Black History Month: Why It Matters

Black History Month Matters
Original black and white negative by Warren K. Leffler. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C, United States (@libraryofcongress). Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

This month my wife and I are doing something different with our children before bed. Every night, in addition to their normal Bible storytime, we are talking with them about an African American who contributed to the United States in a significant way. What began as Negro History Month in 1926, was eventually expanded to the entire month of February in 1976 and now known as Black History Month.

Black History Month is celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Black History is something I want to learn more about, teach my children, and it’s something every Christian should learn about as well. You may be thinking, what does black history have to do with me? Black history matters for Christians, and here’s why.

Black History Month Reminds Us of the Church’s Black Eye

The Bible clearly teaches that humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Neither gender, race, or social status gives someone an advantage in Christ; all Christians should be treated equal (Gal 3:26-28). The truth is, in the United States this has not always been the case.

From slavery to the civil rights movement, blacks were often not treated with the dignity they should have been. While Christians are not to blame for this, if we are honest we can say that the church frequently did not lift her voice and cry out for the oppressed as she should have.

Sure, in some pockets of the country there were some people who were speaking out against the inhumane and unjust treatment of blacks, but not nearly as many people spoke out as they should have. Black History Month helps Christians look back and face a time we often want to overlook and sweep under the rug.  The church that is loudly pro-life today (and rightfully so) must acknowledge a time when some lives were not viewed equally.

Black History Month Gives Us Lessons for the Future

Black history month matters for every Christian because we learn lessons for the future. While we look back and learn, we also must look ahead and grow. The Bible teaches that God’s people must look to the past to keep from repeating the mistakes of those who lived previously (1 Cor 10:6, 11). We should always be concerned when individuals are oppressed and marginalized, and we should be the first (not the last) ones to lift our voice and cry out for them.

Looking back at black history helps us to see that there will be those who need our help—those who society cast off as unimportant and insignificant—and we need to show them the love of Christ (Luke 10:25-37).

Racism has not died, and though it moves more silently than in times past, it should still bother us. We should expose it when we see it. There are so many pseudo-civil rights causes vying for our attention today. We should look for true injustice and be sure to be on the right side of history. When we see the horrors of our past and the heroes that stood up and spoke out, we find the courage to do the same.

Black History Month Can Show Christianity in Action

So many people view Christianity as a religion that only surrounds a building, a pulpit, and a preacher; but this is not true. While Christians meet and there is preaching, Christianity is primarily a religion that takes place from day to day in the lives of individuals. Black History Month reminds Christians that there are people we live near and work with every day that we can reach for the gospel.

People do not want to hear the gospel if they do not think we are interested in their physical welfare as well. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but he also fed the hungry bellies of his listeners (Mark 6:35-42).

Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to hear him over the growl of their stomachs. Today, when people believe we do not care about their struggle and the prejudice they face, they will turn a deaf ear to the gospel. When racism was at its zenith in this country, too many used the gospel as a shield to shirk their responsibility.

The gospel is not to be detached from its spiritual purpose, but neither can we remove the physical involvement in the lives of others that the gospel necessitates (Matt 25:31-46).

Black History Month Helps Defend True Christianity

Christians need to be concerned with black history because true Christians have always felt that racism and prejudice of any kind are wrong (Matt 7:12). However, there have been those in history who have twisted scripture and misused Bible passages to affirm their mistreatment of black people in America. Christians need to be the ones to call out these counterfeit claims and show what the Bible teaches.

When someone says, “how can you be a Christian when they enslaved black people and used the Bible to justify their inhumane treatment of men and women made in the image of God,” we need to be conversant and show the error of those who held up the Bible while violating its precepts. True Christianity does not rejoice in the domination of one race over another, but realizes that we all are a part of the human race and should be treated equally (Acts 17:26).

It does not matter if you are black or white, Christians should be students of black history. I am aware that some want to blame every white person for the atrocities of a few, such is unfair and ungodly. However, we should not bury our heads in the sand and fail to acknowledge the things that have transpired.

Black History Month is a time to learn and to grow. It is a time to show that we are pro-life in every sense of the word. It is also a time that we can declare to the world that we want to tear down barriers and see the world as Christ would have it.

Hiram Kemp

Hiram is a graduate of the Florida School of Preaching, Freed-Hardeman University, and is working on his Ph.D. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently serves as one of the ministers at the Lehman Avenue church of Christ in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He and his wife Brittani have two children, Nadia and Andre.

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