Individual Or Systemic Racism



John 9:1–2 KJV 1900
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Here in this passage the disciples ask Jesus who is responsible for this man’s plight (blindness)? This man, or his parents? I want to pose a similar question in relation to the injustices that have been committed against blacks in America.
How should we view these acts? Should we view them as individual acts of sin or racism, or should we view them as something more deep rooted and systemic?
I’m sure all of us have heard the phrase systemic racism, but do we all know what it means and how it is driving the discussion of race and race relations in this country? Systemic/institutional racism is a form of racism that permeates every institution within a society or organization.
So, when we ask the question who’s to blame? Or, to borrow a phrase from the disciples, “Who sinned?” What we’re asking is this: is this an individual problem, or is this a systemic or institutional problem?
The knee jerk reaction would be to say this is a definitely a systemic and not just an individual problem. All you have to do is look at history, even all the way back to the establishment of the Constitution that designated blacks, not as people, but as chattel and allowed blacks to be owned by whites for many years in this country. You can also point back to the creation of Jim Crow laws and other forms of segregation. You can see it in economic policies and zoning laws that have restricted blacks over the years from owning property in certain neighborhoods in this country. Today we see it in the criminal justice system, profiling and other forms of police brutality.
All these things on their face are clear examples of racism. You cannot deny this. But, we must understand what’s really at play here. Whenever you hear people use phrases like systemic racism, they’re not just saying that racism has found its way in every aspect of American culture. What they are saying is the real problem is not with perpetrators of racism. The real problem is with the institution. Our problem is not just with a few bad apples. Our problem is with the entire BARREL.
We’ve moved away from holding individuals, like Derek Chauvin, responsible. Now every structure and institution in America is to be blamed (the judicial, political, economic and even religious systems). This is why we are hearing so many talk about defunding or even abolishing entire institutions (police).
What should the Church’s response be to this? Should we be advocating for the abolishment of entire social institutions with the belief that systems, and not individuals, are the real malefactors and sinners of society?
Romans 5:12 KJV 1900
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
According to this verse, sin entered into the world through one man (Adam). This is what sinners do. They bring their sins into the structures and systems of society. If you put a bunch of sinners together and stick them in a structure, their sin will begin to permeate that entire structure. Now, you can replace that structure with a new one, but unless you do something about the sinner he will continue to corrupt the systems he creates!
This is what so many people don’t seem to understand. In all of their advocating for social reform they’re missing the real point. The problem is not with racism. The real problem is sin. Moreover, sin at its basic level is an individual problem.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing even the Church move away from this. The Church seems to be preoccupied with its fight for social justice. This has led to...


We know that the Church has become preoccupied in its fight for social justice because the mission of the Church has slowly changed from one of evangelism and conversion to one of social change. We have this idea that the way to save and liberate our fellow man is by changing his world (society). But, we forget that the world is in the condition it is because man has brought his sin into it!
Romans 8:20–21 ESV
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:20 ESV
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
Romans 8:21 ESV
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
What Paul’s saying is that creation will not be delivered of its bondage to corruption until the sons of God are fully redeemed! So, God is not really trying to change the world (deal with its problems) until He first deals with the one responsible for bringing the problems into the world (i.e. man).
But, as we said, unfortunately the Church is no longer interested in this. The Church is slowly changing its mission to trying to liberate mankind, not from sin, but from the ills life. They call it “Liberation Theology.” It is a theology that advocates for the liberation of oppressed people through social policy. It defines salvation as the liberation of man from his social, not his spiritual, condition.
This has also led to a..


Sin is no longer about offending a holy God. It’s slowly becoming about how our actions offend men (our neighbor). Any action that offends/affects my neighbor negatively is condemned as a sin (immoral, injustice). But, if what I do does not affect or harm anyone, then it’s okay (regardless of whether it offends God).
Psalm 51:4 KJV 1900
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done this evil in thy sight: That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest.
Luke 15:21 KJV 1900
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
The way to save a society (and the people in it) is not by making man the center. The way to save a society is by making God the center.
Psalm 33:12 KJV 1900
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
We’re not blessed because we chose God. We’re blessed because God chose us! In other words, we need to become more God-centered in our theology and focus. We want to be advocates for man, but who is advocating for God? We want to please men, but who is seeking to please God?
I want to go back to our original next for a moment...
John 9:1–2 KJV 1900
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Again, the disciples asked Jesus who was responsible for this man’s plight? Was it his sin, or the sins of his parents? Notice Jesus’ response.
John 9:3–4 KJV 1900
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Jesus basically says, “You’re looking for someone to blame, but you’re missing the work I’m manifesting IN him!” We can become so distracted by injustices and holding people accountable for our experiences that we miss, or worse forget, that God is performing His work IN us!
Romans 8:28 KJV 1900
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
James 1:2–3 KJV 1900
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
2 Corinthians 4:17 KJV 1900
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
We should add, that this work is largely rooted in Jesus’ willingness to accept injustice. The Bible says, “The just for the unjust” (1Peter 3:17). So, without Jesus’ willingness to accept the injustices of the cross, we would still be in our sin and under the just wrath of God.
So, sometimes God allows a little injustice so that he can perform a greater work of grace. BECAUSE THERE CAN BE NO GRACE WITHOUT INJUSTICE.
James 4:6 TNIV
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”
We better hope that we’re victims of oppression and injustice, for then we shall be recipients of God’s grace!
1 Peter 2:20 NASB
20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
Matthew 5:11 KJV 1900
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
When Israel began to inhabit Canaan they were confronted with the decision of whether to look to God for their social and economic problems, or look to the gods of the Canaanites. Sure, God delivered them from Egypt, but could He sustain them in the land (cause their crops to grow, their wombs to be fertile)?
Ultimately, they decided that the gods of the Canaanites were the more practical option for their social issues. They would still worship Jehovah and sacrifice to Him for their sins, but when it came to liberating them from poverty, infertility and even extinction, the pagan gods seemed to be the more sensible choice.
This generation is coming dangerously close to making the same mistake. We are joining ourselves with those who hate our God in order to fight under the banner of what we call social justice and the liberation of our people. Well, let me remind you, we’re not permitted fight with everyone.
2 Chronicles 19:2 KJV 1900
2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.
King Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to go to war with him against the king of Syria. Jehoshaphat agreed and almost lost his life because of it. We must be careful about going to war with the ungodly. Their fight is not necessarily our fight. God has called us to ONE war—against principalities and powers. God has also given us ONE mission—seek ye first the kingdom AND ITS RIGHTEOUSNESS!
I believe in my heart that the Church needs to stop trying to fight for social liberty and stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free. Also, we need to stop insisting on justice and learn to endure injustice with the hope that it will secure for us grace and favor with God. Lastly, stop looking for individuals and institutions to blame for your problems. Instead, see the work that has already been done for you by Christ on the cross!
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