Christians Fighting Racism
"I hate when people love each other and live in peace," says Satan, to himself, probably hourly. "How can I create division? I'm all out of new ideas."
He thinks for a minute. "Oh yes," he says. "I'll just recycle an old one. An oldie but a goodie. Racism."
"But Satan," says a lil demonite. "The world already hates each other. They're already fighting about basically everything."
"I don't care about the world," snarls Satan. "I care about the church. I do believe at this current time, racism is the perfect problem. I think I can package it in such a way that it create division within the supposedly 'unified' church. The opposite of what God wants. My favorite."
This blog post is about racism. I was going to name it "God Wants Christians To Be Colorblind" but I decided that was too controversial. No, God doesn't want you to be truly color-blind, in the sense that you ignore people's skin color and background. He wants you to see color, culture, background, trauma and blessing, pockmarks and beauty in everyone. He wants you to have wide open eyes that love as He loved; He who truly sees everyone in their wholeness, everyone JUST as they truly are, and loves them anyways.
But in another, Biblical sense that applies only to Christians, God does want you to be colorblind, and I'm here to explain why. I'm here to shed light into what Scripture has to say in the woke antiracist fight for justice, because God IS a God of justice and God DOES hate racism - He's just actually the Creator of the Universe and has infinite wisdom and yea...He does it His way. We're supposed to do it His way too - not the world's - which is what I'm seeing Christians right and left fall into. Maybe simply for the lack of a closer look.
So let's take that closer look. I'm so relieved, encouraged, overjoyed to know that all my Christian brothers and sisters have a genuine desire to please God, to do the right thing, to discern the truth. That we all have the Spirit Who whispers to us, supports us, guides us. I know that when we fall into - when I have fallen into - false ideas or done things the "world's way" and then have been confronted with God's truth, we choose God. Because Christ is in us. So I write with the utmost hope that these words - not my words, but the Scripture passages I point to - can produce real change in all of our mindsets regarding Christians fighting racism.
Let's dive right in.
The World Does It The Worldly Way
If you read any of my previous posts on the book of Ecclesiastes, you know all about the world's way of solving problems. They identify real societal problems, like world hunger, cancer, or say, racism. Then they come up with solutions - great solutions, logical solutions, hopeful solutions. However, because they are dead in sin, their solutions are humanistic and sourced from a dead, sinful nature. As such, they either augment the problem, or resolve it temporarily and inefficiently, creating new problems in the wake of a "solution" that is going to last only as long as the next few generations but will inevitably pop up again as history repeats itself. And so, any fight for justice that the world engages is sadly cyclical, self-destructive, and, like Solomon exposes to us, "vanity of vanities."
The Bible is very clear about the wisdom of the worldly mind - and gives an explicit command that we should N O T walk in it. Paul says, very clearly, in Ephesians 4:17-18,
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Or look at 1 Corinthians 3: 18-20:
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."
This means that a worldly and humanistic solution to a real world problem is futile.
It is the Christian's burden to discern what is worldly and what is a Biblical way to oppose a perceived problem.
On The Same Page
At the same time, as Christians we can often find ourselves on the same page about what the real world problems are. This is because God has "written His laws in their hearts," the "their" referring to all humankind. As humans, we all have a sense of justice and equity, a desire for a perfect society (a eutopia, ultimately, a core desire for heaven, but we don't want to call it that), a vision for a unified world governed by innate, loving behavior where each individual is valued in his or her utter uniqueness. Let's take a look at Romans 2: 14-16:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires [i.e. fight for justice of the oppressed], they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them....
Because all humans have the image of God and the law of God imprinted upon our hearts, we will often find ourselves on the same page as the world about what the issues are.
As a side note, though the same sins and vices exist throughout time, every generation seems to pick "pet problems" that they will tackle. These problems are magnified and the perpetrators of these particular crimes are vilified. There is a huge push for reformation, and eventually, a solution (inefficient, impermanent) is achieved. A prime example of this is the push for women's rights in the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. That was the problem of that time, among others. Or take the problem of religious freedom in the 1700s as America fought for independence. It's not that other problems, such as slavery, child trafficking, domestic abuse, prostitution, world hunger, didn't exist at the time - they were just obscured by the problems that that generation found most pressing.
In our day and age, the enduring problem of racism as once again reared its ugly head. It's all over the news, social media, and in conversations with our communities. We hear about it in ads and notice themed new shows on our media streaming outlets. We hear personal stories from people of different races who have been mocked, abused, denied opportunities, treated unjustly, etc. because of the human sin of valuing people based on appearances ("For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" 1 Samuel 16:7b), because of the sin of harmful stereotyping and pronouncing uninformed judgement ("Does our law judge a man first without giving him a hearing or learning what he does?" John 7:51), because of the sin of pride and superiority ("For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think....we though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" Romans 12:3-5).
You should not be surprised to be on the same page with the world about what the problems of sin are. All people collectively suffer from the ravages of sin in our world.
But I Don't Think Our Society Is Racist
In this case, you need to take a closer look. It may not be racist in the way that the world is portraying it to be, but as surely as the sun rises, racism still exists because the enduring sin problems of the world just won't go away until the world is created new and people with sinless humans.
Besides this basic assumption, I know racism is real because I have seen it. I have witnessed people within my circles being racist. I've read testimonies of people who have been treated in racist ways. I have myself had racist thoughts and attitudes. And this might trigger some, but working in a setting with predominantly people of color, I've even experienced racism myself.
Here's the thing. We can focus on "skin color" as the reason people treat other people badly, and surely, this is sometimes true. But I think we can get a better grip on the problem if we broaden the category and admit it is any and every difference we perceive. It is our response to the Other. Time and time again, I myself or others, run up against "the Other." Someone new and unfamiliar, who looks, speaks, acts, and even thinks differently than us. We can't control this new individual and that makes us feel out of control. We don't like it. We don't feel safe. In fact, we feel downright threatened. Our reaction to this encounter is often sinful and ungodly. We feel superior, we belittle. We assume the worst, we slander, we defame. We push ourselves to the front and "the Other" to the back. We assume power and oppress.
Later in this post, we will see what God's design for this encounter with "the Other" should look like. We will define a holy encounter. But for now, I want to speak to those who see the problem of racism and yet are only equipped with the worldly response. To those who know something in the current cultural fight for racism is wrong, but can't put their finger on what. To those who want a Scriptural take on the antiracist movement.
The Antiracist Movement Of Today
"White friends, show up." "It's not enough to give us a seat at the table. It has to be your seat." "White people will never understand the pain BIPOC have gone through." "We demand reparation." "All white people are racist; there is no good whiteness." "Only BIPOC can ever speak about racism." It goes on and on.
This is such a complicated topic I KNOW I'm not equipped to fully address. All I have is the Bible and because of that, I know a sinful response when I see it. Here are some sinful, unBiblical ways people (sadly, including Christians) speak up on the real problem of racism:
1. Living endlessly in an attitude of victimhood, irreversible trauma, highlighting personal suffering, and never moving forward.
Victimhood is real. Trauma - though most people do NOT know how to define this correctly anymore - is real. Personal suffering is real.
What people are doing wrong is they aren't identifying their suffering so that they can heal and grow. Instead, they are focusing on the suffering, identifying all the negative effects it has had in their lives, and doing what my Romanian mom would call "balacesti" in it. The best translation of that word is "to wallow."
It's one thing to bring personal suffering to light. Without exposing and analyzing the problems in your life, you can't solve them. But there is such a thing as "wallowing" in your own suffering with no momentum to heal, to find solutions. That's something I'm seeing in this antiracism movement.
Here are two immediate problems with that:
a) Wallowing in suffering with no end in view will lead you to make it a part of your identity. Suffering as part of your history is legitimate. Suffering as part of your identity does not align with the identity God has set forth for His children in Christ.
b) Wallowing and identifying with suffering is self-limiting. It seals you into an eternal, incurable victim. It may earn you endless pity and compassion from others, but ultimately you are frozen in an unhealthy, needy state that will only create more suffering.
God acknowledges our suffering and provides a solution. Nowhere in the Bible does He allow us to make it a part of our identity.
Even the suffering caused by sin, we are called to move away from. This does not mean that we are denying our past. In fact, our past gives glory to our future because we have moved "past" it and been victorious over it. Suffering can be a part of our history, but it is NOT our identity.
We are told to "forget what is behind." This doesn't mean we actually forget our past, rather, we're not constantly looking in the rear-view mirror and rehashing our trauma. Our goal is to move forward. Our focus is on the road ahead, as Paul makes clear in Philippians 3:13-14:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Or this verse from 2 Corinthians 5:16-17:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.
I do not have time or space here to list the myriad of verses that define our new identity in Christ (here's a page full of verses. I can summarize by saying that it is one of power and transformation by the Spirit, of victory over sin, of healing from suffering, of a royal, precious identity as sons and daughters of the Most High God. God is not the God of weak, problem-ridden people who have no power and no solutions. That kind of an attitude does not glorify the Most High, Omnipotent God Who has conquered sin and death and adopted us as sons and daughters, royal heirs and heiresses of His kingdom.
If you are bringing up personal suffering in your fight against racism, make sure you have the goal of healing and restoration into our new identity in Christ as your ultimate goal.
2. Self-centeredness in focusing on personal suffering rather than that of others.
In the wake of the Atlanta shootings of Asian women, activists took to social media. What struck me was not grieving over the sufferings of the victims' families. People were talking about their own suffering instead, saying things like "I'm taking the day to process my suffering." I've seen a similar pattern with many antiracist activists where the focus unwittingly is lifted from the main victims and translated to anyone and everyone in connection to them based on race.
What's wrong with this? God calls us to grieve for and with people in suffering. We are never, ever to make it about ourselves. It's the equivalent of going to the funeral of my friend's father, going up to the podium, and expounding the many ways the loss of him has affected me, made me suffer, and scarred me. That's not what it's all about. My job would be to reach out to the grieving family and console their suffering. It's so obvious and yet this is precisely what people are doing in their responses to race-based shootings. Here are just a few verses:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
1 C O R I N T H I A N S 10:24
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
P H I L I P P I A N S 2:3
Paul modeled putting others' concerns above his own:
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
2 C O R I N T H I A N S 13:9
And, most importantly, Christ modeled this when He discounted His personal suffering and came down to suffer for us, in order to relieve our suffering.
3. Emphasis on "my rights" and demanding vengeance and reparations.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but over come evil with good.
R O M A N S 12:19-21
Does this verse mean that we should sit back and allow injustices to happen all around us? Most certainly not. In fact, the Bible explicitly commands us, in too many verses to list, to fight for the rights of the oppressed ("learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause" Isaiah 1:17). That's true religion, in God's eyes.
However, and this is a big however, we are never taught to seek vengeance for ourselves. We are not taught to identify our personal enemies and bring them to justice. This is something I see antiracist activists falling into. It's one thing to seek justice, but a whole other thing to make it personal and use vindictive, embittered language demanding your rights and seeking to inflict punishment and shame upon the offenders.
The Bible puts forth a unique way of dealing with an enemy: seeking to bless them. Not in a way that empowers them to continue their crimes, but seeking peace and seeking their good, trusting that God will use these "hot coals" to convict them. To put this practically, evildoers like Derek Chauvin should be punished. But someone that marginalizes you or makes you feel less than because you have a different skin color is not someone you should take it upon yourself to expose, shame, and "cancel" or punish. God says in Romans 12:17
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
The Bible makes a clear difference between fighting for the rights of others and surrendering your own rights/trusting God to repay the evildoer.
4. Classing racism as a sin/suffering above others and demanding compassion/that people reach out to you.
I recently read a post where a Christian demanded of his followers and friends reach out to him because of his personal suffering in the wake of a shooting far, far away.
I too would be pained if I learned of Romanians being shot in a store in a different state. Besides the above-discussed wrong of making the post about your own pain and not the pain of the closely-related victims' families, let's talk about demanding that people reach out to you.
It almost seems like when it comes to racism, people suspend basic Biblical principles and obvious rules of common sense/politeness.
Because racism is one sin among many sins, one suffering among many sufferings. There is absolutely no Biblical basis to elevate it as the ultimate sin, especially if your motivation is that it is a currently trending issue.
As such, I think that if we take the situation out of the context of racism, we can see the problem more clearly. Imagine that your mom is suffering from cancer. You post about it and let people know, and you follow it up with a demand that people reach out to you. It's offensive; it takes away from the natural compassion and desire that people will feel when reading your story of suffering.
We can't and shouldn't demand a response from people when we are suffering unless maybe that person is a spouse or a close family member that is demonstrating an uncaring attitude. Someone like that does, in a sense, owe you a response. And while it may be wrong for people to see your post and pass over it without reaching out, you are surely not in the position to then post something new about how disappointed you are in everyone and demand their compassion/attention. By doing this, you are placing yourself in a very awkward position socially, but also in an unwarranted position; you are usurping a position of authority God should hold.
How someone unrelated to you responds to your suffering is NOT your realm of responsibility. It is between them, and God. Therefore, you cannot call them out on it and demand their compassion and attention.
5. Demonizing white people.
Mistreating someone based on their skin color is foreign to God's nature. Whites to blacks, but also blacks to whites. Anyone to anyone. Besides this, He sees prostitutes and the sexually immoral and yet loves and forgives. He sees child molesters and yet loves and forgives. He sees suicide bombers and war starters and Nazi soldiers, and He sees and forgives.
White people may be racist, and yet God sees, loves and forgives them. I'm not saying He condones the sin, but those people still have value in His eyes. He is most certainly NOT pleased when people employ morally superior, harsh, extreme, inflammatory, and condemnatory speech against those of His creatures that He has made white. To speak in such a manner towards a racist person implies that you yourself have never committed any sin that comes close to the horrificness of the abomination of racism, which is simply not true. Humanly, we see sins as better or worse. God sees them as equal; acts of rebellion against His design. We cannot sit in judgment in an unkind and morally superior way over anyone because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "He died for all" (2 Corinthians 5:15).
How then should we reach out to those among white people who are racist? The same way we would reach out to any sinner - lovingly, with grace and caution. The Bible doesn't just get thrown out the window because we are talking about racism. Here are just a few reminders:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
G A L A T I A N S 6: 1
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance [not our job] leading to a knowledge of the truth....
2 T I M O T H Y 2:24-25
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1 P E T E R 3:8-9
(I think this one rules out publicly shaming people in a spirit of vengeance rather than love)
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
M A T T H E W 18:15
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
E P H E S I A N S 4:32
I'm not arguing for turning a blind eye to injustice or never speaking up. In fact, we are called to do the opposite, especially when it is a brother or sister in Christ being racist. But we are called to do so in a spirit of kindness, of compassion, of gentleness, repaying evil with good, and resorting to harsher speech only if God has given us the authority and if the person has proved that they are absolutely unrepentant even when confronted on multiple fronts.
God calls us to correct the members of the body of Christ with the utmost love and honor because every single person, regardless of color, has value in Christ.
The danger is the reversal of the situation, with people of color despising and devaluing white people because they are white, which is not a positive outcome nor what God desires.
6. Holding white people accountable for the sins of their fathers.
"All white people are racist."
I'd agree more with a statement that said that all people, to some degree, are racist. However that may be, many, many white people are well-intentioned and actively try to not be racist. It is simply unfair to not acknowledge this - the fact that much of racist behavior in our modern society is unintentional and that white people are willing to correct it.
But the activists take it a step further and point to systemic racism. They say that since the inception of our country, systemic racism has existed and white people have profited. And I see white people that grovel in the comments of these posts, begging forgiveness and vowing to change.
We should be actively trying to identify if we have any racist attitudes and try to correct them. However, let's remember that God does not hold people accountable for the sins of their fathers. In Ezekiel 18:20, God says,
Yet you say, "Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?" When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
If people in the past have created racist structures, let's dismantle them. It's our duty. However, we cannot hold people accountable for the sins of their fathers, and if you have not been personally racist, you don't have anything to apologize for.
7. Focusing on differences rather than seeking peace and unity.
I get why the world does this. I really do. But Christians? The Bible is so clear about God's vision for humanity. Satan emphasizes differences. Satan twists things so that they appear that one people group can never have unity and community with another. He worked so hard to do this with the Jews and Gentiles and yet we are told in the Bible that "He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility...that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility" (Ephesians 2:14-16).
God is in the business of killing hostility. He is in the business of making peace and bringing unity to disparate parts. He first and foremost came down to mankind who were enemies and God haters and made peace with us through Christ's work on the cross. He then made peace between the Jews and Gentiles, creating one man in Christ. He then instituted the church, one body made of many members. "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Romans 12:4-5). These members are of varying cultures, skin colors, backgrounds, genders, ages, experiences. It is the most diverse body of people you can imagine. And yet God challenges us not to focus on the diversity and not to highlight the differences but rather to focus on the unifying principle: Christ. That we are one body, Christ's.
We are called and commanded to seek peace within the body at all costs. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" commands Romans 12:18, followed by the "don't avenge yourself" verse. Paul commands us "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3). We are to speak "the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Chrit, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Any antiracist work you do, especially when addressing the body of Christ, white or not, should be done to meld together the body of Christ rather than rip it apart, to lead to unity rather than division, to build up rather than tear down, and it should be done in love.
The Gospel Is (Yet Again) The Ultimate Solution
Not only does it seems like the push for antiracism that the Civil Rights Movement and millions of dollars worth of education has not been fully effective; it also seems like maybe the gospel really is the only solution. The gospel doesn't reform man; it recreates him. It gives him a new heart. That's why our fight for antiracism must be coupled with, no, secondary to, rooted in, the gospel. If you are fighting for the rights of your "collective" without rooting this in the gospel and in building up the church, you're not fighting with God for the rights of the oppressed; you may be even fighting against Him.
God wants us to see color, to see culture, to see background, to see and value and embrace and celebrated the vast differences that (get this) He intentionally and artistically created in the human race. But, friends, these are just the details. This is what you see if you zoom in, if you analyze the body. You see the various cells and membranes.
If you zoom out, you'll see the masterpiece, and it is one. It is one Body. It is the stunning, the glorious, the single Son of God. You see Christ, and that's where your gaze should linger. The different elements, colors, textures, sights and sounds all combine to create the vision of Christ, the centerpiece, the cornerstone. Focus on anything else divides and destroys.
There is so much more to say, and yet I pray God uses these few thoughts to provide you with a Biblical perspective on antiracism. Fight for the rights of the oppressed, and do it lovingly and humbly, not considering that you are any more holy than another. Have one ultimate goal in mind: to create peace and unity within the body of Christ, each member valued absolutely and individually, not in spite of who they are, but because of who God made them to be, because of how they uniquely contribute to the many, many parts that make up the gorgeous body of Christ.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
G A L A T I A N S 3:27-28
**Please extend grace to me with this post. I wrote it with a crying baby and limited time; I have done my best to share my understanding of Scripture without sounding condemning or misrepresenting God's Word in any way, but if you find anything that needs correcting, please by all means point it out, with grace. Thank you!
Picture from Pinterest