There are very few times in my life when I found myself so frustrated that I could not sleep. But tonight, tonight I’ve tossed about in my bed like a rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic. Frustration has a way of doing that to a man. It assaults the mind and emotions and it will not relent until some form of release is given it.
I find myself frustrated because I’m desperately trying to be like Jesus in a world that shamelessly renounces Him. The narrative that is being forced on me demands more than I am willing to give and lays a path of acceptance of which I’m not willing to traverse. I can’t surrender to this culture my identity in Christ and I won’t surrender His blueprint for humanity only to exchange it for culture’s dysfunctional rendering.
But silence is not an option, as for most, silence is an admission of guilt or an expression of apathy. Since i’m neither guilt-ridden or apathetic, speaking is the only option. Racism exists – it would be naive not to think so. I am white and don’t experience it – I’m not so naive that I don’t understand this. There are ramifications that are experienced by other nationalities i’ll never have to face. Hear my heart as I would be out of line to dismiss such obvious civil violations. I get that racism happens outside of the laws of this land. These concerns are valid but they are not the concerns I’m addressing. I am writing solely from what should be the Christian response.
So these are the thoughts of frustration that have made sleep so elusive this evening. They are catapulted by this single crucible:
As a believer I am confronted with the realization that in this culture’s eyes, I will never be enough.
I Will Always Be a Bigot
As a follower of Jesus, culture will label me a bigot because for a sinful society, inflexibility is synonymous with hatred. It’s interesting that bigotry is defined as intolerance toward someone holding a different opinion, however in a world that is ruled by the father of lies and deception, bigotry only applies to the follower of Jesus. Either I turn from Christ and accept every sinful whim of humanity, or I accept that in culture’s eyes I’ll be a bigot. John 15:18 provides no respite in this moment.
There will always exist this tension between Christ and Culture. So what must I do? I must become familiar with the ire and the rejection. I must remember who I am and whose I am. I must be ok being labeled a bigot, even if such a statement could not be more wrong. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
I Will Always Be a Racist
By society’s standards I may also be labeled a racist. The cultural narrative pleads that I become part of the solution to end racism. The problem is that the only solution I see comes by way of reconciliation through Jesus Christ and I can’t value culture’s solutions over Jesus’ mandates. Don’t get me wrong, racism infuriates me. It literally sickens me to my stomach. I can’t take it. But society provides NO long lasting solution. It calls for behavior modification when what we really need is spiritual transformation. It aims to convince me that because my skin is white I must be able to think only one way, or because your skin is dark you must be able to think only one way. But society fails to understand that the Mind of Christ prevails over skin tones.
Don’t believe me? Take a minute and play out every solution you can think of to end racism and let me know if you come to reasonable result. You won’t. There will always be a desire for more of ____________. Fill in the blank. Sin is insatiable that way. There will never be enough justice, there will never be enough reparations, there will never be enough help. Ever. Anyone who has ever tangled with sin knows that it will always take us farther than we want to go, demand more of us that we want to give, and cost more than we are able to pay. Combine the gross injustice of racism with the millennial mindset of entitlement and we have the perfect storm for a rapacious ethos.
Each and every believer who has ever aimed to follow Jesus wholeheartedly is now being commanded to give an account to culture. We’re left clamoring for evidence of how we are not racist or how we are not bigots. We list our Black, Asian, White, Hispanic, Gay and Indian friends like trophies. It’s as if we are standing before a jury of our peers hoping the evidence keeps us out of judgment’s gaze. But how many relationships of a different ethnicity are enough to no longer be racist? How do you determine whether nor not the value of a friendship passes the racial standard? How much justice is enough? How much understanding will be enough? How much acceptance of sin is enough to no longer be labeled a bigot? As long as culture drives the narrative there will never be enough. Raising awareness of injustice, hate, and inequality does not eliminate the root of sin. We’re merely pulling the leaves off the weed hoping that cosmetic cleanliness will eradicate the roots.
Culture places it’s standard in the middle of the ocean and beckons you to swim out and find it while it stands safely on the coast. It’s expectations are unrealistic, downright silly when you think about it, yet when I look around I find we are all waist deep in the water and moving further and further from the shore.
How Does This End?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we don’t have responsibilities. I have them. You have them. I’m not excusing racism of ANY sort toward ANY race. I’m simply declaring that as followers of Jesus first and foremost, we must refuse to let the color of our skin supersede our identity as a child of God. I will not apologize for who God made me to be because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I will not apologize and neither should you, no matter what shade your skin may be. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. There is no mention of skin color in Ephesians 2:10. We are equally loved by Him and equally called according to His purpose.
We must fight against the dysfunctional faux Christian voice that says, “Following the commands of Jesus is just not enough.” It will always be enough, even if it’s not enough for culture. We must always disagree with injustice of ANY kind, hatred, sin, revenge killings, brutality, jealousy, rage, racism, envy… and the list goes on. We must always disagree because it grieves the heart of Jesus and His Spirit alive within us serves notice. But society must also be enlightened to the realization that disagreement does not equal intolerance. Unfortunately our fingers blame are pointed at they symptoms and not the sickness.
Listen, child of God, don’t forget that in the midst of the noise, the difference is Jesus. He gives grace when society could not even tell you it’s definition. He gives love when sin makes us unlovable. I’m not saying we don’t have the conversation. I’m saying we must refuse to let society dictate the narrative. These are lives that are being taken by the enemy and our hearts must be broken for them. For their children. For their families. We can’t lose sight as our society seeks to leverage these unspeakable atrocities into political bargaining chips. We must make sure our anger is directed at the being who is truly responsible… the one who comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).
What Can We Do?
We must love when it’s uncomfortable. This is not a race statement. This is a humanity statement. It’s not exclusive to our current circumstances or being spoken in light of the recent offenses.
We must be empathetic, not just sympathetic. Jesus’ displays of compassion were incessant. We cannot be the determiners of our own sensitivity. If we are open to the Holy Spirit at work in us we will find that standing on the sidelines of compassion will not be an option. We must engage – we must feel – we must weep over the wickedness we see. Most of all, we must listen. We were given two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
We must listen to His commentary – His narrative – His passion for humanity and aim to be more like Him. Drown out the noise and find a place where you can be alone with God. Where you allow God to speak in the silence.
And finally, we must filter everything else through His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you, because in Him, you are enough.