I’m diving right in with some thoughts on racial injustice and the complex mess we as the (un)United States face. Because that seems like a fun, light-hearted thing to do. Or not.
I was sitting in Starbucks when it hit me. I’ve been wrestling with shame and guilt over the fact that I’m a white girl. It’s like I want to apologize to everyone of a different color who crosses my path for being born this way.
But…that’s not a helpful train of thought. Or from Jesus. So I’m stopping that. Because we can’t choose the color we’re born, but we can choose what we do while we’re in the skin we’re in.
The morning before the Dallas shootings I had posted the essay by Propaganda from Relevant Magazine onto Facebook — not knowing that his words would shed even more perspective when I woke up the next morning to news of more death. In the essay, Propaganda talks about “white privilege” — a phrase I’ve always despised so instead I’ve mostly ignored. But as I’ve tried to prayerfully peel back the layers and implications of the phrase, I’m seeing what seems to be unreachable depths with the issue of racial equality in this nation. Which can be paralyzing.
I’m an idealist at heart. I’ve always been the type who sees the silver lining and wishes we could all just get along. I like the idea of everyone holding hands and singing friendship songs with the smell of sweetness in the air. But in reality, there are American systems and mindsets in place that discourage, and straight up constrain, that from happening. And when we place those systems, for hundreds of years, on human hearts, we’re left with a painful mess.
So it brings me back to square one — that hopeless square that tempts me to throw my hands up and say, “The division and confusion is too big and too craptacular, so I’m just not going to do anything.” Silence.
But the heart of God is for His kingdom to come to earth. (Matthew 6:9-15) Jesus ushered in the “kingdom of heaven” when He stepped on this planet. His Spirit comes to live inside those who believe and follow, placing His kingdom into the heart of man. And in Christ, we’re commanded and empowered to call forth His kingdom into our broken world, one life at a time.
Yes, our world is jacked up. People bathe in deep seeded hatred. And it seems that lasting change sits far out of reach on some tall mountain mocking us for our efforts. But the God I know can crush mountains that hinder His love. The God I know can bring dead people to life and give sight to the blind.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9, Come, Lord Jesus.)
But what are we to do? How can individuals change a system that seems to so deeply define the fabric of a nation? I don’t know. If I did you could write me in for president. But I do know there are some basic truths that could steer us towards a solution.
Truth #1: Whatever our skin color, God has us where we are with purpose. And that’s where we can begin to make a difference.
Whether we’re running a corporation, stepping into political office, making overpriced coffee drinks, or playing with our kids at a park, all of us have opportunities to encourage racial justice where we live. All of us have some influence somewhere. Now we get to choose what we do with it. We can bury our head in the sand and pretend injustice isn’t happening outside our front doors. Or in the love of Christ, we can open our eyes and seek to understand the state of our culture so that we can then be conduits of God’s kingdom on planet earth, right where we stand.
Which leads to truth #2.
Truth #2: Words are power. Start a conversation.
Once we’re willing to admit that there are still significant racial problems in our country (hello!) then we can start conversations. We can reach “across the line” and ask honest questions in efforts to understand. Understand hearts. Understand struggles. Understand perspective. And if we’re already in relationships with people of a different color, then let’s not allow fear-based silence to take hold. Start conversations and then take those conversations before the Lord in prayer. His heart is for unity. He hears the prayers of His people. And He alone can heal and move hearts.
Truth #3: Hope still exists.
The morning of the Dallas shootings my kids and I went to the pool. I watched as kids of all colors played together, taking turns jumping off the side and catching balls. And I thought, “There’s still hope.” Yes, systems and structures are in place. And we cannot deny a history dripping with injustice. But systems can change by people who are changed by the gospel of Jesus. History can be forgiven and healed by a God who truly binds up the wounded heart. And the next generation in the hands of a mighty God, walking boldly in His Spirit, could be the key.
I’ve had a couple of friends tell me that they will have to have conversations with their kids (because they’re African-American) that I won’t have to have with mine. And that sickens me. But I’m thinking that I need to be having honest conversations with my white kids that (unfortunately for the moment) these particular friends won’t have to have with their kids. I need to teach my kids that because of their skin color, they have a unique responsibility in this nation. They have a responsibility to stand in the gap when they see injustice. They have a responsibility not to be silent but to speak out. They have a responsibility to use this “white privilege” — as much as the phrase disgusts me — as an agent of change so that maybe, just maybe, the phrase will truly be a piece of history when their kids are born.
God still sits secure on His throne. And because of Him, there’s still hope. Change may seem like a long way off. It may be a long way off. But change can begin when people, in the hands of an Almighty God, grasp the depths and height and width of the love of Christ so that His transforming love then spills out. Change can happen through me (and you) right where God has us in the skin He’s placed us with the people before us, to the glory of the God of love.
Disclaimer: I believe that the love of Christ transforming the heart of man is ultimately the only solution to all human atrocities, including racial injustice. All are welcome here but I’m primarily addressing those who believe the same, calling us out of our possible slumber.
Fill me, Lord…
I almost turned off the comments on this one but, what says you?