There’s nothing quite like football. There are very few events that can garner such national unity. England were united by a singular goal – it’s coming home. Unfortunately, it did not. What ensued upon the final loss was inevitable. Rashford, Sancho and Saka all detailed in their reflections that they expected the racial attacks that occurred shortly after the result was finalised. As I scrolled through the twitter timeline, I saw numerous comments warning black people who were enjoying the final from various outdoor venues to find refuge. Is football responsible for the racist response we saw or is there a more insidious force at work?
Racism is a heart issue
In recent years there has been a concerted effort to denounce the UK as a racist country. The most recent race report commissioned by the UK government stated, “The UK no longer has a system rigged against people from ethnic minorities”. Yet, if you were to ask minorities if they agreed with this statement the majority, particularly black people would disagree. The reasons why are beyond the scope of this article, but what I want us all to consider this, why did the black players and black fans expect a racist onslaught when England lost? The comments and actions of racists throughout this country further cemented the necessity of the BLM protests that occurred during the summer of 2020. As Martin Luther King famously stated, “A riot is the language of the unheard”. But why should unbelievers lead the charge to tackle racial and social injustices? Let us be very clear, racism is a gospel issue. Racism seeks to distort what God established when he created humans (Genesis 1:26; 9:6). Racism seeks to make us believe the same lie that Satan spoke to Eve, to question our status as image bearers (Genesis 3:1-5). If Christians do not affirm that all humans are created in the image of God and thus all are intrinsically valuable, then we are not equipped to confront racism as we ought.
The Gospel Affirms Those That Racism Denounces
Whilst most Christians agree that racism is the sin of partiality (Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-4), there is much disagreement as to how to tackle racism. When racial injustice occurs, it appears that some will use the Gospel to dismiss the issue. “Just preach the gospel” is aimed at racism with no consideration of the sociological or historical factors that influence the racialised society we live in or the sociological and historical work that has been done to analyse racism. A myopic view of the gospel narrowly defines the salvific work of Jesus as only redeeming the individual for glory. The gospel is far more glorious than that. The salvific work of Jesus Christ speaks to the redemption of the cosmos, which includes redeeming a people from every tongue, every tribe and every nation (Revelation 5:9). Now these redeemed people are called to spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere, in the hope that those perishing would believe the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:15).
The Gospel Helps Us Love Others
Whilst the Bible is profitable for salvation, teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17), it is not profitable as an analytical tool to interpret the historical and sociological impact racism has had in this country. The Bible is sufficient, not exhaustive. When we make the Bible what it is not, we do a disservice to our neighbours and reduce our ability to love them well. If we want to love our neighbours well, we cannot limit our love to their spirit and disregard their body and soul. The Euros only exposed the condition of people’s heart. Racism is symptomatic of the sin problem that plagues all humanity without Christ. As John Piper states “Christians’ care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering”. If this is true, then let us – girded by the Holy Spirit – use all that is at our disposal to affirm what racism seeks to destroy.