“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Patrick Henry. Christians have dual citizenship in heaven and earth, and should doubly stand against tyranny, oppression and evil. We must not stand silent. Here are three daring ways for Christians to easily attack racism.
1. Get out of the bubble.
I grew up in a bubble. I lived in small towns in rural Ohio. My father was a Baptist preacher and we had tent revivals, sword drills, and an altar call every Sunday. Our first TV was black and white with four channels that went off the air at midnight to a waiving American flag. Patriotic, conservative, white. For those of us over 50, that was our bubble.
Today a new bubble exist. With hundreds of 24/7 channels to receive information and smart phones delivering news and social media around the clock, we are more isolated than ever before. Too many people surround themselves with like-minded people. We want to believe Facebook over facts, Twitter over truth.
Last week I spoke with someone at church who commented on my post where I reference my friends on the left and my friends on the right. He said, “You need new friends.” I don’t, but I think too many people would agree with him. We must get out of our bubbles. If you do not have friends of color and diverse political, cultural or other differences you are failing to live the Kingdom of Heaven.
I grew up praying the Lord ’s Prayer every week in church. Sometimes when something becomes rote we miss the profound truth that our mission is to be about His Kingdom – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Heaven is diverse. ALL who believe receive citizenship. We ought to live that way now.
Bubbles blind us
In Jesus day the people living in bubbles were Pharisees. The Pharisees only interacted with each other seeking to prove one was more spiritual than another. In this bubble they became “blind guides”, unable to see the truth of the very religion they claimed to follow. Bubbles blind us. We hear only one view. And too often our churches are complicit.
Far too many churches sat silent after Charlotte. When so many Republicans and Democrats alike condemned the Unite the Right Rally filled with Neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan, and White Nationalist, why were churches silent. When a President equivocates and emboldens hate groups, we who stand for love must speak. Ed Stetzer and Christianity Today led the way. Many others spoke out, but too many were silent. To not decry evil is to permit it to advance.
Burst your bubble
Would a white nationalist feel comfortable in your church? I fear some left the violence on that Saturday and slipped into pews on Sunday. That must not be. Jesus would never tolerate racist ideology. Our preaching should be so infused with racial justice that a Neo-Nazi would storm out in disgust. Don’t allow such ideology to find comfort in your church.
Our neighbors of color are in pain. They have watched for too long as fellow Christians refused to address shootings of people of color, speak out against Muslim bans, or against the ripping apart of Hispanic families. Our neighbors lament. They feel pushed to the side of the Jericho Road as Priest and Levites ignore them for more ‘spiritual’ endeavors. Jesus would stop.
2. Get into the neighborhood.
I am a recovering Pharisee. I continually learn from a wife of color, friends of color, and a man of color who I love deeply. His name is Jesus. I follow Jesus and that means following him into places of vulnerability. Jesus intentionally left a very comfortable home in heaven to move into our messy neighborhood. I learn from others who have courageously followed this example.
My friend Eugene Cho gave up a year’s wages to help vulnerable neighbors across the globe starting One Day’s Wages. Gary Haugen gave up a powerful career at the Justice Department to boldly free people from the evil of trafficking through International Justice Mission. Bryan Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law School and rather than take a high paying job, he chose to free people from death row and tell juvenile offenders they were more than a bad decision through Equal Justice Initiative. I also gave up a comfortable career as an attorney to start Administer Justice and now Gospel Justice Initiative to enter into neighborhoods with the hope of the gospel and the help of a lawyer to free people from systems and circumstances of legal oppression.
Enter as a friend, not a Savior
You can be a person of courage. There is nothing special about Eugene, Gary, Bryan or me except we love Jesus and obeyed his call on our lives. He is calling you to break your bubble, get out of your comfort zone, and shine the light and love of Christ into dark places. For most, I think this begins in your neighborhood. God placed you where you are for a reason. Discover needs where you are. Serve where you are.
As you serve, please come beside those in need. We do not need more saviors. There is one Savior and you are not Him. Don’t come with answers – come with questions. Help empower those you are serving – don’t take power from them. As a practical step, investigate my friends at Christian Community Development Association. John Perkins, Noel Castellanos and others have spent decades exploring how to do effective ministry in local community. Check out their annual conference in Detroit and come to my workshop on doing legal ministry in community.
3. Get going.
In the end faith is not faith if it does not act. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”. Live out your faith so that your light so shines before men that they glorify your father in heaven.
Start with bursting your bubble. Keep informed and listen to others. Today many of my friends are grieving the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As Senator John McCain stated,
“Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”
In some bubbles we can sweep this issue aside, but I encourage you to read the opinions of others collected by the NAACP. I’m not asking all of us to agree. I’m asking all of us to listen and lean into each other’s stories instead of pushing away.
Consider shopping in different locations, joining different groups, or getting more involved in your community to meet people outside your bubble. Racism only thrives in a bubble. Love alone can drive out hate. Love attracts. Hate repels. Choose to love.
For further action steps read our blog on 7 ways to overcome racial divides
There are many practical service opportunities in your neighborhood. While the nation was reeling from Charlotte, we hosted five amazing sisters in Christ in Chicago. Black sisters from South LA and central Missouri, and white sisters from Tennessee and Illinois joined in a desire to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly together with God. These amazing women are stepping out of their comfort zones to lead legal ministries. Each equips a team of lawyers and support volunteers to enter into, listen and learn from neighbors. As they listen they provide practical legal help and hope. They remind the person they are a child of God, created in His image and have infinite value. They demonstrate that Christ followers are not measured by the loud few who dominate the media but by the many who quietly love neighbors. Join them.
3 daring steps to take now to attack racism.
- Get out of your comfort zone. You have heard Jesus comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. If you are comfortable then you might not be fully following Jesus. Break the bubble and reach out to neighbors different from you. Start preaching and teaching discomfort.
- Get into the neighborhood. Church was never designed to be a gated community. A real enemy wants to sideline and distract you from being salt and light in the world. You can’t do that from the comfort of your church. Get outside its walls.
- Get going. Find a service ministry. Be willing to make sacrifices of time, talent and treasure. Invest in the Kingdom. Spend time advancing God’s kingdom – not yours. When you do this you will be filled with the love of God to humbly do justice and destroy hate.