To You, For This Moment
I have seen so many people expressing their anger, frustration, and grief over the killing of George Floyd, and I am exceedingly thankful that this seems to be a moment of awakening for our nation, and the Church in particular. You certainly don’t need to hear my thoughts, but I am a writer — it’s what I do. And I always want my pen to plead the cause of justice. I always want it to tell the stories of the oppressed and disenfranchised. I always want it to promote empathy, understanding, and human dignity. So these are the words I feel led to say right now.
To My Black Brothers and Sisters
I want you to know that I was twenty before I acknowledged the reality of racism in America. Twenty before I considered that other Americans might have a different experience than me. Twenty before I admitted there could be racism in my own heart.
The killings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Alton Sterling finally stirred my heart and my conscience. Desperate to understand, I turned to a dear friend. I asked him what it was like to be black in America because no one had ever told me it was different than being white. He thanked me for asking, but he must have wondered how I could be twenty and still so self-centered and unaware.
I am sorry that I lived in ignorance so long. I am sorry that I was blind to your suffering and unconscious of the ways I may have contributed to it. I don’t want to be blind anymore.
That conversation with my friend was a profound moment for me. It changed the way I see the world. It changed the way I relate to people of color. I thought that moment had redefined who I was, made me an “enlightened” individual.
But, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know I have failed you since then.
I have seen your pain, and I have responded half-heartedly. I have been satisfied decrying racism on social media. I have been content challenging the views of friends and family in private. I have been at peace complaining about racism with my white friends as though venting about a bully who never hurt us. I have done these things intending to support you and to demonstrate my love for you.
But the extent of my response has not matched the magnitude of your suffering. And that is because I have not listened long enough or close enough. I have listened with white ears instead of human ears. And for that I am so sorry. I don’t want to respond disproportionately anymore.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, and worst of all, I have found a way to make your pain about me. What began as an empathetic journey to understand your struggle became about the journey itself. It became about proving I wasn’t racist and proving I was a good person. It became about my own insecurity and my own concept of change. And truthfully, playing the role of the compassionate crusader was intoxicating. I thought of myself as somewhat of an internet hero in the fight against racism, and your pain became my platform. I amplified my own voice instead of yours. While lamenting white privilege, I used my own to be heard.
I am exceedingly sorry. I beg your forgiveness.
Please know that from this day forward I am committed to shedding my ignorance. I want to be constantly learning and constantly drawing closer to the truth. I am committed to responding to racism in practical ways. I want to DO something about racism instead of just talking about it. And I am committed to never capitalizing on your pain. I will support you in anyway I can without attempting heroism. Because you need friends, not heroes. You are people, not a cause.
Please help me do this. Please help me be an instrument of justice and reconciliation. Please help me love you well.
To My White Brothers and Sisters
I hope by reading the section above, you realize that I am a broken, selfish person clumsily trying to do the right thing. I have no judgment to cast. I also want you to know that I understand you are on a journey. Awakening to the reality of racism in our world and in our own hearts is a process — a process we are all undergoing. My black friends have shown me so much grace along this journey, and I have the same grace for you.
I hope the events of the past month have accelerated your journey and brought you to the firm conclusion that racism is still very real and that we are obligated to fight it. I hope that painful as it is, you have watched the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery. I hope you have read Breonna Taylor’s story. I hope you have watched the video of a police officer kneeling on top of George Floyd for ten minutes as he begged for air and prayed to his mother. I hope you are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that people of color in America are plagued by injustice.
But if these events have not convinced you, all you must do is look at Scripture to be persuaded. Racism is apparent in the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites because they feared them. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other because of blood status. God had to send Peter a vision to convince him that Christ had invited all people into the family of God. Racism is evident from ancient civilizations to God’s chosen people to one of Jesus’s own disciples. This reality indicates that racism is part of our sin nature and therefore common to all humanity.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul confronts the church at Corinth about factions that preclude the poor from participating in the Lord’s Supper. Likewise in James 2, James warns believers about showing favor to the rich and excluding the poor. These passages demonstrate that the human heart is prone to prejudice and partiality. By nature we create artificial distinctions among people and use them to determine each other’s value.
This behavior disregards God’s work in Creation and rejects the truth of the gospel. For we know that God created mankind in His image and therefore all people are equal representations of God and equally valuable. We also know that Christ came to deliver all people from the bondage of sin and welcome them into the kingdom of heaven. In Ephesians 2:14–19, Paul encourages the Gentiles, “For he [Christ] is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death . . . So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household” (CSB). This passage reminds us that Christ is making a family of people who were once alienated from each other.
These verses also bring to mind Galatians 3:28. Paul says, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (CSB). We see that Christ has obliterated distinctions that kept us apart and desires to make us all His sons and daughters.
Finally, we know that all tribes and tongues and nations will be present in heaven, worshiping God together and sharing in Christ’s inheritance. Revelation 7:9–10 says, “After this I looked, and there was vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes . . . And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (CSB)
After considering the entire story of the Bible, it baffles me that the Church has largely failed to address the sin of racism. If we know that our sin nature makes us prone to showing prejudice and partiality, why don’t we acknowledge the sin of racism and commit to fighting it just as intentionally as any other sin? And if we know that Christ is building His kingdom, crushing hostility, and bringing people together from around the world, why do we buy into the divisions and hostility of our society?
As a counter-cultural institution, the Church must lead the way in fighting the sin of racism and demonstrating the unity all people can have in Christ. The truth is simple: If we are to believe Scripture entirely, we must acknowledge that racism exists. If we are to obey Scripture faithfully, we must do something about it.
In light of these truths, I ask you, examine your own heart. Could it be that racism is closer than you realized? I am convinced that racism is a reality, in large part because I see it in myself. I catch myself acting with fear when I am the only white person around. I find myself making subconscious assumptions about a person’s intelligence or integrity based on the color of his or her skin. I realize that the beautiful diversity God has created, instead of causing me to admire people who are different than me, often causes me to avoid them. I hate that these things are true about me. I hate that five years after that conversation with my friend, I still have to combat these corrupt instincts. But Christ is changing me. He is teaching me to love all people as He does, and He is making the implications of the gospel for racial reconciliation ever more clear in my mind and heart.
To Each of You
I have said all that I can say. Now I am ready to listen. To each one of you. Please give me the privilege of listening to you. Express your pain and suffering. Express your confusion and uncertainty. Express your hope that God is making all things new. All I ask is that you do two things for me: (1) call me out when I act in ignorance, fail to listen, or fail to love, and (2) give me specific ways to promote justice and serve my black friends and neighbors.
Thank you for listening to me.