As a white male, I recognize my inability to fully understand the systemic racism my brothers and sisters of color endure. What I can speak to, after spending time learning from people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, is that there is much more going on in the world than many of my white brothers and sisters realize.
While I may not be able to grasp the depths of the problems at hand, it takes no more than a mere glance at the world around me to grieve while muttering, “This isn’t right.”
When I see a problem, my inclination tends to be, “fix things immediately,” and I believe that is a natural bend for many others. I have had to resist this urge in many cases, especially in personal relationships. But as this desire wells up inside of me to do something about race problems I see around me, I want to submit to what the Scriptures teach — because God knows exactly what to do in every situation.
With that in mind, I want to exhort all Christians, primarily those of the majority culture, to realize the impact that silence has on racial reconciliation. I have here just two simple challenges to my white brothers and sisters in order to love our brothers and sisters of color well.
Challenge 1: Be Silent
In the book of Job, we read of a tragic and horrific scene of a man losing nearly everything he cares about. His situation is nearly inconceivable to the normal human. Most people have not lost their friends, children and wealth all in one day. Job was obviously in mourning.
What we see in Job 2:11-13 is exactly the right response from Job’s friends. These three men visit, sit and are silent with Job in his suffering; and not just for an hour or a day. For seven days they did not speak. This is in the Bible to remind us that sometimes loved ones need us to be present, and that’s it.
Have you ever found yourself or someone you know trying to reason with a person of color about racism they’ve witnessed or experienced? Maybe you’ve thought, “There’s no point in making a big deal about it. It happened. Time to move on.” Or maybe even, “Aren’t you overreacting to this?”
But who are we to tell someone how or when to grieve? Suffering is real, even when you may not feel it. The Bible does not call us to make others forget about their pain, but rather to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and to, “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:5).
We cannot, as members of the body of Christ, love our brothers and sisters of color well when we tell them they “need to get over it.” Learn the lesson the Holy Spirit is giving us from Job’s life, and be silent and grieve alongside those who need you. People are allowed to hurt.
Challenge 2: Don’t Be Silent
White brothers and sisters, you matter in this battle for racial reconciliation more than you may know. Our brothers and sisters of color have always had to speak up for themselves in the face of opposition and marginalization because, often times, no one else would. This needs to change, and that change begins with each one of us.
The Bible makes this point clear in Proverbs 31:8-9. It says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Our call as Christians is to speak up for the oppressed.
There is no call to try to reason with the victim to see if they could improve their circumstances. There is no call to avoid these difficult conversations to keep order or “peace” (and therefore, keep quiet those afflicted). The command is clear: Defend, judge rightly and open your mouth.
This challenge may include losing comforts, reputation and even friends. I have had difficult conversations with people whom I loved that have resulted in tension or heartbreak because I chose to stand for what the Bible said was right and not the culture. But the Lord has been my strength, and he can be your strength as well.
In case you haven’t thought much about why this is so important, here are some highlights of what the Bible has to say about people of color:
- They are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
- They are Jesus’s inheritance (Psalm 2:8).
- Christ’s kingdom generates from every tribe, language, people and nation, and they will reign with Christ on earth (Revelation 7:9-10).
These truths are important to recognize because many live as if they are the preferred race of God (even if they don’t consciously believe this). We tend to hold fast that the body of Christ is made up of many different members (1 Cor. 12:12-27), but we often fail to think that Christ’s body parts are multi-colored.
God made white people white for a reason and absolutely loves them. But he loves them no more or less than Black people, Latino people or any other nationality/ethnicity. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
We need to speak against injustice and racism when we see it; in our small groups, coffee shop meetings and even churches. This does not mean we ignore the call to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). However, staying silent when we should speak up is actually a loud proclamation to our brothers and sisters of color that we do not care about them. If we want to follow Christ, we must be willing to sacrifice for them as well.
My final challenge is this, and I am called to this as much as anyone: Be like Christ!
Our Lord Jesus understood how to mourn and hurt with people; how to speak out against injustice and racism. He died so that the sin of racism may die as well. If our goal is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, then we must also have the mouth of Jesus — and accurately reflect what He desires to communicate to the world. Love God and love others as you would love yourself.
May we all humbly take this charge seriously and see change in the fight for racial reconciliation.