So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
Life is precious and holy. Every life. No matter your gender, age, nation of origin, or race.
In the past month there have been several racial incidents which have pointed out that we still experience racial brokenness in our nation. For decades there has been a growing sense of injustice among the African American community which boiled over this week. This has led to peaceful protests for change and unfortunately other instances of blatant vandalism and looting. Sadly, some of the protests have turned violent and both demonstrators and police have been injured.
When I see things like this happen I remind myself: All of us are created in the image of God. And we, unfortunately, live in a sinful, broken, fallen world. And the first thing to do is pray.
The intensity of the protests and cries for justice reminds us that we have a lot of work to do in the whole area of racial reconciliation. A truth of the gospel is that it not only transforms an individual but that it should transform society. Under God’s rule, the color of your skin should not make a difference in the opportunities you receive or the potential for your life.
One comparison from scripture we can draw on is the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. In Jesus’ day these two groups would have nothing to do with one another – there was great suspicion and hatred. They called each other “dogs”. But as the church began to grow and the good news of the gospel began to reach both groups it became crucial for both to come together as one. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes about how Jesus can make this happen:
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.
How can these God-inspired words speak to us today?
First: I can take Jesus as my peace. Experience the grace of God in such a way that my own hatred, insecurity, judgment, distrust, preconceived assumptions, anxiety, and hurt are nailed to the cross. Take a personal inventory of my own heart… what am I thinking and feeling today? What has caused me to think and feel this way? Ask the Holy Spirit to speak the peace of the gospel into those dark anxious places which create division between myself and others – especially those who are different from me whom I have never met.
Secondly: I must admit there still is a barrier and dividing wall. I would like to think that this has already been dealt with in our nation, but obviously it is still standing. The first thing to do is to listen to the experience of others. I have never been an African American man who has faced discrimination throughout his life... nor have I ever been a police officer facing the stress and pressure of serving and protecting in a high crime area. I can learn much from other people and understanding puts a crack in the wall. Intentionally seek to listen to people who are different from you. Get to know their stories. Listen to their struggles and their hopes.
Finally: I am called to love in word and action. Love was at the heart of everything Jesus did or said. I must realize that Jesus’ words to love others means that I speak well of them and speak words that encourage and empower them to flourish. The right word spoken in love can have a profound impact on a person’s life. But words are not enough. As the people of God, we must act in ways that bring about change. For too long our church has said the right things but has not acted to change. What does it mean to act in love? It may mean joining a peaceful protest which does not degrade either side. We also need to explore ways to be more personally involved with ministries in higher need areas. Along with these, we can look at the resources God has blessed us with and develop ways to fund programs that promote racial reconciliation.
I have been so encouraged to see multiple moments around our nation when police officers and demonstrators take a knee together, march together, and even pray together. This gives me great hope that good will overcome evil.
Real change in our society will only happen when I take a good look in the mirror at my own fears and prejudice. As I confess and repent, the grace of God covers me, and I can become a participant in peace. This participation means walking with others in greater understanding and practicing love in all I do and say. I can often question what impact one person, or one church can make in this complicated and emotion-filled area of racial reconciliation. But, hopefully, one by one we can chip away at the wall and one day it will be a dust-heap our children’s children play in.
Please join me in praying for God to use us to be agents of reconciliation.
Humbly in Christ,