Conversations about Racism
One of the best Christian insights I’ve heard came from John Stott, a beloved preacher and author who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this week. Stott spoke about the importance of “double listening”: if we are to have anything useful to say, we need to listen to the world, while also listening to the Word of God.
When it comes to our response to racism and racial justice, we need to listen to the world: we need to humbly and compassionately listen to the stories of those around us, and hear the concerns and fears of our brothers and sisters. Compassionate, humble, non-judgmental listening is crucial, especially to voices we haven’t been attuned to. It’s something I feel I’m still learning to do. But we need to do more than that: we need to listen to the Scriptures, learning what they say about ethnicity and race, and about all people being made in the image of God. We need to hear about the ministry of reconciliation to which God has entrusted us, about God’s heart for justice and righteousness.
In my own conversations about racism, there are so many times I’ve said the wrong thing or done the wrong thing by saying nothing at all. But here’s the good news: God never requires us to have it all figured out. He calls fools and nobodies to be his disciples (1 Corinthians 1:26-28); and, he shapes us as we go. There is no “three strikes and you’re out” threat in discipleship. We follow him knowing we’ll stumble along the way, and he will help us every time.
Knowing there is ample grace for our growth helps. It helps as we try to figure out how to parent, how to have hard conversations, how to try to unlearn bad habits and distorted truths from our past and replace them with healthier, truer things. Teresa and I finished up leading our three week Parenting Today class where we talked about how we could be raising race-wise families, and every one of us in the class agreed: we didn’t feel up to the challenge, but we were going to press in anyway because it’s important. We’re committed to learning and growing - both for our sake and the generation to come. We want to grow in our awareness of history and the challenges we face, we want to deepen cross-cultural relationships, and we want to commit to being advocates for change in God-honoring ways.
Few of us can become experts, but all of us can take a next step to grow in our awareness, relationships, or commitment. If you’re a reader, maybe Jemar Tisby’s (deeply biblical and easy to read) How to Fight Racism could go on your to-read list. If there are preschoolers in your life, maybe Trillia Newbell’s God’s Very Good Idea could be the next gift you give. If you’re a podcast listener, listen to College Life alum Rafik Wahbi and Peter Nittler chat on our fantastic in-house Your Pod and Your Staff. If YouTube surfing is your go to, watch this four minute video which brilliantly explains some of the concerns. If Instagram is your happy place, check out Deidra Rigg’s 30 Days to being Actively Anti-Racist on Social Media resource.
And then here’s the important thing… not just to choose your next step, but to TALK about it. First, talk to God: ask Him to help you to hear what he’s inviting you to consider, or change, or do. And then talk to a friend about it. Or your teen. Or a neighbor. Because one thing I’m realizing is that almost everyone in our community is thinking about this, and maybe (just maybe), while listening to both the world and the Word, this is our chance to speak and show Jesus’ love in hope-filled ways. With the Spirit’s help, we can be ambassadors of hope to our hurting world.
With you on the journey,
Pastor of Discipleship and Women