I’ve been brooding over the racial controversy that’s seething in America. The tensions seem far worse than they’ve been for decades. Not because they didn’t exist but because they’ve been gathering steam! America is at a tipping point and unless we take significant and real action, it will only worsen. Face it, having to delineate which lives matter indicates a massive, societal dilemma. The solution isn’t in legislation nor does it reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but lives in a much more humble abode, you!
A few years ago, when riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri over the verdict in the Michael Brown trial, my heart was broken and confused. It’s often in these tumultuous moments that we can gain the most clarity, but only if we’re willing to ask vulnerable questions and seek proper answers. Not all that I heard was appeasing, some was even appalling. In my white, rural upbringing - living on a farm with chickens and ducks - I’d been insulated from the experiences of my brothers and sisters of color. I thought I had a clue. What I found out was that I wasn’t even close. Even having several friends of color did not enlighten me to their perspective. I had to be intentional in my search.
Face it, having to delineate which lives matter indicates a massive, societal dilemma.
The current tensions stem from a complexity of issues. Understanding a person of color’s experience demands that we be present, attentive and open to hearing the truth in their lives without interjecting our arguments and rationalizations. During Ferguson, I took some time to engage several of my brothers of color. I asked them what their lives were like and then I shut my mouth. What I learned was horrifically illuminating. I realized that they live with social stressors that I’d never even imagined. And I’ve found, from the most recent incidents in Louisiana, Minneapolis and Dallas, that real people are getting lost in the cacophony of arguments, catchy headlines and inflammatory rhetoric.
We can no longer wait for the leaders of this country or the leaders of movements to extinguish what needed to be snuffed decades ago. I truly believe that the answers lay in our hands, in yours and mine. I also believe that without intentional, significant action, more blood will be spilled. I am both pro black and pro police; I will support the best of both, not the evil of a few. What I cannot support are those with militant agendas, hijacking protests to foster hate and violence. I cannot side with those who feel there’s nothing wrong in our culture, that people are just being “too sensitive”. I cannot condone arrogant authority whose goal seems to be to lord that authority over others. These things are not holy. They deny the image of God in all people. They’re actions of overflowing, darkened hearts unlit by the light of Jesus.
In Luke chapter 22, the author recalls this event:
“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.’” Luke 22:24-27
People in authority have a responsibility to properly engage and shepherd those around them. The greater the authority the greater the responsibility and culpability. This goes for all leaders of all people. But I know that the heart of mankind is deceptive and that without an outside force acting upon us we will not change (see New Wine, New Skin and America Gone Wild). Our tendency is to drift back towards fulfilling our self ambitions rather than sacrificially serve those around us. Authority doesn’t give us rights, it demands our humility.
“It was awesome! I hadn’t a clue what my brother was going through. It wrecked me!”
So, how do we do this? The same way you eat an elephant…one bite at a time. But, it must start with you! Humble yourself, if you haven’t already, and spend open, honest time with a friend or two or more of color. Ask them what their experience is and then be silent, be present. Be willing to adjust your attitude and perspective. I suggested this to a close, white friend just this past weekend. He’d been struggling with eating the entire elephant at once and was choking on some of the more toxic aspects of the racial divide. I suggested he tackle small bits. So, he met with a black friend on Monday. I asked him today what he learned. He said, “It was awesome! I hadn’t a clue what my brother was going through. It wrecked me!” I could only smile and choke up.
As you do this, be cautious of the violent, unforgiving, and acidic. Be open to the hurting, angry and marginalized. Don't wait for leaders or November elections. Rather, lead the march to justice and righteousness now, at your level. We cannot wait any longer because real people deserve real solutions. And keep this in mind, do not toss out ethnicity and culture in the name of inclusiveness. Many are very proud of their heritage, their color does matter. They don’t want to be an unidentifiable, homogeneous glob; the LORD knows heaven won’t be!
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10