The past couple of weeks we’ve been challenged to Reset—to re-prioritize our commitment to authentic and passionate worship, and the idea of what it means to engage life purposefully and missionally. While the original topic was going to be centered on resetting our prayer life, after the recent events in Charlottesville, we hope to make space for our community to more deeply engage in the conversation surrounding racial reconciliation.
One of the questions we as individuals, and as a community of Christ-followers have to grapple with when it comes to racism and racially motivated actions, is the question of empathy—do we care and should we care? For those of us who are yoked to Christ, silence and inaction are not optional. Our voice and advocacy have to fill the space that racism creates.
Although there are many reasons why we should care and be engaged, here are two:
1. Indifference is not okay.
Read Romans 12:15.
The opposite of caring is indifference and this is contrary to the expectation Paul outlines for the Christian community in the book of Romans. Paul is encouraging them to practice intentional compassion, by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. Communal empathy has more power to heal than public or political policy, especially in matters where racism is concerned. Allowing ourselves to understand the pain of those who’ve been affected on a deeper level not only opens our eyes to the suffering of others, but encourages us to move from talk and ideation into action.
Question: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in this nation.” What do you think is holding the church back from creating a community in which racial equity is realized?
2. Racialized actions belittle the worth God has implanted in every human being.
Read Genesis 1:27.
We are not cosmic accidents. Neither are we the final result of an evolutionary process. We are beings created in the image of God, distinct from the rest of creation. God is the foundation and source of our design and racism challenges this by prioritizing some above and beyond others. Our opposition to racism affirms that all are sacred image bearers of God and deserving of respect and dignity.
Question: What aspects of our culture perpetuate inequity? What actions might you personally take within your own sphere of influence to work towards equity?
Racism is not a comfortable topic to engage in, but we must if we want to live out God’s intention for His church. The following are two actions steps we can take to stand against the destructiveness of racism.
1. Lean into the tension that God’s vision of inclusion creates.
Read Acts 10.
After encountering God in a dream that reminded Peter that the Gospel was for all people, not just those of Jewish birth, Peter finds himself grappling with his own bias. If what God showed him was true, Peter would have to learn to love the very people that he struggled to accept. God directs Peter to go to Cornelius, a Gentile, to go into his home, which was prohibited by Jewish law, and share the Gospel.
Peter reluctantly goes. Instead of failure, the story concludes with Cornelius and his entire family accepting Jesus as Lord and Peter’s heart and understanding deepening through this experience. Like Peter, we will have encounters with those who are different than us that will cause our perspective on what we consider to be right to collide with the perspective of another. But when we begin paying attention to our soul’s response to cross-cultural clashes instead of avoiding the tension, those are opportunities for growth, empathy, understanding, and ultimately, learning to love others with the love of Christ.
Question: Can you think of an example in your life when you had a shift in perspective? Did it lead to a change in your behavior?
Our fight is not with “flesh and blood.” We have an adversary but it isn’t “he,” “she,” “they/them,” or “those people.” The devil is always the primary culprit in deep relational factions and fractures and as we lean into the tension of God’s vision, there are four different areas we are invited to pray for.
- For yourself—that God would continue to expand and ready you to be an agent of grace in the face of racial tension that manifests around you as well as the bias tendencies within you.
- For the Church—that God would heal His Church of racial tensions and even practices that do not reflect His heart. And that the Church would be a witness to His Kingdom in by the way we love all people.
- For victims of racism—that God would bring healing and forgiveness to the places where deep wounds have been incurred.
- For perpetrators of racism—that a revelation of God’s love would be had and He opens the eyes and the hearts to those who carry out injustices against His creation.