Once again, a tragic police shooting of a young black teen, Michael Brown, on August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson Missouri, has sparked national outrage, civil unrest, and the re-opening of our countries racial wounds often forgotten.
There has been much said in the media, which is often hard to discern the fact from fiction, but nonetheless there is much pain, angst, and rightfully so, a demand for answers and justice in this tragedy on both sides of the issue.
I have read many helpful blogs on how we as Christians, should give pause and consider this sad event. Collin Hansen from TGC has a great article and interview with two Pastors who live near this area and their perspective’s as a Church. John Piper, wrote a heartfelt article on a plea to pray for Ferguson. Finally, Pastor Bryan Loritts wrote passionately a piece entitled, “Its time to listen.”
As a white suburbanite, much of the tensions and struggles that our brothers and sisters of color have faced, and do face are things that “don’t touch us.” We don’t live in their world. I still am amazed when I think of the racial segregation that our country has historically struggled with even in the last 50 years. Here in Rochester, 4 years before I was born, we had riots and racial tensions between police and residents during a very hot month of July in 1964.
Personally, as a young boy I grew up in the 19th ward section of Rochester. It was the city; my neighbors were Yugoslavian who had their grandparents from the “old country” live with them, we had white neighbors, black neighbors, old neighbors, and Asian neighbors. Most of my childhood friends were black and we played ball together, went biking, got into trouble, laughed, went to the movies, went swimming, went to the park, fought, made up, and lived like normal kids do.
One time my friend, Chris Corbitt, who was black, invited me to his birthday party at his house. My younger brother and myself were the only white kids there; but he told me it would be better if we didn’t go roller skating because we might feel “uncomfortable” being the only “white kids” there. Maybe he was sincere, but that was my first encounter with personal prejudice, though trivial, I’ll never forget it.
Working in the city for over 20 years in low-income housing repair has shown me the despair, the poverty, the abuse, and the hardships of those trapped by choice, by circumstance, or by ignorance in a welfare state. I have also met godly, hard working, and the kindest of people in similar life situations because of their love for Jesus.
All of these life lessons and life perspectives have shaped me and my view of race and perspective..and yet..when a situation like Michael Brown or many other tragedies occur, I come face to face with an ugly reality…the racism I despise…the racism that is on display…the racial fingerprinting…and the racism that I detest, is found right within my own heart…
We all have found these feelings in our hearts, even if they aren’t verbalized. It can surface in many subtle ways on the inside of us. I remember once, not too long ago, standing at an auto shop counter with a large amount of cash in my hand, and as a black man approached the same counter I clutched it a little more tightly, “just in case he might try and take it.” (This man was actually a Pastor from a local church there to pick up his church van.) I allow racism to thrive when I am silent at the racial comments or innuendos made by others around me when they say “them” or “those people.”.When 99.9% of my friends and social circle are white suburbanites… why is that?
These triggers and tendencies show me that as “slight” as they may be, in comparison to these more tragic events, I am a sinner in need of great grace and a soul that needs Gospel truth to view these hard topics that confront us on a daily basis. As much as I must fight any other sin that grows or seeps into my heart, I must fight, as a Christian, the racism within me.
Some things to consider…
- Racism is first, a heart issue…Mark 7:21-23 (It needs to personally be repented of)
- Racism and prejudice are not just modern issues, they appeared in the Bible. Peter played the religious and racial hypocrite with the Gentile believers, and Paul rebuked him to his face…Gal. 2:11-16
- Unequal treatment and favoritism were things the church needed to address between the wealthy and the poor members, and the free and the slaves…James 2:1-8
- Silence by the church on racial issues is a sin of omission which equally needs to be repented of.
- Only the Spirt of Christ can break down racial walls, and the blood of Christ unite divided people.
- We must be biblical, intentional, and honest about this topic. (This is not a government mandated “diversity” course..it is Biblical)
The bad news is that there are many wicked things that get exposed in my heart, including racism…the good news is that Jesus Christ paid for my sins on the cross by His all sufficient and atoning death and made me, a rebel by nature and by choice a son of the King. (Eph. 2:1-10)
As I have been forgiven by the blood of Christ I know I can now love my brothers and sisters bought by the same blood, regardless of their color, and I can love all of God’s image bearers, regardless of the state of their soul, and I can seek to be a minister of reconciliation that reflects Christ’s love, compassion, mercy, and eternal justice that only comes through the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus my Lord. (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
On my part, I am seeking to speak with my brothers and sisters of color to understand these issues and their concerns better…to listen more…to pray for hurting hearts…and to lift up the Name of Jesus who can, who will, and who has promised to ultimately triumph over this broken and fallen world shattered by sin, with His Kingdom of love and power which will one day ring our in anthemic and cosmic eternal choruses by all people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb…
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
and has made us kings and priests to our God,
and we shall reign on the earth.”