God does not see you as a Jew or as a Greek. He does not see you as a servant or as a person free to work. He does not see you as a man or as a woman. You are all one in Christ~ Galatians 3:28 NLT
I am not nor have I ever been black. My lack of personal experience coupled with an unbridled ambition to speak out of wisdom rather than ignorance, has made me enormously reluctant say anything at all concerning the sorry state of race relations in America.
I decided this week to go ahead and run the risk of looking and sounding like a chump because I believe attitudes towards race are more of a spiritual problem than a social or political issue. The ever-devolving state of race relations in this country says nothing good about the spiritual condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45).
Race ought to be a non-issue for Christians. The Bible is clear: in Jesus there is no color, race, sex, socio-economic class or any other of the distinctions humans are so fond of making (James 2:1-9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). That sort of thinking is earthly, corrupt and foolish. It leads to nothing but suffering, discord and a sinful sort of smugness that REALLY annoys the Almighty (Isaiah 2:11, James 3:15).
As bad as things have gotten, I do not believe it is too late to correct course, but it’s going take a commitment from all us. Positive change will come about when we all examine our hearts on this issue and make a commitment to:
Avoid lazy activism-
Wearing a stupid tee shirt, demanding social change on Twitter, posting rabble-rousing twaddle on Facebook or refusing to stand during the National Anthem does nothing at all to improve the problems we have with race in America. Nor does it draw attention to the problem in a way that is at all constructive or healing. It only serves to spread ignorance and further divide people. If this sort of silliness is all the activism you can mange it would be far more helpful to do nothing at all.
Stop supposing we all have the same experiences-
There was a black guy who lived in our neighborhood in Tucson. I ran into him from time-to-time while we were walking our dogs; he was a well-dressed, pleasant guy in his late sixties who was really into his dog. I just sort of assumed that his experience living in our neighborhood was exactly like my experience living in our neighborhood. I was forced to reexamine my beliefs when my son befriended some local police officers. They divulged that they received at least two calls a week from residents in our area concerning “a strange black man roaming the streets”. No one in that neighborhood ever called the police on anyone in our family while we were walking our dog.
Don’t joke about things that aren’t funny-
I am not nor have I ever been one to embrace politically correct dogma, especially when it comes to words. However, I do believe there is wisdom in choosing our words wisely and that there is simply no place for bigoted words or racist jokes from anyone in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:29) nor should Christians laugh at such things. Ever.
Don’t assume it’s always about race-
I did not grow-up black (obviously). However, I did grow-up poor. As a result I lived in some seriously crummy neighborhoods as a kid. And I can tell you that police treat people differently depending on their zip code. If a police officer had seen teenage-me walking my stupidly-expensive purebred dog in my old neighborhood he would have asked me— in a not so friendly manner— where exactly I got the dog. Police profiled my friends and me all the time, but it wasn’t about race, it was about socio-economic status. When I’m sitting in my car at an intersection and I see a man in the crosswalk I lock my door. It is not a racist thing; it’s a sexist thing. I don’t care what color the guy is— if he’s a he and older than 12 or younger than 80—I lock the door. Sometimes when a person behaves in a way that appears to be racist, it is racist. Other times it’s not. It would help tremendously if we would all at least attempt to assume the best in one another.
I am wholeheartedly convinced that Christians are called to be change-agents in whatever corner of the world God has placed them. Becoming a change-agent in this particular situation begins with attempting to see things from the other person’s point of view. But it can’t end with empathy; authentic change begins with doing what we would want done for us if we found ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.