I started to continue this series the way that I had planned but with the events of this week, I just can’t shake that we need to talk about a different kind of lie that some of us believe:“The color of my skin makes me better/worse than others.” I know this is a huge, complicated issue and a few typed words on a blog post may not actually change anything. However, being brave enough to acknowledge my role in the conversation, might change ME and that’s what I am responsible to do.
I usually keep my mouth shut during situations like this, pray a quiet prayer, and hope that things eventually change. I never want to misspeak and hurt the people being marginalized even worse by my ignorance. I am also a pastor and never want something that I say to be a poor reflection on our church. I try to be very careful about what I say and how I say it. However, the murder of George Floyd this week made me re-evaluate my silence and complacency. I wanted to scroll past the video of his death because I didn’t think I could handle seeing the evil. But the Holy Spirit challenged me not to shrink back. I think He wanted the injustice of it to mark my soul.
I don’t know if my parents were intentional about this or, if it just came naturally out of who they are- but I NEVER heard a negative word spoken about someone because of their race when I was growing up. They had friends who weren’t white so I grew up around all kinds of people. I am beyond grateful for that. My parents met while working in a barbecue restaurant in OKC. I was there everyday, filling drinks and washing dishes. The staff was hispanic, black, and white and they were our family. I never even realized that racism existed until I got saved as a teenager and got involved in church.
I know that last statement is going to ruffle some feathers. I think it’s important that the feathers of racism in the Church are ruffled, exposed, and plucked. I have heard christians say they would not allow their children to marry someone who wasn’t white. The first time I heard the “N” word, it was spoken by a christian. I remember thinking, “How could people who have known Jesus for so long speak that way? Think that way? Don’t they know that Jesus wasn’t white?!” My friends and family who weren’t in relationship with God, never said those kinds of things. So why was I hearing this from Christians?
If we believe that everyone is fearfully and wonderfully created by God, in His image, then we have to believe that skin tones were too. Our creative, loving Father dreamed them up and He doesn’t make mistakes. The diversity that He made has purpose and is beautiful!
“So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27 NLT).
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it,” (Psalm 139:13-14 TLB).
Christians treating people hatefully because of the pigment of their skin doesn’t make any sense. We must work to see better and do better. We need to celebrate God’s intentionality in creating us with complexities and differences. I loved this quote that I saw this week:
‘”I see no color” is not the goal. “I see your color and I honor you. I value your input. I will be educated about your lived experiences. I will work against the racism that harms you. You are beautiful. Tell me how to do better.” … That’s the goal.”
– Carlos A. Rodriguez.
I want to make sure that you hear me say that I don’t think all christians are racist. Most are not. Nor do I think that all police officers are evil or have an agenda to hurt African Americans. Most are not. I lived in Dallas in 2016 when our police force became the target of a brutal, planned attack. Five officers were murdered and nine others were injured. It was completely devastating. We have officers who attend and serve our church. They are precious people who got into their line of work to protect our communities and make them safer – not to use their authority to bring harm.
I also know that racism doesn’t just come from the Church- it is rampant everywhere. My heart in this post is simply to encourage the Church to step up. Racism can not come from God’s kids. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE PEOPLE WANT JESUS. We are here to bring healing and restoration to the world. We are called to set the standard, be an example, and be a safe place for people. When we are unified against the evils of racism, we are a force to be reckoned with.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:13-16 MSG).”
I realize that not everyone has had the same experience or exposure to people who look differently than they do. That’s ok! There’s plenty of grace to go around. No one is going to navigate this perfectly. But we can all take one step, even if it feels awkward, in the direction of unity. I Marco Polo’d my dear friend, Janay, and asked her what in the world I could do to make this better. I apologized to her for the evil that I am seeing and just asked her to talk to me. Before I tell you the awesome wisdom that she shared, I want to tell you a little bit about her.
She grew up in Flint, MI and bravely moved all the way to Springfield, MO to attend Bible college, because she loved Jesus and wanted to minister to people. She was one of about 5 black people in the entire school. She was my suite-mate and put up with all of my craziness. My life truly would not be what it is without her. She introduced me to my husband, helped me navigate our dating relationship, secretly planned our engagement, and made sure that everything at our wedding was the way I would want it. This girl is the REAL deal and is part of my family.
She doesn’t complain, works hard, and has submitted her life to God. She is married and has three of the most gorgeous, intelligent children I have ever seen.
I asked her if I could share her wisdom about the recent events and what we, as the Church, can do to help. This is what she said:
“Acknowledge that you have a voice. We all have a platform and just need to start talking. Say something that moves us toward unity, even if you make mistakes as you step out, that is better than sitting quietly. Listen to my experience. Mourn with me. Allow me to feel my feelings. I have heard white christians say, ‘You just need to give it to God.’ I have given it to God but that doesn’t change the experience I have in my skin. The most painful times are when someone says something or makes a joke and no one steps in to correct them or defend me.” She suggests reading Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison.
I shared with her something that I have experienced personally and asked if it was anything like what she has gone through. I had to speak up about some scary things and long story short, it wasn’t received well. She said, “It was similar in that other people were devaluing your experience, devaluing your perspective, and devaluing you as a person… I’m sure you didn’t go into that situation thinking that it would go over super well. That precaution, that stress you felt going into that situation knowing this may not go over well is what I feel like a lot of people experience. They feel like if I speak up about racism, this is going to come back to bite me.”
I got a little misty-eyed as she apologized for what I went through and validated my feelings. This whole conversation was supposed to be about me validating her! I think that’s the key to true friendship: give and take, listen to and speak up for. All of our experiences are so important, even the hard things have shaped us and made us wiser. We have to share them and listen to other people’s stories so that we don’t repeat the same painful, sinful patterns over and over again. Hearing someone vulnerably, humbly share a moment that broke their heart, rubs the callouses off of our hard hearts and keeps us on our faces for each other before the Lord.
I will be interviewing Janay on Instagram Live today (May 30th) at 4 pm CST. Just head to @choosingtrust. We would love to have you join us!
Let’s remember this when considering racism:
- Racism was the enemy’s idea. Remember that he is a liar and a divider. He wins when we tear each other apart. When we are distracted with hatred or bigotry, we are not actively advancing the kingdom of God. “There are six evils God truly hates and a seventh that is an abomination to him: Putting others down while considering yourself superior, spreading lies and rumors, spilling the blood of the innocent, plotting evil in your heart toward another, gloating over doing what’s plainly wrong, spouting lies in false testimony, and stirring up strife between friends. These are entirely despicable to God!” (Proverbs 6:16-19 TPT).
- Fear is powerfully destructive. We often fear what we don’t know and aren’t exposed to. Just befriend someone who doesn’t look like your family and invite them over. Call a friend and ask them if they will share their story with you. Listen to them and validate their experience. “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them,” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).
- Pride is nasty. It causes us to believe weird things and treat people as though they are beneath us. If you struggle with pride, I suggest intentionally serving someone you feel “better” than. Ask God to change your heart and mind. He will fill you with love for others if you submit to His correction. Apologize to those whom you’ve wronged. “Your boast becomes a prophecy of a future failure. The higher you lift up yourself in pride, the harder you’ll fall in disgrace,” (Proverbs 16:18 TPT).
- Our world views have to be shaped by Christ. Racist attitudes have a way of trickling down from generation to generation. These attitudes have to be exposed and repented of. Just because a family member may have called people certain names doesn’t mean that behavior is appropriate or should continue. We can honor and respect our elders while choosing to not carry on their views. “But that isn’t the way Christ taught you! If you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself, then throw off your old evil nature—the old you that was a partner in your evil ways—rotten through and through, full of lust and sham. Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature, (Ephesians 4:20-24 TLB).”
If you skip down just a few verses from the one posted above, you’ll see the answer to this whole issue: “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ, (Ephesians 4:31-32 TLB).
Change has to begin in me, and then in my house, and then to those I have influence with. Let’s take a stand and demand better treatment of our brothers and sisters. You better believe that Janay would fight all of hell to stand up for you and make sure that you know your value in Christ. I’m fighting for her (and all of my black friends) today. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I am praying for voices, filled with the Holy Spirit, to confidently rise up and affect change. It’s time.
P.S. Here is some homework that Janay recommends if you are wondering where to start: https://bethebridge.myshopify.com/products/be-the-bridge-101-foundational-principles-every-white-bridge-builder-needs-to-understand-pdf-dowload