Guest post by Isaac Adams
I thank God for folks who speak biblically about race. Whether it’s a black mom teaching her children that they also bear God’s image, or a white sister writing a prophetic blog post—there are many brothers and sisters take up this worthwhile battle.
And it is a battle—with wounds, fatigue, and conflicting sides. Though there are many sides, I’ll mention two: on one side are folks who try to lovingly share biblical truth about race, and on the other side are people who reject it, often with hostility. Trillia received this hostility personally in a comment on her blog post, which said:
I’m convinced that when black people talk about “diversity” that the real message is just anti-white…For too long we’ve had this burden of white guilt hanging around our necks. Every time I see an article about race, every time I have to go to some mandatory ‘diversity awareness’ training at work, every time I read about black criminals terrorizing people – I just get more and more resolved to fight for my race. I’m done apologizing to you.
Regardless of how gracious folks from the first side are, the other side lobs these devastating verbal grenades. Nonetheless, I pray that this post encourages those in the race battle. After all, when someone receives a comment like the one above, there’s a strong temptation to despair and quit the fight altogether.
I sympathize with that temptation, and I want to give grace to those who decide to step back from the race conversation (or certain parts of it). Like any battle, there are times to retreat, recover, or even retire, and let other parts of the troop push forward; no one should have to subject themselves to attack. Yet for those still in the trenches, I have two encouragements for you.
1) Some people are being convinced of the truth!
Though we can’t always see them, there are people who are listening, learning, lamenting, and loving in a new way because of what’s being written, shared, and spoken. Though we may feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, the Lord does have 7,000 out there devoted to the truth. Francis Grimké, a black pastor from Washington D.C., saw the 7,000 of his day. Grimké wrote about them in a sermon series he delivered in 1898. He preached:
“I have faith in a brighter future for us [blacks] in this country because both in the North and in the South there are some white men and women, who do not approve of the present treatment which is accorded to us, or share in the sentiment which regards us as naturally inferior to the whites…”
Grimké hopefully persevered in the battle because he saw the truth win some people. But what about people the truth doesn’t win? When we encounter them, I’ve been helped to remember that…
2) We cannot convince everyone, but God can convince anyone.
W.E.B. Du Bois, a civil rights activist and writer, wrote haunting words in 1935. He knew that he couldn’t convince everyone of the truth, when he wrote:
It would be only fair to the reader to say frankly in advance that the attitude of any person toward this story will be distinctly influenced by his theories of the Negro race. If he believes that the Negro in America and in general is an average and ordinary human being, who under given environment develops like other human beings, then he will read this story and judge it by the facts adduced. If, however, he regards the Negro as a distinctly inferior creation…then he will need something more than the sort of facts that I have set down.
Du Bois reminds us that truth does not necessarily cure ignorance or racial resentment. It’s tempting to think that there’s a perfect way to talk about race, one that can win the listener without offense. In a fallen world, however, such a way does not exist because sin is not just an abstract, mental falter that can be simply fixed with information; rather, sin is a willful rebellion of a heart that rejects the truth, and it must ultimately be fixed by transformation—that is, getting a new heart from God. There may be more strategic ways to talk about race, but Christians have a greater hope than our own skill in having this conversation. Praise God, we do have “something more” that can make our words effective–even to the hardened hearer.
That “something more” is prayer, as Jesus encourages us to pray for our enemies (Matt 5:44); that “something more” is the Spirit of God, who can give a terrorist a heart of flesh (Acts 22:7). With us, it is impossible to change the hearts and minds of the racially resentful, but with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
Du Bois stated that he was not writing to people who needed “something more” to be convinced, and maybe we shouldn’t either. There are times when we shouldn’t answer fools in their folly (Proverbs 26:4).
Yet the same verse from Proverbs also says there are also times where we should answer fools in their folly. When we do answer them, let’s keep our eyes on God, especially since whom we fight ultimately isn’t just hostile flesh and blood. Brothers and sisters, we fight against the cosmic powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12).
Yet despite what any fool might tempt us to believe, truth will overcome falsehood, light will overcome the darkness, and the battle will be over soon.
Hang in there, brothers and sisters. Stand fast.
There are 7,000 with you.
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