A lot of us are wondering how to process the racial tension that is boiling around us. The Scriptures are always are guide through complex issues, there is nothing new under the sun.
Where should we start? Let’s start with just seeing. It strikes me how often the gospel writers note that Jesus “saw” someone (Luke 7:13, 10:12). It’s a throw-off line. But it is the mark of the Man of Compassion that he notices faces in the crowd. He notices actual people in their problems.
So, when it comes to the complexities of race, just being willing to see is good place to start. Having the courage to explore the issues — to open your eyes to things we might not normally see. Let’s just call this the humility to open our eyes and shut our mouths.
A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer, “Love God and love neighbor.” He was a lawyer, so he looked for the loop hole to get him out of trouble, “Who is my neighbor?”
But you can’t outwit the Lord of Creation, so Jesus tells him a parable. A man gets beaten by oppressors and robbed. Two religious leaders see him and pass by.
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.” (Luke 10:33, ESV, emphasis added)
It’s an intriguing introduction of a character. The Samaritan was a despised minority. An outcast. But, that position gave him an advantage toward compassion. He saw the oppressed man differently.
I am not expert on the complexity of race in our culture. I am a child of the suburbs and the 80’s — those are two strikes against racial awareness. I was blind. Not “unwilling to see” blind, just oblivious to a lot of issues.
Then seven years ago, we adopted a bi-racial child. I began to wonder what life would look like for her. We had a few other adopted non-white children in our congregation too. That started me down a journey with Taylor Branch’s three volume history of the Civil Rights movement. Being a child of the suburbs and the 80’s, I knew almost none of this history.
Why? Because we don’t talk about hard history in the suburbs. As a child of the 80’s we liked to believe we were just steps away from utopia. Finally, mainstream history is usually written by the victors, not the victims.
A few years ago, a couple of gracious pastors invited me into Stand Together Fellowship. A group of white and African-American leaders in town – pastors, law enforcement, community leaders, and politicians. We have done a few things to bring about change, but the most important thing that we have done is create a context for conversation.
I began to hear stories and perspectives that I had not heard before. I began to “see” things I had not seen before.
So, I’ve been on this journey for seven years now, and I’ve seen more than I have before. But to be honest, the more I see the less I see clearly.
So, if you want to begin the journey of seeing, let me suggest two books. These are books from people who see much more clearly than I do, and they can help us see too.
Dream With Me by John Perkins. Perkins was a Christian, black leader in Mississippi. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should be. He was a leading voice in racial reconciliation before racial reconciliation was a thing.
Heal Us Emmanuel, edited by Doug Serven. This is a series of essays by a number of PCA leaders.
Finally, find some minority friends and listen to them. Just listen so you can see. Ask them for their voice and give them permission to tell you what they want to tell you, not what they think you need to hear. Perhaps say, “If you could tell me anything about your experience of race and I promise not to respond, what would you say? I just want to listen. Help me see.”
Additionally: Watch Just Mercy, it is currently free to stream on most streaming services.