"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.' Abram fell facedown...” (Genesis 17:1-3 NIV)
Why is the sin of racism still a part of the church? The same God who talked to Abram also speaks to each of us who make up the church. Perhaps what is missing is for us to fall to the ground in complete surrender the same way that Abram did.
Abram needed to learn how foolish it is to trust his capacities, brilliant ideas, and excellent planning. Abram needed to know brutally and bitterly that not relying on God was a stupid thing to do. Sometimes, we get too impatient. We try to find a solution or fix the situation ourselves because we think He is taking too long to respond.
“God appeared to Abram and told him, I am God Almighty, walk before Me and be blameless.”
Notice that God tells Abram who He is, the Lord Almighty. The one with power over everything. He can do anything! He is competent and knows very well what and when to do it. He could very well have given Abram the son he wanted, but he didn’t because it wasn’t the time.
God’s words are beautiful and full of love. God assures Abram that He is Almighty. God knew what Abram went through. God knew Abram’s lack of faith took him to make terrible mistakes that affected his life and the lives of others. God knew it was necessary to reaffirm Abram’s faith. The Lord wanted Abram to know how powerful He is. The promise He is about to make will sound impossible to Abram: having a child in his old age with his elderly sterile wife.
In human terms, the promise Abram received can easily sound irrational. Just imagine hearing something like that! Our tiny mortal mind cannot process something so impossible and inconceivable. The only way to accept a miracle like that is not with intelligence or logic but only by faith.
Then, God tells Abram to walk before Him. What does it mean? It is to be in the presence of God every second of his life. It is to be in a close intimate personal relationship with Him (Lev.26:12). To walk is not to take just one step, but one after another. It’s action, a continuous movement. It’s to continuously learn who God is, learn about His character, know what pleases Him and what He detests. It’s constantly listening to His words and living accordingly (2Jn 6). This walking implies doing what He wants, not what I want. It’s to go where He goes, not where He doesn’t want me to go.
But, that is not all. God adds something else: “be blameless.” If Abram walks with God, the obvious result will be, blameless. He will be someone complete, free from impurity, someone with integrity. Someone who chooses the right person to hang out with, someone who has no relationship with the wicked (Psalms 1:1-2). For Abram to be obedient, grow in faith, and live by God’s principles and values is, he must walk before Him. It would be a great contradiction to walk before God and not behave with integrity. It is to have the Holy Spirit and not produce His fruits. To be blameless has to do with who I am walking with. What defines who I am, is with who I am walking with.
“Then I will make my covenant...” The conditions that God places on Abram are full of love, compassion, and care. It is an invitation in which Abram gets benefited. God knows that walking in front of Him and being blameless will not be easy. Through his experience, Abram showed he did not know the God who called him. Abram responds, falling to the ground, surrendering entirely to the Lord Almighty.
It is impossible not to get emotional after reading these three verses. God invites us to walk in front of Him, affirming that His great power will allow us to have a life congruent to the new nature we now have thanks to the sacrifice full of love that his Son made.
So then, what’s missing in the church today? More racial reconciliation workshops? What about bringing people of color into my congregation, or having bilingual readings and songs, invite people of different ethnicity to preach? Apparently not. What’s missing is something deeper. It’s to get the understanding and humility Abram had when God spoke to him. What God said to Abram was so powerful that the only acceptable response was to fall on the ground in complete surrender to Him.
The only way to get the sin of racism in control in our churches is to hear His voice, have a humble response, and walk in front of Him.