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Black Lives Matter

June 16, 2020

I believe that black lives matter.

I think I have believed this since the time I was old enough to know that there were black people. Since I grew up in very small towns in rural Oklahoma and then rural Kansas, where I never actually saw a black person, this dawning awareness happened when I entered Jr. High in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where there was a black community. This was in the 60s. And even in a University town, there was considerable racial prejudice, but very little racial unrest that I ever knew about. I was ignorant of black culture, but I wasn’t bigoted toward it.

I grew up believing the words of the old song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are all precious in his sight.” As far as I knew, these words were true. I still think they are.

I believe that black lives matter.

I do not believe the Black Lives Matter movement is legitimate, though. I will perhaps lose friends and followers with that statement, but I think you deserve to know. I don’t believe this organization’s name honestly describe their mission. It may have started to inspire equality, but by now, it’s more of a political hand grenade than a compassionate show of solidarity and support. You don’t have to share my belief about this. You have every right to believe whatever you want to about it.

But, still, I believe that black lives matter.

I also believe that yellow lives matter. So do brown lives. And red lives. And, yes, so do white lives.

I don’t want to be misunderstood in this. I do not believe racism has been eradicated in America. It’s still here. Still harming people. Still dividing communities of all kinds. It’s still an obstacle to equality. (By the way, I do not know of a culture which has no racism. I’m not a sociologist, but have done pretty extensive travel around the world. It’s been present in all the cultures I’ve ever traveled to. Though it was not always a bias against black people, it was an ethnic bias, and thus, racism.)

I have friends who have been directly impacted by racism here in the U S of A. Their lives have been made ugly and unnecessarily more difficult. Far more so than if they had been born into a Caucasian family. They have experienced discrimination and barriers to career and professional growth and mobility. They’ve been boxed out of opportunity because of the color of their skin. This is wrong. There is no excuse for it.

Theologically, the standard for equality stands firmer and taller than in any other arena of thought and practice. The New Testament, the New Covenant, proclaims that all are equal. All people and people groups are equally loved by God. And all are equally in need of His grace. Here’s the best part: His grace is poured out for all races, all peoples, all nationalities, without regard for their origin or ethnicity.

Have Christians lived up to this? No. Not as salt and light in our culture. Not as a community of people. Not as churches that are supposed to be living under the rule of the One Who made all of us equal and died to save every person, with no regard to their color. We’ve done poorly with this.

We want to think that our commitment to God is as high as we know how to make it, and that treating everyone equally is part of that commitment. I can say all the churches I’ve ever been affiliated with want this, at least emotionally. And some of them are pulling it off. But not all.

Not because they make any particular ethnic origin an issue. Not intentionally or consciously, anyway. “Please come and join us,” the biline of their signs or Sunday bulletins say. They want to mean this. It’s their emotional intent.

But for most, a more honest statement would be, “If you’re enough like us, you’ll really like what we do here, and we’ll eventually get used to you. So give us a try.” If you’ve ever tried to break the shell of a church like this, you know that it’s not really about ethnicity, although ethnicity may be a significant part of it.

It would take someone with a better education and deeper background than I have to pinpoint the many causes for this. And there are many. But I’m convinced that at the root, the cause for this kind of artificial inclusiveness that cloaks exclusivity is at the heart of all racisism, inside and outside of the church. I can identify it in one word: S I N.

Well, of course! You can pretty well point to sin as the cause of every broken part of the world and its systems, can’t you? Yes. Yes, you can. Sin broke the world and it keeps us broken.

I believe the specific sin that keeps racism alive and well is PRIDE. Pride says, “You’re not, and you never will be as good as me. And because of that you don’t deserve what I deserve. I will make sure you don’t get there, too. If you can somehow prove to me that you’re somewhat as good as me, we’ll see about releasing some good things in your direction, but just know that you’ll never be able to be that good.”

The other side of this coin of pride is, “You’re no better than me! I’m just as good as you, and I deserve everything you get. In fact, I deserve more than you because you’ve been holding out on me for centuries! You owe me! And I’ll fight you about it.”

You can make a case for both of these perspectives. You can do this intellectually. In fact, shelves are full of books that do this. But you’ll have a much better impact if you make it emotionally. And, really, an emotional case is much easier to make and keep gathering momentum with.

But the problem with this particular coin, the coin of pride, is that it’s useless for bringing health, wholeness, love, joy or peace into any life. It can only produce a counterfeit of these things. A shadow of them, a poor immitation of them, at best.

We could spend the rest of our lives looking at the problem and diagnosing its causes. And it might be beneficial to do more analysis. But that won’t fix the problem. Racism will not be fixed by creating a more thorough understanding of it as a sociatal problem. Yes, “A problem well-defined is half-solved.” But only half-solved. The other half of the formula is DOING SOMETHING ABOUT SOLVING THE PROBLEM.

Until my pride is broken, until it is, in the words of the King James Bible, “mortified,” racism as a sin-problem in my life will never be solved. That’s what makes racism so gnarly. It can’t be solved by making laws and policies. It can’t be solved by more research. It sure can’t be solved by making it more publicly visible. Social media and mass media have put it in our faces 24/7 and instantly, as it happens. That hasn’t fixed anything. While it may have highetened awareness, what it most stimulated was more fear and anger.

What makes racism and the evil it causes one of the most difficult problems to solve in a society is that it can only be eradicated on an individual level. One life, one heart at a time. As if that weren’t hard enough, it won’t go away with one good smack. It will, like all systmeic sin, go away and come back and go away and come back. Until one day, by the power of the Spirit of God at work in me, it will finally be mortified. But there’s no magic formula or incantation to make it instantly go away and die. There’s no prescribed prayer to overwhelm it. Just humble, sincere prayers of repentance, and daily partnership with God as He completes the work He began in me.

And then there’s this: I don’t get to decide to mortify racism in anyone else. It’s about me, not my wife or boss or neighbor or kid. They have to choose it for themselves. My choice is for me, and no one else.

But with my individual choice, I make a difference. I make a difference because of how I relate and interact with a person of any ethnic origin orhter than my own. I make a difference in that person’s life. And there’s a chance the example of my life can be an influence in someone else’s life.

I can make speeches about it, write blogs about it, buy TV time to proclaim the value of it. And all these things have some value. But unless I’m living out a life that expresses the truth of that old song I wrote about up at the top of this long blog, everything else, including my emotional intent, is useless, wasted motion.

So here’s my challenge, in the words of St. Paul: “Let us live up to what we’ve already obtained.” (Philippians 3:16 NIV) We certainly need more information about other people’s real needs, but we don’t need any more data regarding racism and its destruction. We’ve got all the information we need on that. We’ve already obtained more than adequate information about it. We’ve got the first half of the formula. Now let’s move on to the second half and DO WHAT IS RIGHT SO THAT WE CAN BE PART OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM.

Here’s a suggestion if you need one to get started. Begin with a prayer from you own heart and mind, asking God to shine the light of His truth into every corner of your heart and expose any racism that’s there. And then ask him to give you grace to repent. He wants to give you every resource you need to respond to every person, red and yellow, black and white, as the person He loves so much He chose to die for them. In partnership with Him, live our your prayer.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

From → Marriage

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