“What’s the big deal? Why are you making such a big deal about race, Jeremy? I’m not racist. What exactly are you wanting from me?”
Perhaps this is how some of you feel as you read my posts. Perhaps there were even stronger reactions that outright disagreed with some of my implications. Maybe some of you are wondering why I’m giving so much time and energy to something that’s not the gospel. I hope you love me enough to hang with me and seek a deeper understanding.
Martin Luther King Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, makes this statement regarding the white clergy who were discouraging and passive in their support: “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”. It seems to me that this statement is very relevant in our day.
It is unrealistic to believe that there are no issues to discuss after the history we’ve had. It is unloving for us white Christians to walk away from the discussion believing that the issues are settled because we’re no longer segregated, or because “everyone has equal opportunity in America”, while we plug our ears to the cries for justice, and reason away the validity of those cries. And I can imagine that when some of you read “cries for justice” you picture those whom you deem to be “hoodlums” blocking traffic and looting and think that being unloving is acceptable. Why would we ever think that being unloving is acceptable? I could speak in the tongues of men and angels but if I don’t have love I’m just banging a garbage can. That’s why this is a gospel issue. Christ commands us to love our brothers, and if there was ever a litmus test to genuine saving faith… it is this, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). And think of the witness for Christ this will be when Sunday morning is no longer the most segregated time of the week, when Martin Luther King Jr’s dream is being lived out in the name of Christ. Think of when the descriptions of Christ centered loving community pictured in Acts and the Epistles is lived out, warts and all, across ethnic lines in America. Think about what that would say about Christ’s glory.
“We would love that,” you say. “We don’t know why more black people aren’t interested in coming to our church,” you say. “We’ve invited them and they’ve visited but they don’t come back.” It may be because you don’t realize the paternalistic attitude you’ve inherited. “Everyone’s welcome to come and join us in doing things our way. And I know we’ve had a messy history. About that, just forget it. It’s in the past.” Consider that this is what is presented to our brothers and sisters of other ethnicities. IT’S TIME TO LISTEN.
So, for the love of Christ, if you have a black brother or sister in your fellowship, ask them how they feel about the violence in the news. Seek to go beyond a shallow understanding. Ask them how they feel about the Sunday morning worship time. Ask them if they think there are still inequities in America, then humble yourself and listen. Don’t defend yourself or your perspective. Listen and take into consideration everything you hear and pray about what to do with it.