Thursday morning I learned on the news that Philander Castile, a black man, was shot and killed in his car by a police officer outside St. Paul, Minn. Castile’s death comes on the heels of another police shooting. Tuesday morning Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black father of five, was shot in the chest and back outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La by a Louisiana police officer. Thousands are reacting to the shootings on social media with grief, rage, ignorance, or silence. And then Friday five police officers were killed by a gunman and seven were wounded by a man who targeted police officers. It has been a terrible week for Americans.
I have the utmost respect for the police officers who serve and protect our cities all across the country. What they do might be the most difficult job in the world. I support law enforcement, am thankful for them, and pray for my friends who proudly wear the badge. Police officers are not perfect. Even though the majority of officers are outstanding men and women, there are some who appear to have a problem with black men and women in our country. The frequency of white on black violence speaks to a larger problem that many white people have chosen to ignore.
As a follower of Christ, I stand against injustice, and I stand with my African American brothers and sisters who are experiencing an ongoing racial problem in America. I confess I don’t know all the answers. I confess I haven’t done enough. My heart breaks over the violence we are seeing. My heart goes out to the families who are mourning the death of a loved one. I have many African American friends, and it’s with them in mind that I write this article.
If you are a follower of Jesus…
1. You cannot ignore the racial problems in our country.
There are too many examples of white on black injustice. We cannot pretend that this isn’t our problem. We cannot be faithful to the gospel and ignore the oppression of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Isaiah 1:17 says, “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Recognize that there is a bigger problem that cannot be overlooked. We have to seek justice in this issue. We plead at the case; we correct oppression – this is who we are when we walk with Jesus.
I read one comment on social media that spouted, “follow the law and you won’t have a problem with the police.” Comments like this show a lack of compassion and empathy for those who are hurting. It shows a complete ignorance to the history of racism in our country and the laws that govern our nation. As a white man I don’t know what it feels like to be racially profiled. The only time I must deal with the police is when I am actually breaking the law like speeding or expired car tags.
The fact is I’m a white guy from the suburbs who will never understand the prejudices that my black brothers have to deal with. My white friends need to understand that this isn’t a simple problem with a simple solution. Anytime you simplify racism in America you undermine African Americans. I can’t know what they’ve been through and what they have experienced. However, as a Christian leader, my heart is burdened for their struggle. The reality is that black lives do matter. Yes, white, black, red, purple, whatever color matters as well. I believe in the sanctity of all life. If I agree that black lives matter, does that mean I am anti-police and pro violence? Of course not! Sean Hannity from Fox News might disagree with me here, but I do recognize a serious problem that the black community is facing. We need to listen to hearts of African American’s to hear the heart behind the black lives matter movement. I don’t agree with everything they are promoting. Of course, any violence that they chant is wrong. But it’s upsetting to me that with all the racism black people have experienced many white Americans can’t even give them the freedom to voice their frustrations through a simple phrase without arguing over semantics.
Say it out loud…BLACK LIVES MATTER.
I think it’s a cry for justice and help. I think it’s voicing a deeper issue that many black people have felt for years. Take time to learn and pray and empathize with the struggle that has been going on in some fashion or form for hundreds of years.
April 23rd is recognized as Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the thousands of Jews who were murdered during the Nazi regime. Imagine if during a memorial service to honor those victims someone stood up and said, “Hey guys, Pearl Harbor matters. Let’s not forget about the Americans who died at Pearl Harbor!” Of course we care about the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, but don’t be an insensitive bonehead. That’s not the time nor place to raise awareness. The reality is that there are many injustices in the world. We need to care about them all. We don’t have to vilify “black lives matter” because they aren’t including every other concern in America.
I’m sick of the labels and the dividing lines that fuel more hate and injustice. The media promotes these lines and stirs up emotions to get ratings. The reality is that this issue is much deeper than any one movement or group of angry slogans. The answer isn’t to criminalize every police officer in the country either. These men and women are putting their lives on the line for us, and a few bad ones shouldn’t lead us to condemn them all. There is a real problem, and it’s a real issue. The answer isn’t a new slogan, a march, or even a different president. The answer is Jesus. Education is helpful, but curriculum alone cannot change a man’s heart, and racism is a heart issue. The anger and fear in a man’s heart is only cured by authentic faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Jesus changes a man’s heart, his desires, passions, and focus begin to change. Only then does he die to sin, and in this case, the sin of racism.
2. You must put to death racism of any kind in your heart.
The Bible says to “Puttodeath therefore what is earthly in you sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). I would argue that racism is an earthly and evil desire that must be put to death. It causes division, murder, and hate, and it accomplishes nothing but evil.
We are prone to judge each other by mere appearance. When God anointed David as the next king of Israel, we learn how God makes decisions. The scripture says that God does not look at the outer appearance; he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16). But without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will judge others by their appearance, the color of their skin, the clothes that they wear. But we are called to put to the death that earthly tendency.
We need to remember that racism isn’t a new problem. In the first century, the church dealt with racism between Jews and Greeks and Samaritans and Jews. The church overcomes racial tension by repenting of sin and finding unity in our faith in Christ and our common mission to make disciples of all nations. The gospel teaches that racial differences are unified through Christ. Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slavenor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This means that God’s church includes all colors and nationalities. Not just in heaven, but right now. My African American brothers who love Jesus are hurting, and you and I have to care about that. The Bible says to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). As a member of God’s church, I not only want to bear this burden; I want to help overcome it. The Bible doesn’t say unity will be easy, but it is possible in Christ alone.
3. You must be motivated to love and do good works when you see racial injustice.
Seeing the death of Castile and Sterling rocked me to the core. More facts may come out, but at this point I see total injustice. In the past cell phones weren’t recording events for all of us to watch on Facebook. We have no excuse. We cannot hide. If you haven’t watched it, go watch it now. Let the Holy Spirit move in you. I cannot claim the gospel of Jesus Christ and not speak up for my African American brothers and sisters and walk beside them in this fight.
The answer is not more violence. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). I have to take a close look at myself when I see so much racial tension. Am I pursuing peace? Am I bearing my black brother’s burden? Or will I do what my sinful heart desires: to sit in silence; to fill my schedule so that I don’t have time to care? Will I let this injustice turn my head in silence like all the other things I’ve chosen to leave unsaid? Like our brother in Christ, William Wilberforce, will we carry the mantel of freedom and justice?
We will never help anyone if we remain silent. In fact, our silence is sinful. Silence is a form of racism that we don’t want to think about. I challenge you to think about it and act on it. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he said…
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.