You vulnerably stand before a crowd of people quickly increasing in number. The gathering, visually homogeneous, is hostile and irritated, anxious and paranoid, fearful of losing control, and against the cacophonous backdrop of demanding shouts, a defeated and broken individual, who is a beautiful living contrast to the flat dullness of the assembly, is violently shoved to the ground before you.
“Justice, justice, justice!” the frenzied mob shouts, but you know the individual is innocent of the peoples’ imaginary and prejudiced grievances. Knowingly, you think: not justice, but maintaining a corrupted status quo, seeking to deflect guilt and avoid uncomfortable change. But without conviction, you ask, “What are you asking me to do?”
The crowd quickly yells, “Protect and maintain, protect and maintain!”
“Protect and maintain what?”
“Our freedom! Our security! Our power! Our way of life!”
“And how do I protect and maintain?”
“Let us enslave! Let us threaten! Let us weaken!”
“Do what you want, but I am innocent of the individual’s blood, all of you are responsible.”
Its demands satisfied, the majority forsakes the victim of their discrimination to the realm of nonexistence, and welcomes you – the newest acolyte – to their fractured flourishing.
The following thoughts are specifically written to white people, because when we are silent we fulfill the role of the individual described above. Not the defeated and broken individual, but the one who fails to resist and implicitly supports the crowd’s racist desires. And if the story sounds familiar, here’s why: it’s Pilate addressing the Jewish crowd seeking to crucify Jesus. And why do I reference the biblical account? Because refusing to carry the burden of the black community and fight for their good is synonymous to Pilate washing his hands and surrendering Jesus to the murderous mob.
Paul, in Rom. 12:9, writes “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil.” Love and hate, in the eyes of God, are inextricably connected: to genuinely love a person is to hate the evil oppressing her or him. Hate, in other words, is sometimes the action of love, but unfortunately, as Chrysostom writes, “There are many who have love in their mind but who do not stretch out their hand.” Hating evil is a necessary virtue, but white Christians neglect this virtue when the evil to be hated doesn’t affect us.
And if readers’ immediate reaction is to justify their inaction by pointing to the “sins” of black lives matter protesting or dialogue (i.e. “why is it always about race?“), then I encourage you to reflect on Origen’s words: “If you think someone is ungodly, remember ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ And if you think because your brother or sister is a sinner you do not have to love him or her, remember ‘Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.'” All of us are sinners desperate for grace, and God asks Christians to continue Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation on an individual and communal level (Matt. 5:46-47; 2 Cor. 5:14-21).
Focus particularly on 2 Cor. 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” Whether or not the perceived “sins” of black lives matter activism is real or imagined is unimportant if we commit to follow God’s example of not counting their sins against them. And remember Jesus’ teachings in Matt. 7:4-5, “How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s or sister’s eye.” White Christians should recognize our implicit bias (personal sin) and its contribution to the continued reality of racism (societal sin), and pray the recognition evolves into repentance and gospel-centered action (seeking justice while pointing to the cross) against the evils dehumanizing the black community.
Furthermore, we are one body – the body of Christ, and the body of humanity – and holistic human flourishing is impossible if part of the body is suffering. Paul, while discussing the body of Christ (but I believe the truth applies to the body of humanity as well) in 1 Cor. 12:26, states, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” The attainment of every individual’s complete flourishing or happiness – God-oriented living resulting in personal and relational wholeness – is dependent on the flourishing of all people. Lilla Watson, highlighting the importance of human flourishing’s communal character, says, “If you have come because your liberation [flourishing] is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” If we are not pursuing the good of individuals and communities suffering from the fracturing of sin, then the fullest experience of humanity’s flourishing remains elusive and unattainable. Therefore, to enjoy personal and relational wholeness, Christians are commanded to “love people” (Matt. 22:39) by “weeping with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) and “carrying each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). We must genuinely love people of color by grieving their pain and loss, carrying their burden of oppression by hating in belief and action the evils of racism, and pursuing their good for the sake of humanity’s flourishing.
Now, to be clear, we do not internalize a gospel-centered role of ally or accomplice for people of color to receive a “good white person” card or prove our “wokeness,” but to selflessly seek justice over horrific sin. “The Lord is a God of Justice” (Is. 30:18), and we should “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Is. 1:17). So let’s commit – today – to understand the past and current manifestations of racism, constantly pray Psalm 72:4, “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” and establish the new humanity – experienced through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:28) – in which everyone freely and fully enjoys the complete flourishing of wholeness in relationship with God, others, and self.
What are your thoughts?