Before I became a Christian and while in college, I would host multi-ethnic group discussions at my university on the topic of race and diversity. My hope was that we’d be able to discuss misconceptions and together challenge racism. Now that I’ve been talking about this topic for many years, I’m anxious for us to take the topic beyond talking and into action. What I also realize, however, is that for many, the past few years have been the very first time you’ve ever considered the importance of racial reconciliation and how you might be involved in it. So, I’ve often been hesitant to give friends a large list to do. With that said, here’s a list for you to consider. Some of the thoughts below are practical and not related directly to our faith, while others are steps I believe you can take to directly put your faith into action.
What can I do?
- Foster an environment in your churches and in your homes where the gospel is proclaimed and there is a robust understanding of imago dei (the Image of God). God created each one of us in His image and the gospel is for all nations, tribes, and tongues.
- Each of us has a responsibility to love one’s neighbor. In order to do that, we must first have transformed hearts. Then, we must take action to get to know others–even those not like us. As much as possible and when possible, fill your lunches and dinner tables, your conference rooms, your business meetings, and your college study groups with people who you can love and serve who are not like you.
- Promote confession. If we confess our sin, we know that God is faithful to purify us (1 John 1:9). Ask the Lord to reveal any place of pride or prejudice in your own heart. Recognize that racism within our hearts does exist, even though it may be hidden. Promote confession among your friends and in your churches—this, I believe, is foundational, fostering a gracious environment. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). Be ready to forgive when others confess.
- Resist apathy. It’s easy to think that because we are 50 years past the Civil Rights Movement, we are now in a place to move on. Because we are now united under law, let’s work even harder to be united under Christ. We have not arrived yet and, therefore, ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the work yet to be done.
- Get practical: If you read The New Jim Crow, go and visit a prison—pray with the men and women. Begin to see them as human. If you live in a homogenous neighborhood, shop in a neighborhood that is more diverse every now and then, find a way to engage in the community that is not your own (community events, community centers, Boys and Girls clubs, etc). Get yourself in a position to meet new and different people.
I’m afraid to speak. How can I speak about this topic well?
If you have a desire to speak about this topic well, that’s a good sign that you’ll be thoughtful and careful. I do think it’s important for us to pray about our words before we speak them. There isn’t a moment that I share something that there isn’t a slight fear before I share it. Part of this is a sinful fear of man—being afraid of what others will think of me. Another fear, I believe, is a healthy fear of the Lord. I want to honor God with my speech. We also want to love others well. Part of loving others is praying about our speech and speaking with thoughtfulness and care.
But—speak! We don’t want to use prudence as an excuse to be apathetic or uninvolved. This does not mean that you must write blog posts or scream on Facebook or other social media platforms, but it does mean that if you see something that is clearly wrong—speak up. I’ve heard it said that if you are in the vicinity of slander, racist chatter, racist jokes or the like and you do not speak up to those who are around, then they will, 1) assume you are okay with it, and 2) feel comfortable to do it again with you in their presence. Make it so that people know they cannot say anything racist in your presence because they will be shutdown and corrected. Don’t be afraid to stand for truth and justice—and I think this is especially important in private conversations—where they matter most.
Is there hope?
Yes! There’s hope for today and hope for the next life. We are living in perilous times, but I wonder if there’s ever actually been a time that hasn’t been perilous since Genesis 3. There are many reasons to mourn, but no reason to be without hope. Jesus has accomplished the unity that we desire (Eph.2). We need the power of the Spirit to be able to live out this reality in our lives.
We also realize that one day all the sin, pain, and fear will be wiped away. I’m thankful for that reality.
Other questions I’ve received:
Quotas: Won’t it feel artificial?
Yes, it will feel artificial—if it is artificial. It’s about the heart and ultimately about love. Seek to love your neighbor as yourself. Ask God to change your heart if it feels artificial.
Don’t you think it would be weird? Kinda like: “Hi. Will you be my black friend?”
Chances are you won’t do that and if you begin to gain a better understanding of imago dei it won’t be weird at all. Building relationships with those who are different than you and me should be a natural part of our lives. We know, however, this is not the case, so as my friend, Thabiti, once said, maybe it’s time to get a little weird.
What if I’m rejected?
You will likely be rejected. Aren’t we all rejected at some point? God’s word says, what can man do to the soul? Nothing. They can kill the body, but the soul lives on. Don’t fear rejection. Know that not everyone will be open to getting to know you and that’s okay.
What’s wrong with having preferences?
I understand that it is most comfortable for some to be with those just like themselves. I get it. My question is why do we hold to those preference? Could it be that you actually struggle with the sin of partiality? James talks about the rich not wanting to associate with the poor. Could that be your trouble? In this instance, instead of rich and poor partiality it is cultural and racial?
As my little series comes to a close, please know that this is only the beginning but it is indeed a step. I pray that you and I will take some action whether it’s starting a conversation with a neighbor, reading a book written by an African American author, or being a part of a peaceful protest. Whatever it is, let’s make today the day we take our faith and put it in action.
Trillia is an author and speaker and the owner of this site. You can learn more about her here. You can also find her on twitter: @trillianewbell and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrilliaNewbell/
Also see: Be Strong and Very Courageous: Jemar Tisby Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions, Listen. Learn. Love: Kristie Anyabwile Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions, The Monolithic Black Community and Frequently Asked Questions and Is Racial Harmony a Black Issue?