5.14 2 Corinthians -- Taking Every Thought Captive
Paul answers an attack upon himself by some of the Corinthians, who said that his bark was worse than his bite: that he was timid in person, but bold in his letters. He uses this criticism as a springboard to explain how Christians should deal with opposition:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:3-5).
This is so important in the area of race relations, though that is not Paul's subject here. The Christian's values are not those of "the world," and neither are the ways in which he presents them. The world commonly has two possible attitudes toward racism:
a. many societies or sub-groups in a society still actively promote racist attitudes and laws. They treat ethnic groups differently in terms of immigration, civil rights, employment. Subgroups seek preferential treatment from the larger society at the expense of other ethnicities.
b. in Western countries, racism is officially repudiated in favor of some form of "universal rights of man." The key value is belief in the essential goodness of all human beings, and the main political agenda is the promotion of equality before the law.
Christianity varies from both of these alternatives. In the past, God did show favoritism to one nation, intending that they should be a model community. But in the New Covenant, He makes "no distinction" among races or nationalities, but accepts all people who put their faith in His Son Jesus. These people have equality of value, but not of function, for Him. He pours out His gifts upon them "as He determines." All are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Wherever there are preferences or exclusions on the basis of skin color or nationality, it is due to human corruption seeping into the church, rather than God's will. The Christian doctrine of race has helped shape Western democracies over the past two and a half centuries, but these governments are now repudiating their Christian heritage.
Racism is one of the strongholds of human sin. The stronghold is built upon "arguments and every pretension," most notably pride of race. It has sometimes been buttressed by religious arguments as well. In this case, Christianity has had to be self-critical, repenting of its own racial sins and recovering the true Gospel. The racial agenda for a Christian differs from that of a political activist. The latter seeks a "just" political realignment, according to his own definition of justice. In some instances today, "justice" means liquidation of opposing ethnic groups, ie. genocide. The Christian goal is that of reconciliation within one community, or brotherly relations between communities. Paul explains this mutual dependence:
your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality (2 Cor 8:14).
For the Christian, there is a spiritual component to the relationship that the political activist lacks. The latter seeks to organize based on ethnicity, ideology or party, but the Christian seeks to unify all those who have been "born from above." This shows that there is a divergence between secular reform movements and Christian evangelism, which brings us back to the prior section and Paul's warning "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers."