How are you doing this week? As you know, I have asked that question several times regarding your focus on leadership, your personal health, and your overall attitude. I have asked because I am interested in you, your community, your church, and your impact upon the people entrusted to your care. As I have said several times in different ways, you were created to lead at this time in history. I am grateful for you and your ministry.
How Am I Doing?
As we have had conversations, several of you have asked how I am doing. Thanks for asking.
Most of you have heard me say, “I miss seeing you face to face”, or “I miss our lunches together,” or “I miss our general interaction of just being in the presence of each other.” Again, thanks for asking. I truly value our relationships and look forward to the time we are face to face again. So, today, I am ready to tell you how I really feel.
How am I doing, you ask? This week I am weary. There is a heaviness in my heart and spirit like I have felt only a few times in my life. Another black man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by a police officer in front of his three sons this week. He is paralyzed from the waist down and unable to move. Yet, for a little over 24 hours, he was handcuffed to his hospital bed. Even as he fought to stay alive, he was considered to be a threat.
Why Am I Weary?
I know that not all of you feel as I do. I’m not trying to make you feel differently, but I do what you know how I feel. I am weary of all the racial hatred. I am weary of human beings, my brothers and sisters, being treated as prey just because of the color of their skin. I am weary of people of good character being quiet, unwilling to name the sin of racism, not acknowledging their participation in it, and then pleading ignorance instead of stepping up and out to resist it and eradicate it.
Please hear me. I am weary because I am hurting. My heart and spirit are broken. So, I know you will understand when I say that I don’t want to hear there were circumstances the media didn’t report and we don’t know all the facts. A 29-year-old father of three small boys was shot in the back. In what world is it okay for a human being to be shot seven times at point blank range because of the color of his skin?
How many more people?
I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear about black on black crime. To me, that is a naive distraction. How many more unarmed black men and women will be murdered before we face reality?
Listen, another unarmed black man was shot by a police officer, a person in power. Don’t tell me that the police officer felt threatened and he reacted as he was taught to react. If that is true, then we have been wrong in how we have been training our law enforcement officers.
Don’t tell me that most police officers are good, and we just need to get rid of a “few bad apples.” I know most law enforcement officers are good people and that their work is hard and dangerous, but police officers are required to respect and protect human lives, all human lives, regardless of skin color. Please don’t tell me about protecting property, every human being is infinitely more valuable than property.
Please hear me. I am not saying we need to “defund” the police. But is it too much to expect police officers to be taught and trained that every human being, regardless of color, is a person of infinite worth and is worthy of ultimate respect, care, and grace?
What I Don’t Want to Hear About
I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear that talking about this only perpetuates the problem. It is precisely because we have not talked about racism that the sin persists to overtake us.
Racism is woven and embedded into the fabric of each of our lives. Whether we like it or not or do so intentionally or not, each of us participates in and perpetuates racism. Just the simple idea that black people are more violent than white people is a racist idea that perpetuates an unrealistic fear and suspicion.
Just the simple idea that black people are inferior to white people is a racist idea perpetuated by centuries of laws and policies based upon black people being less than human. Is it too much to ask that we learn our history, face it honestly, and take the responsibility to put an end to racism?
If we are to face it, name it, and put an end to it, we will have to talk about it.
Why I Am Weary
I am weary because I am afraid. I’m not afraid of men and women of darker skin color.
I am afraid because my wife and I, along with my children and my granddaughters live in a country where a 17-year-old radicalized white supremacist, an agent of racial terror, can travel across state lines, carry an assault rifle, shoot and kill two people during a protest march.
Now it is illegal for someone under 18 years-of-age to carry a gun in Wisconsin, but because of the color of his skin, he is privileged. He carries the gun, an assault rifle, down the middle of the street, in the presence of law enforcement officers, but because of the color of skin, he is not considered a threat. In fact, by some people, he is considered a hero.
Will You Understand?
I know you will understand when I say that I do not want to hear about our Second Amendment Right to bear arms. I am not questioning your right or any one’s right to bear arms. But, in what civilized culture is it acceptable for a teenager to carry an assault rifle down the middle of the street? In fact, in what Christian environment of care and compassion is it acceptable to carry loaded weapons in public?
I know you will understand when I say, “Black Lives Matter.” I am not making a political statement. So, I don’t want to hear how it is a Marxist movement or it is designed to undermine our American culture. When I say, “Black Lives Matter,” I am making a statement of Christian love, hospitality, and hope. I know that all lives matter and blue lives matter, but until you and I take Black lives seriously, we will not face, name, and overcome the evil of racism.
A Word of Hope
When I decided to write this blog, I was not only weary, I was sad. If you are still reading, thank you. Because you have taken my feelings seriously, I want to offer a word of hope. There are several places to start to address the evil of racism. I want to offer four, based upon the love and acceptance each of us have experienced and received in and through Jesus Christ.
As a leader of Jesus followers, who seeks to deepen your relationship with Christ, your church, and your community, here is what I want you to do:
Reach out and receive the people around you.
You might feel uncomfortable developing relationships with strangers and people who think and feel differently than you, but “welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Welcoming people into your life is who you are as a follower of Jesus. Every person you meet is a gift from God. To reach out and receive others is to be who God created you to be. Anything less than being open and receptive to all people is to miss the point of God’s purpose and desire for your living. Because this is true, you take each human life seriously, regardless of skin color.
Offer love and acceptance to all people.
As a follower of Jesus, you “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving your neighbor is so important, Jesus taught, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). As a follower of Jesus, you love people as you have been loved by God in and through Jesus. It is by the way you love people that you reveal your true character. Your love is an invitation to others to love. Your greatest witness is to love each human being as God has loved you, regardless of skin color.
Practice loving others.
John, in his letter, tells us, “We know love by this, that he (Christ) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16).
It might seem simplistic, but this is where you learn to lay down your life by having conversations about race and racial injustice. This is where you learn to be empathetic. Try to understand what it is like to live each day aware of your race, to always be on guard, and to feel like you must give up and keep the peace.
Then, try to imagine what it is like to live with trauma in your bones. Where you must remind your children to get home safely by following certain unwritten rules when stopped by the police. Try to imagine the anxiety in your heart when your son or daughter does not come home on time and you worry whether he or she is still alive. This is where you lay aside your agenda and have serious conversations about Black Lives Matter.
This is not a political conversation about an organization. This is a conversation about putting the love of God into action in everyday situations. If you do a good job here, you will be modeling the values that our law enforcement officers need to respect and protect all people, regardless of skin color.
Invite others to engage in loving people.
As a follower of Jesus, this is where you put your love into action and invite others to join you in loving as they, too, have been loved. Jesus said, “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.
These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). In other words, the study of scripture leads you to Jesus. In the love you have received in and through him, you stand up, speak out, and work for justice.
It is important that you do not miss this action. The whole purpose and point of the scripture are to lead you to Jesus and to follow him into the world so that the world might be who and what God created it to be. Truly, this is not up for debate or negotiation.
The Bible can give you truth, wisdom, guidance, hope, encouragement, inspiration, warning, correction, and so on, but it does not give you life. Only Jesus gives you life. And Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
This is the place for action. This where you and your church can make a public statement against racism and for anti-racism. This is where you can boldly proclaim “Black Lives Matter” because you are loved, regardless of skin color.
What’s Your Next Step?
Lesslie Newbigin wrote, “It is a terrible misunderstanding of the Gospel to think that it offers us salvation while relieving us of responsibility for the life of the world, for the sin and sorrow and pain with which our human life and that of our fellow men and women are so deeply interwoven.”
With that in mind, what one step will you take to address racism. I know it can be confusing, but you must start somewhere. So, as a Jesus follower, seeking to grow in your relationship with Christ, with your church, and with the community, what one step will you take to address racism?
There are books to read, conversations to have, and relationships to develop. There are lessons to learn, habits to unlearn, and people to encounter. Not everyone is in the same place in their understanding and participation in racism. But it is past time to begin. What one step will you take to address racism in your life, your church, and your community?
Please know that you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation to deepen your relationships as you face the evil of racism.
If you are reading this sentence, know that I am praying for you and your ministry. Now, pray for me that I will become more the person God has created me to be for this time in history. I may be weary, but I have not lost hope.