& What You Can Do About It
I grew up in Forsyth County, Georgia, a county with an infamous reputation and long history of racial strife. I was in the seventh grade before I ever met an African American person. She was the only one in our school. I don’t disclose this information with shame. I love where I’m from and much of my family still lives there. In high school my immediate family moved to Coweta County, Georgia, which had a far more complex racial demographic, and it was there that my context for community completely changed.
Conversations about racial tension in America are complicated and the way we view the world and our place in it can radically shape how we engage with one another. Everyone has an opinion, but few possess the humility that these conversations require. Jesus commanded us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Paul encouraged us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). It’s rare to find a voice in our world today that carries such a posture of humility. Now more than ever, we must hold our views on race and prejudice with openhandedness and make sure we’re allowing the Bible to shape us as we seek answers to the challenges of our day.
As Christians, we have to remind ourselves where our primary allegiance lies. If you identify yourself as a believer in Christ, His work on the cross, and in His resurrection, then the Bible teaches that you are a child of the King, adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:3-6). Though the color of my skin may be one of the first things you notice about me, I hope my faith is what you remember.
As we navigate these complicated and daunting times, may we be sober-minded rather than being misled by hatred, frustration, and vexation. Cultivate humility and love those you share a community with (1 Peter 3:8). Pursue truth and justice (Isaiah 1:17). Let the Bible remain the cornerstone of our beliefs (Psalm 1; Matthew 7:26; 2 Timothy 3:16). A mere glance through the Scriptures reveals that it has much to say about ethnicity and injustice.
How do we do this? What steps can we take toward growing in humility and love for one another? I’ll suggest two steps we can take.
First, let’s think before we speak. In Ephesians 4:29 Paul says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” His instruction is increasingly pertinent in the age of social media. Some people have deceived themselves into thinking their laptop or smartphone is some kind of fortress; as if they can hide behind its stone walls and their words neither bring consequence on themselves or place burdens upon those who read them. Instead, the walls are made of glass and the words we use clearly reveal the state of our hearts. Let’s use our social media presence as a platform for encouragement and grace rather than division and ill-informed opinions.
Second, let’s seek out people who are different from us. It’s human to be drawn toward other people who are like us, but deep down this only reveals the fact that we are afraid of ideas that don’t confirm what we think we already know. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Pride compels us to cling to preconceived ideas and opinions because we refuse to admit we’ve made a mistake or that someone else is right. Healing cannot begin until views different from our own are welcomed with dignity and respect. After all, this is the attitude that most reflects that of Christ.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”