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A Challenge for the Church: When Will We Step Up on America's Racial Divide?

LeBron James
LeBron James

WASHINGTON –  As the Golden State Warriors prepare to host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA championship playoffs, police are investigating a "racially motivated slur" directed at LeBron James.

"My family is safe. That's the most important," James said during a press conference that was supposed to focus on the highly-anticipated match-up.

"It just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world – a part of America. Hate in America for African-Americans is living every day, even though it's concealed most of the time," he added.

According to news reports, the graffiti, which has been removed, was spray-painted on the entry gate of the Cleveland star's West Los Angeles home.

"No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough," he explained. "We got a long way to go for us as a society, and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America."

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 miles away on the East Coast, another high profile case involving race was making headlines.

Officials closed the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture for several hours Wednesday to remove a noose someone inappropriately added to a museum exhibit.

"The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity – a symbol of extreme violence for African-Americans," Lonnie Bunch, the museum's director, said in a statement on Twitter.

"This was a horrible act, but it is a stark reminder of why our work is so important," the statement continued.

These recent reports have prompted an important question for people of faith: What role should the church play in healing the divide?

"It begins with us," said Dennis Rouse, senior pastor of Atlanta's Victory World Church.

In a video from the church's Facebook page, Rouse addresses America's "need of freedom from prejudices." In a moving message about unity, the senior pastor, who is white, washes the feet of a young black man to demonstrate the need for healing and humility.

"When I got born again, God did something in my heart," Rouse explained. "I can't heal this nation. I'm not a healer. Jesus is the healer."

In the video, Rouse encourages members of his congregation to consider foot washing, an act of service and humility modeled by Jesus, as a way to heal the divide and show Christ as the great "equalizer."

"I can't see the government healing that. I can't see any president healing that. I can't see any leader healing that in society, other than Jesus, and that has to start with us in the church," he said to applause from the congregation.

Another way churches have demonstrated healing is by having congregations of different races come together for Sunday morning worship services, often described as America's most segregated time of the week.

CBN's Jennifer Wishon featured two congregations in New Orleans, one white and the other black, that joined to become one church post-Hurricane Katrina: First Grace.

As Jennifer reported, "It's not always easy . . . when things draw the curtain on America's racial divides, First Grace members choose to lead with love and let Christ work out the differences."

"Those hard conversations – they're like family meetings where you sit down and you say things that you felt like you needed to say and they hurt," said Pastor Shawn Anglim.

Anglim, who believes his congregation is on the front end of what's coming, told CBN News a time will come when there won't be room for excuses.

"They're about you feeling comfortable. Well, is that what Jesus was about? You being comfortable about the way you live?" he challenged, "or about Jesus inviting you into a greater glory if you would open yourself up to that struggle and to take that walk out of Egypt."

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