By Alena Noakes, Wildcats Media
PINEVILLE, La. (LCNews) – “God’s plan is to unite us as one, and you have the opportunity to be a part of that process,” Alexandria physician Gregory Bevels said at the recent Louisiana College’s 5th annual Values and Ethics Conference.
The conference, Nov. 4-5, featured speakers from various backgrounds who addressed one of the most critical issues in today’s culture, racism.
Bevels, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, was joined by Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson, author of the Louisiana Right to Life amendment and an equal rights proponent in the legislature, and Joshua Joy Dara, Sr., dean of the department of human behavior and associate vice president for student engagement and enrichment at LC and pastor of Zion Hill Church Family in Pineville. Chris Singleton, a former minor league baseball player whose mother was one of nine people killed during a 2015 deadly shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., shared his message virtually.
“I think this mission of unity that we have … that’s Jesus’ mission,” Singleton said. “And I think if we lead people, no matter where they’re from or what they look like … if we lead them to the Lord, I think that we’re doing our job as believers.”
Bevels emphasized God’s plan for unity in diversity through the design of the human race. Referencing Revelation 7 and 9, he pointed out that many nations will be unified together, highlighting how this showcases God’s intention for His creation.
“This same diversity that’s in this room today is going to be retained in eternity,” Bevels said. “It will be this way in Heaven. So, why is it that we can’t engage in that type of fellowship now?”
Jackson added her observation that the enemy “really perpetuates race as a division because it is the one thing we see all the time.”
She stressed the importance of self-evaluation as a help for believers to identify and overcome prejudices they hold. These prevent Christians from loving their neighbors as they love themselves, the second commandment given in Matthew 22:39, she explained.
Each speaker also prioritized the aspect of forgiveness as a means for dealing with racism today.
Singleton pointed out that sharing experiences, being willing to be taught and to teach others, checking your own heart, teaching your family to love and simply loving your neighbor must accompany forgiveness.
“I think that it is so important as believers we realize since we are forgiven, then we should then forgive,” Singleton said.
“Mistreatment of any kind will happen, some in ways big, some in ways small,” Bevels added. “But you have to forgive, and you have to recognize once again that you’re not perfect … I’m not perfect, neither are they.”
Jackson shared that believers should approach conversations about race without feeling awkward or being negative — but with an attitude that these discussions are necessary.
“Race is not a difficult issue, it’s just something we make difficult because we are not willing to face it in our own lives,” said Jackson. “So, we can’t face it in other people’s lives until we face it in our own lives.”
Additionally, these discussions need to be had in churches today, Bevels said.
“Our churches have begun to stray away from teaching the truth of Scripture in those difficult areas, and it’s really been a thorn in the side of our witness because we’re shying away from stuff … we have to continue to teach the truth of Scripture … no holds barred,” Bevels said.
Both Bevels and Jackson indicated this practice includes being led by the Holy Spirit, being intentional about with whom you gather and doing more to integrate different races and people of various backgrounds into each other’s worship experiences.
Jackson added that true reform in America — the appropriate response to racial injustice today — must start within the church.
“Just laws start in the hearts of the people of God. Just actions start in the heart of the people of God,” she said. “That means just resolution comes through the heart of the people of God.”