Lament, Racial Reconciliation, and Hope

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This has been a hard week for me. I preached Sunday on the need for racial reconciliation in our churches and communities. I long for better friendships and relationships with those not like me. I’m saddened at the prejudice that resides in my own heart, and I want to be different. This week, two major national stories center on the unnecessary deaths of black men. I watch a 15-year-old son unable to compose himself, weeping and screaming for his daddy. I hear a 4-year-old daughter try to console her mother, telling her, “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.” My heart is heavy. Why did this happen? Why is this happening in my country, to my people? Where did the dignity of life go? When did people stop mattering? I am saddened, moved, upset, and altogether looking to God for answers. These are my reflections from Romans 12:9-21, for Christians, in these moments of grief.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Can my love be genuine, and not just trivial nice-sounding verbiage?

Just as it is wrong for me as a white man to think of another race as “evil,” so it is an equal error for us to think of cops as “evil.” The evil does not lie within the person (that is the point of ending racism, isn’t it?). Alton Sterling was a sinner, like me, but he was also an image-bearer, like me. The evil is the sin of racism, of prejudice, of laziness in the face of it. Let’s abhor that. Not people.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

We can’t do this without relationship. You can’t show honor or show brotherly affection without someone there to receive it. “But I don’t know where to begin,” you say. “I don’t know anyone of a different race.” Do the work of meeting people not like you. No one said it would be handed to you.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

This is hard. But I think there is a secret here. We can’t do the first two without the third. Start there. Let’s read the Psalms. Let’s get on our knees. We don’t have to have the right words; we can shout our incoherent sentences to God. He will help us hope and endure.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

I wish Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were still alive. Nothing was worth their life being taken from them. But we now have the opportunity, as a Church, to show what we are made of. Let’s embrace those hurting, welcoming them with open arms. Please note, many people won’t be crying and running to the church doors. We have to do the work of reaching out, pouring in, listening, observing.

And how do we bless those who persecute us? Why should any black man respect the race that marginalizes him? “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

You don’t need all of the facts of what happened between the cop and the victim to do this. You don’t need to justify. You don’t need to deliberate. Maybe the best thing you can do to stamp out racism is cry with someone, hold their hand, and be there.

Never be wise in your own sight.

This is a big one. Who am I to speak for how the black community should think or feel, when I am so comparably short-sighted to their experiences, their knowledge, their emotions? And who are they to do the same to me? Less ill-informed assumptions, more listening, conversations, questions.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

God was not silent about injustice. He even addresses and condemns those who ignore injustice (see Amos 5). He is still the Judge, and no stone will remain unturned.

To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

To do this is to understand the grace of God, that we sinners who profaned the character of God in our iniquity might be forgiven. God stitched together clothes for Adam’s nakedness right after he willfully disobeyed. This is grace. To let you enemy suffer in his state of need is to fundamentally misunderstand what God has done for you.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Evil seems like it is winning today. But it will not win forever. Genesis 3:15 was a death sentence for Satan, and he knew that. He did his best to fight God’s plan, but the final nail in the coffin was hammered in when the tomb of Christ was found empty. And in a day to come, the Lord will say, “It is done!” (Rev 21:6). I long for that day when we will find hope realized, glory tangible, victory accomplished in Him. Evil has been dealt a blow it cannot overcome, and it will not infect our earth forever. This doesn’t make today easier, but it makes tomorrow brighter. Let us rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and pursue true Christianity in our waiting on Him.

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