NASHVILLE — Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California said that revival in America will never happen unless the Church is willing to address and fight racial prejudice, which he referred to as the most "common sin" in the world.
There's a theme in Scripture that the Church often ignores, Warren said during a sermon delivered Tuesday at the National Religious Broadcasters' 75th annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and that is that God wants His children to get along.
"We're not real good at that one," he said. "Friends, we're failing at unity. The Church is more divided, more polarized, there are more tribes, and more splattered, more fractured, than ever before."
Warren shared how throughout his life and ministry, his "mentor," evangelist Billy Graham, insisted there be unity.
"Not only did Billy Graham insist all of his crusades be integrated with every kind of ethnic background, he also sat everyone at the table. He took Catholics and Orthodox and fundamentals and evangelicals and Calvinists and charismatics, and he put them all on the stage," Warren said. "God has never made a person He does not love. God has never made a person He does not have a purpose for."
The pastor emphasized that America is in "desperate need of revival" and a "third great spiritual awakening." However, revival can only come from repentance and unity.
"We don't talk about this one much," he said, pointing out that in the first five chapters of Acts, the word "one" is used 10 times.
"They were in one place, they were of one accord, they were of one heart, they had one purpose, they had one vision," Warren said. "When we have the unity of Acts, we'll have the power of Acts."
"We're just not willing to pay the price for pentecost," he continued. "We're not willing to set aside our petty differences and unify around one thing: the Lord Jesus Christ."
Warren revealed that the violence that erupted between white supremacist demonstrators protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year "so sickened" him, he decided to host a one-day retreat for pastors on how the Church should address racism.
"We sat in a room and I said, 'OK, there's no agenda here, we're just going to talk about how do we have unity in the body of Christ. Because we're not going to have revival if 11 o'clock on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America,'" he said.
One thing Warren took away from the meeting was that Church is the "only place" that isn't integrated in our society — and it's "hurting us" and preventing revival.
God wants everyone saved, Warren contended, and reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel.
"How we treat other people matters to Him," the Southern California pastor said. "The Bible is very clear that racial prejudice is a sin ... God hates racial prejudice."
Racial prejudice, he added, questions God's creation.
"When I say, 'God, why didn't you make everybody like me?' I'm basically saying, 'God, you messed up,'" he explained. "I am not the standard of perfection, and neither are you. Anytime I treat anyone less than me, I am questioning God's wisdom."
Racial prejudice is also a sign of "ignorance," Warren said, pointing to 1 John 2:11, which reads: "But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them."
"Racism is not a skin problem, it's a sin problem," he said. "It's not about skin, it's about pride."
Finally, racial prejudice disobeys the Great Commandment to "love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself," Warren said.
"[The Bible] is all about relationships," he said, adding that the "most common sin" in the world is racism.
"So what do we do?" he asked.
To help him answer that question, Warren invited Dr. John M. Perkins, pastor and civil rights activist, to the stage.
Racism has "blinded" this world, Perkins said, and the light of God's truth is the only way to effectively combat prejudice. Because humanity was created in the likeness of God, we must treat each other with dignity as commanded in Scripture. Dignity, he said, is defined as "the affirming of God's created good works."
"The Christian life is the outliving of Christ. How can we live out that life? That's the antidote [to racism]," he explained.
Racism today is moving toward "genocide," Perkins warned, adding that it's a learned behavior, as there's no racism between children playing in the sandbox.
"You have to build jails to keep us apart," he said. "We are in a very difficult place, and I don't think that putting guns in the schools with the teachers is the first thought we should have. I think we can do better."
"I'm not talking about politics," he added. "God says we have to be 'salt and light' to the world. God says we have to be peacemakers ... the answer to our problem is what redemption is all about: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life.' It all goes back to the cross."
The theme of the Bible, he stressed, is that we're all one body in Christ.
"We were broken by sin and our relationship is broken with God and it's broken with each other," he continued. "We had to be born again into the family of God ... we think sin comes from out there. The Bible doesn't say that. Sin comes from in us ... it starts with me.
"We were made to walk in the spirit, and we've got to walk together."
Warren reminded attendees, most of whom are those in the field of Christian communications, that there's a "direct connection between our evangelistic effectiveness and our willingness to build bridges with people who are not like us."
"If you don't like people who don't look like you, you're not gonna like Heaven. We've got to learn to practice here on earth what we're gonna do in Heaven," he said.
"You may not like it but America is becoming more multicultural by the second," Warren added. "Are you going to reach the America you wish it was? Or are you going to reach the America that it's gonna be? Well, first place, it doesn't matter what the demographics are; Jesus died for everybody."