Race, Not Races

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, September 19, 2017 0 comments

by Aaron Felty

My father is black and my mother is white. We live in a time where there is so much animosity between those two color groups in our country. We hear about the “Black Lives Matter” movement, police officers shooting unarmed black citizens, and we see a variety of protests because of the latent racism and perceived “privilege” that exists. We see white people waving confederate flags and getting upset because they think black folks should just stop complaining and work harder. (Didn't we just have a black president?) Is the black/white issue the only issue? No, but it is the easiest for us in the United States to see the problem of race.

This blog post will not address those topics directly, but is intended to point people to Jesus in the midst of these difficult issues. It all begins with seeking to understand. Philippians 2:3b says, “In humility consider others better than yourself.”

Too often, we are trying to prove “we” are right and “they” are wrong. If we sought to understand the place from which one another was coming, much of this would disappear. For instance, do you understand and can you display compassion for people who do not look like you? Can you humbly answer these questions: Why do black people feel seem so hung up on racism and white privilege? Why are black people always talking about how poorly they are treated? Why do white people bristle when a black person protests the national anthem? Why can’t black people just work harder? There are so many things we need to address and these aren’t even the main ones, but you get the point. Listening and seeking to understand is the first and best way to begin to undo the negative effects of “racism.”

Additionally, we are also influenced by the media and people who push a particular narrative for a living. They are often called “race baiters.” Not only that, but we do have a sense of self-preservation; while something may be true and hurtful, we deny it because we may have contributed to it directly or indirectly, and that is too big of an issue to face on a personal level so we ignore or deny it. We have many influences that contribute to how we view “race” and how we react to it. Some are internal influences and some are external influences.

The Bible teaches that there is one race, the human race, and we in our sinfulness have created artificial walls between us and those who do not look like us, which is why “racism” exists. In Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Greek or Scythian (Galatians 3:28). However, in America there certainly are these distinctions, and those of us who claim the name of Jesus would do well to create bridges not walls so that we can understand how to be salt and light in the midst of racial tension.

What is the follower of Jesus Christ to do in regard to the problem of race in the US? I am going to address only a few of the Biblical concepts here.

First of all, as I stated above, we need to consider others better than ourselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 that we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. If we want to solve the problem of “racism,” we must first consider if our motives are selfish and our perspective is arrogance. The above passage says we are to do nothing if either of those exists. In racism, we see our perspective as THE perspective (vain conceit) and if others do not agree with our perspective they are labeled with some nasty epithet. As followers of Christ, we have to resist that activity. When talking with someone who feels as though they are victimized by racism, the Christ-centered thing to do would be to listen and attempt to understand from their perspective. The non-Christ-centered thing to do would be to argue to prove our point. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

When we consider others better than ourselves, they will almost always be willing to hear another way, but not until they have been heard. When dealing with a racist it is also best to listen. We do not have to agree with them, but if we understand where they are coming from, perhaps we can influence them away from their racist tendencies and perhaps God will give us an apt word in that moment. I’m not sure about you but I have NEVER convinced someone to change their sinful ways by pointing out their sin, especially if they are coming from a position of pride. However, when I interact humbly, I have seen people respond in humility and consider a different way.

Secondly, we pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). If you are a minority and have been mistreated, how about praying for the one who has mistreated you? If you are white and have been tongue lashed by a black person because you are white and do not “get it,” why not pray for that person? As in the first point, it all begins with listening. If you are in a dangerous situation, by all means flee to safety. However, God is able to change the heart of the persecutors in an instant. If you know someone who uses racial slurs or who is hostile toward other races, add them to your prayer list. Stop shaking your head at them and start bending the knee for them. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). Ask the Lord to soften or heal their broken hearts, to convict them of their sin, and restore them so they may see others with God’s eyes not their own.

Finally, we see needs and meet them as we are able. This is indicated in Matthew 25:31-46 and James 2:16. This is one of the biggest problems black people seem to have with white people. Recently, a local Black Lives Matter group came out with 10 things white people can do (though I will not link to it because it has some disgusting language in it). I found the list absurd, but I understand the sentiment. Black people often wonder why white people do “nothing” when it comes to the obvious struggles in the black community. I could write an entire blog post on this. Suffice it to say, there is so much more white people could do to demonstrate understanding and compassion to the struggles still facing people of color. Some of these include befriending, supporting legitimate groups that advocate for healthy dialogue within varying ethnic groups, pushing for legislation that improves conditions in communities that are predominantly black or where people of color live, participating in peaceful protests, writing articles, asking good questions, listening, praying, or whatever you can do when a need is made known. If we did these things, we would see transformation in the health of our churches, our cities, our nation, and our world!

All too often, when a person hears talk about these issues, they immediately bristle because of the culture’s approach, which says, "If you are white, you are privileged; if you are black, you are a victim!" While both may be true in certain circumstances, in my opinion, neither are true in every situation. In fact, the argument simply creates more division. The only privilege we are all entitled to is the grace offered to us through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is free for the receiving!

I realize I have made this a completely one-way issue, discussing blacks being mistreated by whites. I am aware that these issues are far more complicated and occur the other way as well and with many other people groups from various cultural backgrounds.

In heaven, there will be people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, so let's practice getting along here on earth!

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