Amos 5:24 But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Stepping into public space and taking positions on racial issues is fraught with pitfalls. If you do, some may think you have said too much, or not enough, or that you said the wrong thing. However, those of us who live and work in public space and speak on so many things, cannot afford to remain silent on the pressing issues of the day, and communicating our views is worth the risk. I have been thinking on our current cultural moment, and asking the Lord how I needed to respond. Hopefully my comments will help us all think through these things well.
Injustices are everywhere in a fallen and broken world. As Christians we may be tempted to ignore injustice for a variety of reasons. The words of the prophet Amos remind us we cannot neglect clear areas of injustice in our world, and miss opportunities to love and serve others in righteousness. Concern for justice and a desire for mercy, do not make us “woke” or “social justice warriors,” they are just part of knowing and serving God.
Racism is sin. All people are created in the image of God and should be valued and treated with dignity. God is building a family from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages according to Revelation 7:9-10. God reconciles people to himself through the Lord Jesus Christ, and reconciliation with God brings reconciliation with others. The Gospel is the answer. To assert this, is not simplistic or dismissive, it is true. The Gospel must remain the primary focus of the church, because the power of God is what gives us hope for peace with God and one another, now and eternally.
I watched the video of George Floyd and I condemn what I saw. It was awful, and grievous, and justice should be exacted on those who are responsible. I support peace, including peaceful protests which are part of our constitutional rights in the United States. Blessed are the peacemakers. I also support law enforcement who work to bring law and order. I know and have known many people in law enforcement. The vast majority are honorable and hard working people. Many of them choose their profession as a way to serve others. I respect and pray for all who are in law enforcement trying to uphold law and order especially in these volatile times. They have incredibly difficult jobs. Those who are not honorable and who act in the wrong should be held accountable in the judicial system.
What are some important points of understanding, and action steps we can take, to better understand the issues and be part of the solution and not part of the problem?
Understand that racism exists. I have never experienced racial profiling. I have never had someone follow me around a retail store because of the color of my skin. I have never feared for my child’s life in a traffic stop because of the color of their skin. I have never been denied housing because of the color of my skin. I have never had someone cross the street to get on the other side because the color of my skin. I have never been passed over for a job because of the color of my skin. Just because I haven’t experienced any of this does not mean the problem of racism is not real or extensive in some places. Does this describe the experience of all people of color? Perhaps not, but just because it is not everyone’s experience does not mean it is not some people’s experience. Awareness of the issue of racism rather than denial, could be a step toward finding solutions that are more than tokens to make ourselves feel better about doing something. If you do not think these issues are real, there is a high probability you are part of the problem. Denying it does not make it go away.
We need to listen more than we speak. Try to understand things from the perspective of other people who are in different life circumstances. Ask good questions, and then listen to the answers even if the answers make you uncomfortable so you can learn.
We need to build friendships with others who are from different backgrounds. How can we understand other perspectives if we do not have these friendships? How can we ask questions and listen if we do not have mutual trust to seek understanding?
We need to choose our words carefully. The words we use to discuss the issues matter. Words carry cultural meaning and we all know they do. Words are used to make statements. We gain nothing by using aggressive or pejorative language. I am not referring only to blatantly racist words, but other words that are racially charged as well.
We need to know that social media posts (like this one) are not actually the solution. They may be a solid move toward real life solutions and engaging dialogue but they are not the solution. I often see people who are not of color, posting things from people of color, who agree with their particular point of view. I think we should be cautious about this because it can be used to leverage other people to make our point, and could actually make things worse.
Much more could be said and needs to be said about the issues. I will conclude for now, but two additional passages of Scripture come to mind. John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. The enemy wants to divide all of us, steal from us, and kill us if he can. Jesus came to give us life and more abundantly. Life is available to all. I John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
The church must be a beacon for love, peace, and reconciliation in the world. If we are not, who will be?