How to Heal Our Racial Divide: A Conversation with Derwin Gray

Racial issues have rightfully been at the forefront of Christian conversation for the past several years. Not that the racial is just now an issue but that, just now, the church in America is finally beginning to reckon with its history of racism and racial division. How do we overcome that division? Derwin Gray takes us back to the book of Acts and the ministry of Jesus for the answer.

The Conversation | Derwin Gray

This excerpt may be edited for conciseness and clarity. For the whole interview, see the audio player above or visit us wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Olds: One of the things that really struck me about How to Heal Our Racial Divide was how biblically grounded it is. Not that other books that have been written on this topic haven’t been, but you really get to the heart of the matter when you point out that the main challenge of the early church was also navigating racial division.

Derwin Gray: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, you can’t even understand the New Testament if you miss that reality. And I want to thank you for saying that because I am a pastor and a theologian—so I believe the answer is biblical. I believe the answer is Gospel. And what I’m trying to do is get people to return to the Scripture and actually learn to live it out by faith. But when you look at the early church, for example, let’s start with Jesus. So when Jesus goes to Samaria, that’s a statement to break down racial division and create unity. When Jesus tells a story about the Good Samaritan, it’s the same thing. When Jesus feeds 5000 Jews on one side of the Sea of Galilee and 4000 Gentiles on the other side of the Sea of Galilee—one side was Jews, the other side was Gentiles—that’s a portrait into the future of Abraham’s banquet.

What I wanted people to see is that the Gospel—the Bible—is the answer. – Derwin Gray

And then when you look at the apostle Paul, every one of his letters was written to show how the gospel of Jesus Christ breaks down ethnic walls of sin and division to create the new people of God. I think that, deliberately, Satan has blinded the church’s eyes to that reality. And so it’s almost like we’ve created a gospel that says, “Yeah, God can forgive your sins. But you can dislike your brothers and sisters.” No. First John 4:20 says, “How can you say you love God whom you’ve never seen and say you love your brother and sister who you’ve seen.” To love God means to love our neighbors, our brothers and sisters. What I wanted people to see is that the Gospel—the Bible—is the answer. When people read this book, How to Heal Our Racial Divide, they will not see scripture the same and they will be the better for it.

Josh Olds: One of the things I want you to just take me through a little more in depth is Jesus, I’m thinking specifically of John chapter four and the interaction with the Samaritan woman. This is huge. Because Jesus is a Jewish rabbi, and even to go through some area was itself a major flaunting of the religious rules of the time. So there’s, there’s this division, and Jesus is working to bring that together. We might look at that and we say, well, yeah, that was 2000 years in the past. Context was different; culture was different. How is that relevant to the situations that we find ourselves in today?

Derwin Gray: Yeah, you know, the one thing that human beings have been able to do very well is to divide based on color, based on culture. We have been experts at doing that. And so the same principles that Jesus used to break down the barrier between Jews and Samaritans, he can do so today. And even if we just take a look around the world like…apartheid in South Africa was based on race. When we think about Bosnia and Croatia, that’s an ethnic feud. When we think about Jim Crow, and slavery in America, that’s on ethnicity. So this isn’t a problem that is simply an American problem. This is a human problem. Jesus is the answer to that human problem.

What I’m trying to do in How to Heal Our Racial Divide is to take us deeper into the work of Christ, deeper into discipleship, deeper into love. – Derwin Gray

But we have to learn how to work out the Gospel with fear and trembling. Still, case in point, right. A lot of times we don’t understand how we allow culture to affect us…Let me give an example. A gentleman was asking me because I’m a former NFL player. And this was years ago, he said, “Well, I was really offended when NFL players took a knee to protest the flag. What did you think?” I said, “Well, let me respectfully correct one thing, NFL players did not protest the American flag. They were protesting injustice in America. And they wanted what the flag represented to be a reality of liberty and justice for all. They were not protesting the flag.” And then he went on to say, “Well, my great grandfather fought in WWII and that’s disrespectful to him.” And I said, “Well, I’m grateful your grandfather fought in WWII. Thank you so much. But don’t forget 1.2 million black GIs fought in WWII in Nazi racist Germany, only to come back home to America and endure racism as well—colored only water fountains and hotels and restaurants. 1.2 million of them did not receive it aid from the government to be able to build homes in the suburbs, which created so much white wealth.” And so love says, I’m not only going to look at this, from my perspective, I’m going to look at it from the perspective of others. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition, or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves.” And so what I’m trying to do in How to Heal Our Racial Divide is to take us deeper into the work of Christ, deeper into discipleship, deeper into love.

The Book | How to Heal Our Racial Divide

Why must everything be so black and white? Like many of us, Derwin Gray is weary of the racial divide in our society. He longs to see hurts healed, wrongs corrected, and trust replace distrust.

The good news is that the Bible has a lot to say about how to heal our persistent racial divides. In this book, popular Bible teacher Derwin Gray walks us through Scripture, showing us the heart of God—how God from the beginning envisioned a reconciled multiethnic family in loving community, reflecting his beauty and healing presence in the world. This message is central to the gospel itself.

After reading this book, you won’t read the Bible the same way again—and you’ll want to walk through this eye-opening scriptural journey with your friends or small group.

As founding pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic church located in the Charlotte metro area, Derwin knows firsthand the hurdles and challenges to the reconciliation that Scripture commands. That is why he carefully outlines in this book how to establish color-blessed discipleship in your own church.

Together, we can become the change that God yearns to see in this world.

The Author | Derwin Gray

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church (TC), one of the fastest growing churches in America. TC is a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community near Charlotte, NC. Pastor Derwin and his wife, Vicki, have been married since 1992 and have two children: daughter, Presley, and son, Jeremiah.