I don’t normally write or speak in church on these types of issues. However, with the sad and horrible events that have happened in the past months culminating in the shooting of 9 African-Americans. In a place that was chosen obviously because it was an extremely significant Church that has been a beacon for over a hundred years in the battle for racial justice. All of this, plus add to my frustration of the constant irritating and racist posts I see on social media regularly, I felt the need to speak up. In no way do I think I’ll answer every objection or question, but hopefully this will help some. Let me start with my own story.
In recent years I have personally struggled with the issue of racism in my own life and having grown up in a family that always taught me to respect and love those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds, I always I hated the use of the “n-word” or other slurs. Of course because of this, I thought, well obviously I’m not racist. But, I like many white Christians in America, equated godliness with patriotism and the republican party or social issues. I constantly grew tired of what I saw and thought at the time was constant race-baiting in the media. I remember thinking racism is dead, why in the world are they always trying to rip open a wound that healed over before I was even born?
It wasn’t until I moved from the isolated northwest, where race relations aren’t really talked about much, to Virginia that I began to realize there is a major systemic problem with racism not just in our country, but in me. I had moved to Virginia to pursue a graduate degree for pastoral ministry. While studying, I began developing close relationships with African-American friends and co-workers. I finally began to realize my own ignorance to the issue as I was shocked by the experiences of racism they faced growing up. These were people I worked with daily, who I began to love as friends and they had been deeply wounded by the affects of racism against them. One of the greatest revelatory moments for me was simply asking to hear their experiences. Not for the purpose of belittling them or the experience but to try to understand. For those of you who still think we’re in a post-racial America, when was the last time you sat down and asked a friend of a minority group; what is it like to be a African-American in America today? or What is it like to be a latino in America today? As Dr. Stephen Covey says, “We need to seek to understand before we seek to be understood.” What you’ll find is even if your motives for trying to understand is to debate the issue, which was my motive, you’ll find the realization that you’ve been wrong and racism and injustice are alive and well in America.
To the evangelical Christians reading this, I’m imploring you to stop equating the gospel with political parties. Yes we are citizens of this country, but we are people of the kingdom first and foremost. I’m imploring you to stop deceiving yourself about the racism within you, because It’s within all of us. The problem is we Christians, don’t want to admit that we live much more like the pharisees Jesus condemned, than Jesus. We pray lofty prayers, we act as though we’re perfect on the outside…yet inside we’re full of dead men’s bones. We think since we don’t say racial slurs, we’re fine. We think we’re not racist toward latinos coming to our country looking for more opportunity, we’re just afraid they’ll bring “their culture” with them. All the while make sure you don’t forget to enjoy your favorite Mexican restaurant this Friday with your spouse. Jesus called out the hypocrites of his day in Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness,” he’s also calling us out.
I know some of you Christians want to be content in your bubble, but you’re fooling yourself. I recently read an article on the shootings in Charleston, SC by Lecrae, a prominent Christian artist who wrote:
“Months ago, when I posted about both Ferguson and Baltimore on social media, many of my white brothers and sisters met me with responses such as:
“Pray for the families of those officers.”
“I hope you’re not defending those thugs and looters.”
“Michael Brown was a thug who got what he deserved.”
Interestingly, after posting about this Charleston shooting, I have seen many of my non-black followers posting replies like:
“Pray for that kid; He needs God.”
“Let’s not make this about race. People are dead and the guy is caught.”
“Why would he do this?”
“He’s just a kid!”
The inconsistency is shocking to say the least.”
This type of stuff isn’t just from Lecrae’s social media followers. I see this kind of stuff all the time by Christians on social media. Micah 6:8 says it all, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Unfortunately for much of my life and many other Christians out there, we have sought to walk humbly with our God without the prerequisites of doing justice and loving kindness. This includes confronting racial injustice. Jesus bled, died and rose again so that His people by faith would be reconciled to God and given God’s own righteousness. In so doing, Jesus broke down the wall of racial hostility as the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2. Specifically in verses 12-13 speaking to gentile Christians, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” The ultimate plan of the cross wasn’t to save people just like you and me, but as the song in Revelation 5:9 proclaims, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.“
Christians, we need to stop hiding from the truth of the racial injustice and inequality before our eyes. Why? “…Because what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“