LogCabin photo by Jeanette Anderton, Marisa Hicks, and Calvin McAllister
Given the racial tension that we are currently experiencing following the murder of George Floyd, it is appropriate to consider Christ’s teaching and even his example regarding discrimination and racism. Granted, I definitely need to acknowledge that I am certainly a product of my age and culture, being a 52 year old Gen-X’er, white male. But my hope for us, though it might be challenging, is that Christ will utilize the power of his Spirit’s conviction and his Word’s guidance, during this time of protesting racial injustice, to challenge us to grow ever more in compassion and understanding, as representatives of Christ.
It would be wise for us to use a Bible passage where Christ directly deals with a situation of terrible racial division. And we have such a passage in John 4:1-42, where Jesus gives us an example for how he approached a person where deep racially divided tensions existed, as verse 9 says, “for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.” In this situation, Jesus was definitely not silent. He was first to speak up, in a surprising way. Instead of avoiding the racial division, Jesus hit it head on by breaking many racial, moral, and gender barriers in befriending this person, along with her whole community.
Now let me just acknowledge what hopefully most of us can generally agree on about our world here in Arkansas, which is probably not too different from many places in America. Without getting too specific, although our culture has made substantial progress from the racism of the past (we can all think of Central High in Little Rock), we nevertheless still have a system where there is still social dividedness and discrimination between whites and blacks. Racism in 2020 might be manifested in less direct ways than it was in the 1960’s, but it still exists in the experiences of what black people feel and how they are treated by our world, different from what white people feel and experience in our world.
I have the honor of still having black friends whom I have known since childhood in Conway, and with whom I talk who assure me that they very much feel the unfairness of being black in our world. And, being their friend means that I have to listen to them with respect and understanding, to validate and empathize with their perspectives. However, being a Christian means going much further than that. As a Christian, I’m supposed to act like Christ. And what Christ did was he made true cross-racial friendships. He connected deeply and socially with people of a different race. He went into their homes and stayed overnight more than once. He got to know them deeply, and even identified religiously with them.
I know for many of us this might be a challenge. But it appears that God wants us to do more than just give general prayers about racial tensions. I believe God wants us, as much as we’re able, to get involved with any opportunities that we can find, to attempt the actions of: 1. understanding, 2. empathizing, and 3. even pursuing cross-racial relationships. All humans are made in God’s image and Christ gives us his example of pursuing friendships with people of other races and cultures. May Christ grant us the courage and the desire to seek out more opportunities to reflect Him in these ways. Amen.