I don’t know of a more crucial time in my lifetime to engage in important, gospel-centered conversations with the next generation about race and the gospel than right now. My hope is that my new book, Creative God, Colorful Us, will be a resource to help teach the kids in your life how to really enjoy our differences!
And to further equip you, a few of my friends and I got together to have honest conversations about how to talk to the next generation about race, ethnicity, and the gospel. You’ll hear from those in every stage of parenting sharing key insights and ‘aha’ moments.
The best part is that when you pre-order the book you can also receive an event access pass completely FREE.
Order your book and then claim your free pass link in bio! (webevents.moodyconferences.com)
- Pre-order Creative God, Colorful Us, releases Feb 2 (link in bio)
- Go to moodyconferences.com to learn more and submit your receipt
- Join me and many others for honest conversations to help us as we teach the next gen
I am thrilled to share that my newest kids’ book, Creative God, Colorful Us, releases in February! This short, colorful book (written with grade-schoolers in mind) will share the truth about how we were made, our differences, our sin problem, God’s rescue, and how we should be motivated to love one another on earth.
I’ve received so many questions from moms of 6—11-year-olds about teaching our kids about race and ethnicity and the gospel. I hope this starts the conversation and gives kids imagination for what can be in their lives and the world.
The cover art is by a young woman named Chase Williamson. She handpainted all of the pictures! It’s beautiful.
Be on the lookout for more information in the coming days. Until then, you can pre-order Creative God, Colorful Us! Here are a few locations:
Praying is never an overreaction.
I shared that sentiment a few weeks ago on twitter and I believe it is true. While prayer is never an overreaction, I would dare to say it’s not always our first reaction. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourages us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4: 4-7).
We live in an anxious world and in an anxious time. Likely many of you are anxious about something right now. When we take one look away from God and His Son, we can easily fall into despair. This seems especially true given our current cultural moment. To say that we live in the most racially divided time in our history would be erroneous. But for those of us born in the 70s, 80s and 90s, we have acutely felt this heavy weight of race division. We continue to live in a racially divided time.
Hate is at every turn. I can’t turn on the TV or log onto social media without seeing the evidence of how this fallen, broken world has affected race relations in our country and in our world. And I know the divide and pain isn’t something that’s only found out there in the world, it’s right here in the church too.
The reality is we will not see this anxious division become whole until Jesus returns. But are we simply resigned to anxious waiting until that day?
What if instead we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful prayer?
What if we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful preaching, writing, or your own unique creative outlet?
What if we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful action?
Our hope is not in our prayer, our preaching, nor our action. Our faith and our hope is in our God. We can rest and trust him. We look to that future grace and hope of a new heaven and new earth to motivate us to bring heaven to earth now.
Ultimately, we need to trust God for our future. The future doesn’t look bright to an anxious world. When we look out at the landscape of our culture, it looks dim.
But don’t listen to your fears.
Fear has a way of whispering lies in our ears about who God is.
Fear tells us that there’s no hope for our nation.
Fear tells us that the gospel isn’t enough for unity.
Fear tells us that there’s no way that God can save this community.
God is not a genie in a bottle ready to grant all of our wishes. We don’t shake a magic 8-ball to learn all that he is doing. We wait and trust. God is always working whether we recognize it or not.
And one day our faith will become sight.
God is not on this throne wringing his hands hoping we get our political act together so things can be fixed.
God has not given up his rule and authority.
We can resist anxiety and fear by remembering what is true about God. We have a different and better allegiance and it is not to any ruler or authority on this earth. We must remember that our kingdom is of God and is of heaven.
God is awesome.
God is sovereign.
We are not entrusting ourselves to a wimpy, powerless God.
God is also our loving Father and he invites his children to come to him and find rest in our Savior who died for our fear and anxiety. He is our peace.
Read again, the words that Paul writes: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Right now we have a great opportunity to submit our requests to the Lord. Would you join me in the month of September to praying for racial harmony in our country and revival in our churches?
Some ideas for how to pray:
- Go on prayer walks with friends
- Set out to pray every morning
- Organize a prayer gathering at your church
- Journal your prayers
- Get in your prayer closet alone
Your prayer time does not have to be anything elaborate, but I am praying that for you and me, it will be consistent–every day in September. You do not need to sign up for anything, just commit in your heart and get started.
Some ideas for what to pray:
- The gospel to penetrate hearts
- The gift of repentance for our own racial bias
- The gift of repentance for those who struggle with racial pride
- Strength, wisdom, and courage for church and religious leaders (pastors, seminary presidents, organizational leaders, etc.)
- Unity among believers
- Opportunities to love your neighbor
- Racial harmony, reconciliation, etc.
- Healing—where there is hurt, need for forgiveness, etc.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted via social media by a group of white supremacists. They are extremist, hateful, and attack with no understanding of who they are attacking. Their threats are alarming, but not all that surprising. And to be honest, it’s almost easier to understand extremists—they’ve potentially been given over to their sin (Romans 1). But what’s confusing for many of us are the numerous people who seem to ignore racism, who sweep it under the rug, or who have categorized racism as a lesser evil than other evils.
Welcome to the 2016 election year.
Unfortunately, when I reflect on what I’ve experienced and what I’m seeing, I think I fear a pendulum swing. It was reported that 81 percent of evangelical voters cast their lot for what many of us deemed as an unacceptable candidate because of his racist and misogynistic views, words, and/or actions. Although the 81 percent report has been rejected by some, even a slight majority vote by evangelicals in the president-elect’s direction has been disappointing for others. As I’ve mentioned before, I was for neither candidate. And what’s done is done. Now we are left with questions.
The pendulum swing-perspective, however, would be to assume that all white evangelicals 1) voted for the now president-elect and 2) are racist. I enjoy a unique proximity to different ethnicities. Proximity isn’t just good for white people. In other words, it’s often encouraged that white people get to know people of other ethnicities because proximity helps with understanding different perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints. This is so very true. But, you see, my proximity is to that of a white male. My husband is white, which gives me a unique view into the culture at large.
Broad Sweeping and Generalizations
If my husband didn’t have skin and you heard him speaking about culture, race, ethnicities, and the general election, you wouldn’t be able to figure out his ethnicity. Perhaps you’d even assume he was African American. He would speak with sadness that our president-elect has appointed a racist as his second in command of the White House. He would lament that there is so much divide in the church. He would hope that there would be reconciliation in our country and he would not be ignorant that this work of reconciliation takes more than simply saying hello as someone passes you in the street. He would share about times he stood up against racism in college. He would tell you about defending his wife after someone said something inappropriate. He would tell you about how he protects his family. Actually, he wouldn’t tell you any of those things because he is modest, humble, and simply not active on social media. Instead, he is living and serving us as an average, everyday citizen of the United States. He is a Christian. He is white. He loves people.
But, if he looked at social media, he might feel a rebuke. Wait, your friends and those who you follow…liberal, conservative and everyone in between, they know I’m with them, right?, he might think. Of course, his biggest concern is me. But my point is, there are many, right now, who strongly oppose racism, although you may not see it. They are the men and women found in the shadows on their knees before the Father. They are the men and women serving alongside people from every tribe, tongue and nation, and weeping with those who weep. They are there. They are the few white men and women evangelical leaders who have taken hits from every side for speaking out strongly the past two years and who now feel a weight of defeat. So in these tense times, we all need to beware of broad sweeping generalities that pit us against each other. What I’d like to say to those on the front lines but operating behind the scenes, as well as to those who are on the front lines and in the public, though we are disheartened we are better together.
There are still many of us who desire reconciliation—real reconciliation. Let’s not throw the baby out of the evangelical bath water. Let’s keep pursuing one another. Let’s keep speaking up. And I’m confident, although it’s a confidence that is shored up by begging and pleading with the Lord and filled with many tears, that in this tough season we may even be able to grow in understanding, even with those whom we thoroughly disagree. Everything is in the light. This is a good thing. My prayer is we wouldn’t waste this season arguing with those who are with us and we wouldn’t waste this season shaming those who are not. Instead, let’s keep speaking truth in love and pray for God’s work in the hearts of his people.
(picture by Michael and Megan Harrington)
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?
Earlier this week, the ERLC featured this video of my husband, Thern, and me discussing our marriage and the Lord’s faithfulness to us. We were honored to have the opportunity to document what the Lord has done and hope you’ll take a minute to watch. What God has brought together let no man separate.