Four Responses to Our Racial Divide

Unintentionally in 2014, Flourish started a new year practice of identifying the biggest ministry lesson of the previous year. We wrote about Rick and Kay Warren’s national visibility in loss of their son. We felt strongly their powerful example provided for us many lessons in our own visible pain or losses.

We can learn in the midst of public crisis, tensions or high profile stories. As leaders we need to be informed and equipped to speak into issues. Big issues will trickle down to our context at church, or at the water cooler or in the neighborhood. These are opportune moments. With intentionality and grace we may influence others with gospel-centered conversations.

The biggest ministry lesson for 2014 is the glaring racial divide and tensions that exist in our nation. This uneasiness plays out in our own cities, towns, neighborhoods, and churches. On the nightly news we see dramatic footage of anger and frustrations from Ferguson, Mo. to New York City. It is polarizing from every perspective.

In light of this, we cannot avoid the topic. Nor should we.

Here are four responses to the racial divide:

Accept the fact your lens is narrow and it may fuel profound misunderstanding.

This response is first for a reason. This response is a foundational understanding in pursuing healing on this issue. We all live unique human experiences that frame how we see every issue whether we are white or black. We have all live very distinct lives in very different places. Our narrow lens unconsciously creates a very narrow perspective, one that is often misinformed. and quite frankly very hurtful. We must intentionally enlarge our lens– see other’s perspective in order to not draw conclusions out of ignorance.

Acknowledge the reality.

The racial divide is real. No denying it. It would be uninformed and damaging to suggest otherwise. If your experience does not include the staggering reality of the racial divide perhaps you should pay attention to the facts. In the New York Times piece, “America’s Racial Divide, Charted” the undeniable facts are in:

But by most measures, black and white Americans are still living in radically different societies – and there is no reason to believe that will change anytime soon.

Many other gaps – between men and women, between non-Hispanics and Hispanics – have shrunk substantially over the last few decades. But the black-white racial divide remains as central to American life as it has been for centuries.

Take some time to peruse these charts on the shocking lack of progress made by the black community. It underscores the magnitude of the problem. Listen to these stories and hear the voices.
Grieve that reality.
Do not miss the sorrow in this matter. That people created in the image of God could become so filled with such animosity ought to crush us. The reality of the racial tensions means that prejudice, injustice, cruelty and violence are occurring based solely on skin color or ethnicity. That fact ought to break our hearts.
Recommit yourself to this truth: The Gospel provides hope.

Appropriating the truth of the gospel is the only solution. We are given new identities in Christ that override our ethnic characteristics. Our unity is in Jesus and His gospel. No, we don’t have to LOSE our ethnicity. As Bryan Loritts stated, “My Jesusness must always trump my blackness.” (And whites will add: “Our whiteness.”)

Just FYI, this is not a new issue, Paul was addressing this same human condition in the early church. He is stating that the unity of the gospel trumps earthly identities based on race or nationalities.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. — Galatians 3:27-29
There IS hope in the Gospel. In fact it truly is the only hope. It has the power to move us our fractured relationships to this scene:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10
We cannot believe in these things in theory and not in practice. Our next blog points us to action items we should consider.
What are your thoughts on the racial divide?

Published January 12, 2015