One of the reasons why you see many Christians, me included, speaking against racism is the very fact that it is pushed against as not being prevalent today. No one is FOR riots, violence, or looting. No one is FOR murder of police officers. And no one is FOR police brutality, and no one acceptable is FOR a war on police. However, far too often racism is tolerated or disguised as heritage. We have older family members and friends that we excuse their remarks and worldviews because “That’s how they grew up.” We have statues and symbols that we proudly display because “They remind us from where we came,” regardless if they promoted an ideology identifying more than half the population as 3/5 a human.
Racism should be intolerable because each person bears the imago dei. The diversity of all peoples reflect the glory and beauty of our Creator. Our race and ethnicity are God-given, something defining to our identity apart from everything and everyone.
Further, racism has a deeply personal context. Racial slavery has existed for hundreds of years in society and wasn’t that long ago in our nation’s history. We can talk with family members who had parents and grandparents who were slaves in an evil social structure. We can talk with people alive today who endured an era of segregation and discrimination. We can talk with people who experienced events during the Civil Rights movement. So, when it comes to the issue of racism, the scars may have healed but can easily tear and bleed again.
Solutions to bringing about peace and reconciliation are complex because people are complex. Some will accept in good faith the communication to listen and learn from one another. While others will never engage in dialogue but only seek monologue, refusing to take steps toward understanding, growth, and healing. So, what can Christians do?
First, Christians should pray. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against unseen evil forces. Spiritual darkness is not over overcome with human resources but divine power that comes from Jesus Christ. Let us pray with lament over our unbearable past and undesirable present. Let us pray for God to do what no political party, no secular philosophy, and no human can achieve – that God would transform hearts with mercy and grace. Let us pray for love to lead the way, just as it did through Jesus to accomplish the salvation for every tribe, tongue, and nation who professes faith in the gospel of Christ.
Second, we should seek the Scriptures and study the Christian faith. The Bible has a lot to say about God’s heart for all peoples from Old to New Testament. God’s people originated to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth (Genesis 12:2-3). Despite humanity’s fighting and failures, the rest of the Old Testament is God’s faithful commitment to this promise. It is God’s ultimate plan for a diverse multitude of peoples to enter His kingdom (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). The gospel of Jesus breaks down barriers to reconcile and unite us as a people (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:12-19). And every Christian has the call to be peacemakers with the ministry of reconciliation (Matthew 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:18, ff). Further, the Christian faith began in the Middle East and flourished in Asia and Africa before it came to Europe. Let us appreciate the roots of our deep history and forefathers who seldom look like many of our American churches. And let us pursue the church on earth as it will be in heaven.
Third, we should listen more than speak. The old saying, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason” has some merit. The way we can express love for others is to listen. Even if we believe we have helpful solutions to problems, we should start with validating the person across from you. When we listen, we are saying, “I see you. I hear you. I care.” Ask questions and seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Empathy has a way of expanding the relationship and potential resolutions to problems we face.
Fourth, we should leverage what we have. In the Gospels, when Jesus miraculously fed large crowds, he used what was in the hands of those present. For one crowd it was five loaves and two fish, and for another it was seven loaves and a few small fish. Whatever we have available surrendered to God becomes abundance. The same is true in how we can leverage our resources and networks for the common good of others. What are the ways you can be a piece to the larger puzzle for peacemaking?
Fifth, but not final, we should have a sense of urgency. Too often we know the good we should do but we do not get around to acting on it. My brothers and sisters, silence can be a sin. While we may comfort ourselves for not having sins of commission, what about sins of omission? Are there areas of neglect or complicity that we are guilty without realizing? Are there blind spots in Christians and God’s church that are hindering our spiritual growth and the Great Commission? The answer to these questions comes through the devotion to dialogue and graceful accountability with one another in Christian community. In sum, it is not enough to not be racist, but we must be actively anti-racist.
- Proverbs 3:27-28 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.”
- Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
- Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
- Ephesians 5:16 “redeem the time, because the days are evil.”
- James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
My friends, I have hope. I choose not to be pessimistic about our present or future. I know who is in control. I know who has accomplished the victory. I know who promises nothing and no one can prevail against God’s church. We have the keys to forgiveness and freedom that come from God and our world so desperately needs. Let’s start opening those doors in our neighborhoods.