Please read this message with the awareness that I write from a place of lament, and a deep desire for reconciliation. The community we live in lacks ethnic diversity, and as a result these conversations are difficult to navigate. We do not share in the first-hand experiences or community-wide exposure that others may have. I do not have the correct answers. In fact, I anticipate that much of what I write will need correction. I do not share this in order to propose a solution, but rather to open the door for further introspection. The Church has a responsibility to contend with the culture in a way that honors God and builds up his kingdom, but the current climate makes it nearly impossible to articulate ourselves in a way that is not divisive or offensive. This inability to talk about hard things does not excuse us from the conversation, but it does beg us to have grace for others facing the same difficulties. My lack of understanding regarding racism in America does not mean that I get to sit back and quietly allow others to do the heavy work–no. Rather I am spurred on to pause, listen, learn, and urge those around me to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8).

Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to sit in tension. The polarization of ideas in America has left us unable to be “both/and”. This is not a result of the Holy Spirit, this is a product of the culture. Church, we can recognize that racism exists and still support those who serve and protect. It is not in diametric opposition to acknowledge that America has failed many of its own people, and still be grateful for those among us who display strength and courage and uphold Biblical morals while they wear their badges. We can sit in distress with those who lose homes and businesses due to riots while still appreciating the ones peacefully protesting systemic injustice that has existed well beyond the current day. The enemy knows that division is an extremely effective way to cripple believers, to discredit our message and the cause of Christ. This is why we find multiple directives in Scripture to maintain unity among the body: Romans 11:11-24; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, ch. 3, 12:12-31; Galatians 6:1-1; Ephesians 4:1-16; Titus 3:1-11 are just a few instances we see from the apostle Paul. This unity must extend beyond the walls of Temple Baptist. The unity we strive for transcends age, race, denomination, and political affiliation. It is the building up of the body of believers around the world, and it is crucial that we begin recognizing our part in this global body. If the Gospel we preach does not offer the same grace and mercy that we enjoy to our black brothers and sisters, it is not the Gospel at all. 

My prayer is that the American church assumes a posture of humility at this time. We can attempt to understand, and we will still come up short due to our lack of exposure. Even so, we cannot ignore the cries of an entire community over the span of so many years and try to discredit it as political propaganda. There are trusted black leaders, teachers, preachers, and theologians echoing the cries of the oppressed–do we only listen to their messages when they cost us nothing? All can agree that racism is a product of the fall; a result of sin. It is dangerous for us to think that this is the only sin we are exempt from. We readily admit that we struggle with gossip, sexual sin, idolatry, pride…and yet we are deeply offended when someone suggests that we might reflect racist thoughts or patterns. No one is asking you to be ashamed that you are white. They are asking you to humble yourself enough to be open to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and to be aware that the sin of racism might be brought to the surface. If we are unwilling to allow the Spirit to bring these hidden sins to our attention, then we will never be able to repent of them and move toward a better way. We will either be slaves to sin, controlled by insidious darkness, or slaves to righteousness, bringing our sin into the light of salvation and the transforming work of Christ (Romans 6:15-23). “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

How do we begin moving toward racial reconciliation? There are many possible avenues, but I think it is wise to begin with the heart-work. Spend some time this week in prayer, studying what God has to say about racism and ethnic diversity within the Church. Praise God for the saving work of the cross that extends to all people, regardless of skin color. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any areas where you may consciously or subconsciously be harboring racist thoughts, patterns, or ideas, and then repent. Put down your phone, close your laptop, and engage in meaningful conversation with a friend or family member about current events. If you find yourself reacting emotionally or negatively, pause and ask yourself what is fueling these thoughts and emotions. Search for sermons or messages from Christian black teachers: what do they have to say about these issues? What are their thoughts on what’s happening around the country? Do they have any written works you can read to better understand their messages or positions? Some voices you can begin your search with might include Eric Mason, Dr. Tony Evans, Priscilla Shirer, Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Austin Channing Brown and Latasha Morrison. Be willing to engage with material that you disagree with, and then try to understand (even try writing down) why you disagree with something. You may also seek out helpful resources such as to grow in knowledge and understanding.

I believe in you, Church. I believe we can strive toward justice, peace, and harmony that loves people and honors God. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but we know that God equips his people to accomplish his good work. We can create the safe space within our immediate church body that allows us to wrestle through these difficult conversations with one another and with our broader community. Our aim is not perfection: it is grace in these hard places. Grace for every person, every exchange. The struggle is inevitable, but we can learn to struggle well together.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV, emphasis my own)

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash