I had a situation a few years back that has been on my mind in light of the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, but also countless others in the past few years. Christians, especially my white brothers and sisters, can we open our points of view to the experiences of our black and brown brothers & sisters? Our point of view cannot stay static if we are to be people of Jesus. Exposure creates empathy.
What good do I do if I pray for clarity on fixing the problem of race, but then refuse to move closer to my brothers and sisters, to share their pain while also examining myself? (James 1.27)
Our point of view cannot stay static if we are to be people of Jesus. Exposure creates empathy.
This story speaks enough. One day, I was driving laps around a neighborhood while my kids napped. After awhile, I noticed a man watching me from his front yard. I took a few more laps, & after that we made eye contact. By my next pass, he was on the phone, making a call, & looking at me.
Feeling that he was probably suspicious for good reason, and knowing I had a harmless explanation, I rolled my window down, stopped my car on his side of the street, and asked if everything was ok. He was understandably defensive, but began to relax as I calmly explained my kids were napping, and I apologized if I made him suspicious. He also apologized, and that was that.
I‘d love to believe—if my skin was a different color—the outcome would have been the same. Specifically, it easily could have. I can’t speak for the man anymore than I could speak for anyone wearing blue. But listening to the experiences of my black & brown friends leads me to believe the script I followed that day would be an unacceptable risk to themselves and their families, regardless of the actions of another. They do not live in an America where they could follow the script I did while sharing my confidence for a positive outcome. I simply can’t walk back from the reality I know my friends live in.
Racism and discrimination is not a fundamentally American problem, though it has been a fault line from the beginning. It’s a human problem. Any human problem is a universal problem. Universal problems demand universal solutions. If the resurrection of Jesus is the universal solution to the universal problem of sin & death, then Jesus’ people—the ones in whom the Spirit of the resurrection is living and moving—have a distinct identity and responsibility in and to the world.
Our black and brown brothers and sisters do not live in an America where they could follow the script I did while sharing my confidence for a positive outcome.
The Church is responsible when it comes to racial tension and conflict because of the bigger task we have: living the coming Kingdom against the backdrop of this world’s kingdom. We are the witnesses to Jesus’ free gift of salvation. As it is, justice is certainly not a sidestep from this gift, but rather an outcome of it. David Platt says it well of Micah 6.8: “the more we become like Jesus, the more we do justice”.
The Church is not left to “solve” racism on our own. It’s not about parsing videos and crafting & keeping our views. We must look outward & upward, asking “What does Jesus see? What does he want?” Reconciliation is first a Kingdom reality we receive from King Jesus, not a political platform by itself. (Ephesians 2:14-22). Stepping into that reality requires a daily dying & rising, a life of repentance & faith—of submitting our points of view to love of God & neighbor. (James 1:27, Colossians 3:9-11)
The Church is responsible.
Unity in diversity is a powerful witness to the goodness of Jesus. I’m still learning on the way, with a long way to go. It’s good and right to ask of myself regularly, am I culpable? Have I contributed in any way to a reality—a way of thinking & living—which diminishes or denies their dignity by ignoring their experience, whether through a failure to speak or act, or in my words or actions themselves?
Jesus grant us your Church faith to live & work with courage in the real world, hope to believe the next world holds the best to come, and a love that weeps with those who weep, yet brings as many people with us to your table.