My heart is heavy today over Monday’s events in Ferguson, MO, and I am reminded of the haunting words in Genesis 4:6-7 when God spoke to Cain and said, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” I am reminded of all the anger, and pain, and bitterness, and hate in the world. I am sad because I love my country, and because I desire true justice, and I want America to be a place of peace. Sadly, the events of August 9 and the events of today tell me that it is not. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention when Barak Obama said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America,” we all wanted to believe him, but today we are reminded, once again, that he was wrong.
So many White Americans do not understand why Black Americans are so angry at the outcome of this trial. So many Black Americans do not understand why White Americans have trouble understanding the anger. So how are we as a church supposed to think about this? What are Christians who have the ultimate hope of joining together around the eternal throne of Christ alongside people of every race supposed to do with the events of Fergusson? Many news pundits are saying that these events have set race relations back many years and even decades. They are wrong. The events of Ferguson didn’t set race relations back as much as they revealed where those relations really were. The truth is that while a lot of progress truly has been made in the last several decades in the United States, so much of the perceived “progress” is only plastic. It is a program at work or at school where “people of all races” are involved, it is the recruiting poster that has Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos happily hanging out with one another. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning any of these efforts; I think they are good, but let’s not let any of these plastic attempts at unity fool us into believing that real love and real unity between men and women of different races is a benchmark of the American fabric.
The truth is that deep down in all of our hearts racism exists; it is an effect of the fall. The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Because of this all people are drawn toward people who look like them, and all people are leery of those who don’t. So deeper than the ongoing effects of slavery, or the fear of a changing America, we have a problem of the heart, a problem to which we all contribute, a problem that only Jesus can heal. In a time like this I am reminded once again of how much I need the gospel, and of how much Darren Wilson, and the family of Mike Brown need the gospel. I am reminded that White America needs that gospel and that Black America needs the gospel. Only Jesus can set us free from this heart of sin, and the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has overcome hate, racism, and even death itself. He truly frees the captive, and ministers to the one who is oppressed.
Therefore, the church, the Christians, must lead the way when it comes to racial healing in America. We are failing desperately at this, and one of my prayers for my city in particular, and for this country at large, is that God would do this work and in so doing bring much glory to his own name. So as we look forward let me offer you, my fellow believers, a few things to think about as the church hopes in Thy Kingdom Come.
Have the Conversation – Rather than assuming that you understand what white people or black people are feeling about the situation in Fergusson, let me encourage you to stop and actually have the conversation. Most of the white people I know are terrified of having a conversation that involves race because they believe if they are really honest about how they feel then they will be labeled a “racist.” Many of the black people I know are unwilling to talk about race with white people because they believe that they “won’t really listen.” As long as these attitudes of fear and frustration persist we will never move forward. We are supposed to be a family in Christ and no family works without communication. Take this week as an opportunity to have an honest and open conversation with a brother or sister in Christ of a different race about race. Be honest with one another and be gracious to one another, and grow as a result.
Realize the Past has Consequences – Slavery ended 150 years ago and yes it still has consequences. The bible is very clear on the generational effects of sin. So please do not be naïve and foolish and assume that the past is of no consequence. It is the events of the past that frame everything about us: how we think, how we act, and who we are. If your black grandfather was mistreated in the Civil Rights movement, or your white mother wasn’t admitted to a school because of racial quotas those stories have affected you. Realize the past has consequences, but also remember that Jesus heals, and therefore let us fix our eyes Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Hope in the Gospel, Not in Cable News – If you really want Jesus to heal your heart that is prone to wander toward racism watch less Cable News and read more scripture. Since Monday night countless prayer services have been happening all across the country but that doesn’t sell as many commercials as a burning CVS. If you are letting Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC feed your soul for hours every day but you are rarely feeding on the bread of life, which is the word of God, it is going to be very difficult for the Spirit of God to ever heal your heart.
There is bitterness, hurt, anger, and even racism in all of our hearts and because of that, sin is crouching at our doors. The sin’s desire is to rule over us, but Jesus will rule over it. Will you trust him to do so?