is, in some sense, to perpetuate that evil.

“Mention has already been made of an opportunity lost during the latter stages of the Civil Rights Movement, because God’s people could not recognize their own language and ideas, and because they thought of Jesus in European limitation.

“Harvey Cox mentioned a similar situation concerning Cuba, as quoted in Vernon C. Grounds’ book entitled, ‘Revolution and the Christian Faith’: ‘It is reported that during the initial states of Castro’s movement, before he came into power and even for a short time thereafter, there were a number of Cuban Baptists in high positions in his movement. But, when they found a real revolution on their hands and wanted to make a Christian witness and contributions within a revolutionary situation, they were totally baffled… These Cuban Christians lacked the kind of theology of the world that we have begun to develop; perhaps, if they had not retreated, the story in Cuba might have been different.’

“Black followers of Jesus Christ have one more opportunity to bring their special dimension to this revolutionary age. They need to think hard and pray hard. This may be their moment in history. It may be that God has called them to this time to be the vanguard people – to proclaim salvation to the nation in the most comprehensive meaning of salvation.”

The End.