Every day there is a new racially-charged incident making news. And for every incident, there are very predictable outcries of injustice, and equally predictable counter outcries in denunciation of what is seen as liberal propaganda. And the only thing that seems to be changing is the level of vitriol.
But racism is sin. Injustice is sin. And as Christians, we have to lead the way in dealing with it head-on. To do that, we have to be willing to hear a different perspective.
Consider the possibility that a lot of what we would typically label racism, on all sides, may come from a lack of understanding. We don’t comprehend or understand another person’s perspective, so we tend to misinterpret it. I firmly believe that most of our local racial tension would dissipate if we made an intentional effort to form real relationships across racial lines. I know that my own perspective on a lot of things related to race and poverty has changed dramatically over the last seven years, and it is because of the ongoing relationships that I have with people that have walked in a different place than I have.
I will readily admit that it is much easier to stand at a distance and make sweeping judgments about people than it is to invest the time in building deep relationships. But if we are going to accurately represent Christ, we don’t have an option.
The racial divide that we have in our community is a huge problem that holds us back in so many ways. But it is also a huge opportunity for the church to demonstrate that life in Christ can look so much different and be so much richer.
If we are going to do so, it has to mean more than having a joint worship service – although those are good. It has to mean that our relationships, our deepest friendships, have to look different and be different – we have to be willing to take the risk of crossing racial and economic lines. The kinds of things we work for and advocate for have to be different. The way we talk about people of other ethnicities has to be different. The jokes that we laugh at or tolerate have to be different.
That’s what being salt and light looks like. That’s what being the body of Christ looks like.
Change can come to this city. But I don’t believe it is going to come with some big racial reconciliation event that is on the front page of the paper. It’s going to come by sitting down over a cup of coffee and really listening to a perspective that is different than mine, and grilling out in the backyard with someone my neighbors might not like, and being intentional about the way we live our lives, one relationship at a time.