If you grew up white like me, you most likely grew up with a blindfold over your eyes. We were taught that slavery was done away with years ago and that equality was eventually found sometime later.
Yet here we are today with recent race riots unlike anything our generation has seen. The Black Lives Matter movement has made it clear that those with darker skin are still being treated unjustly today and if we have the eyes to see, we will agree—for those of us who are white know little or nothing of what it’s like to get pulled over because of our skin color. We don’t know what it’s like to prepare ahead of time for a cop to approach our car by putting our wallet on the dashboard and by keeping both our hands on the steering wheel so that we don’t raise any suspicion.
Stories like this are a wake up call to all of us. We have seen the tension at play over the years and have witnessed the death of many of our black brothers and sisters to trigger-happy and irrationally scared policemen who were on edge because the person they were dealing with had a different skin color than them. The events are no longer isolated, the stories are no longer on the down-low, and the injustice is now visible.
By this point in history, we have to understand that God loves everyone and that we are called to love who he loves, serve who he serves, and go to the ends of the earth with his name. He loves no person more than the other and he views no race as greater or lesser. We are all the same in God’s eyes and so we shouldn’t be seeing racial issues like these. I shouldn’t feel like I keep seeing black people pulled over on the highway for a drug search outside of a primarily white country town—especially when the white kids of that town seemed to talk more about smoking weed than any mixed school I ever attended.
This isn’t to say that all cops are bad or anything—that would be reverse stereotyping and another kind of injustice—but we have to face the facts that racism is happening.
It’s time we be honest and admit to the racism that we find inside ourselves so that we may expose it for what it is and begin to turn away from it, for that exposure has power. For example, when a good friend of mine was trying to tell me that there was no inherent racism in many of the violent police cases that were coming to light, they abruptly stopped talking when I pointed to the racism in myself. “Why is it that I am more apt to want to lock my doors when a black man walks down the road than when a white man does?” I asked. “If I can begin to recognize the racist tendencies in myself, I can begin to see the stories in the light that black people do.”
This confession flew out of my mouth so quick that I was unable to stop it and I might have been more affected by it than the person I was talking to. I had just admitted to the great crime of the 21st century, but in doing so I had set myself free. I had put myself in a place where I would now have to recognize those thoughts when they came up. If I could recognize them in me, I could recognize them in others—and if I could recognize them in others, I could begin to more truly sympathize with those that racial injustice affected. I find that I can’t necessarily stop a racist thought from happening, but I can “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). I can grab it, interrogate it, and stop it from materializing in my actions.
There must be peace among us. We must fight injustice. We must become what Jesus expected his church to be. Jesus is not coming back for a white bride, but a diverse one! He’s coming back for a bride whose genetics show signs of every race—one that is at peace within herself and not at war —one that represents what Paul called “the fullness of the Gentiles” (Ro 11:25).
When did the white church take so much authority in the first place? Unless you’re Jewish, you’re still the dog that eats the crumbs that fall from the master’s table (Mt 15:27). What makes us so much more special than everyone else?
The Jesus answer? Absolutely nothing. God shows no partiality (Ac 10:34; Ro 2:11). He is no respecter of persons. If anything, as a Christian you are to always consider yourselves as lesser than your neighbor and serve them—for if Jesus the master can take on the form of a servant and wash his disciples’ feet, then we also need to wash one another’s feet. He has set the example and we are expected to follow it (Jn 13:15-16).
Serving others and washing their feet does away with racism. Pope Francis’ powerful display has shown that more than once as he has bent down to wash the feet of Muslim, Hindu, Catholic and Coptic Christians. He may be the head leader of Catholicism, but in this incredible act of humility, he has made himself a servant to many of those who are different than him.
That’s the world we must aim for. A world in which police officers wash the feet of black men and women; where CEO’s wash the feet of janitors; where popes wash the feet of migrants.
Without that humility, others begin to look different to us—not the same. Mix some power into that racism and suddenly, incredible atrocities start happening—whether it’s the violence of the Crusades; killing Indians and taking their land; keeping slaves and considering them 3/5ths of a human being; celebrating the death of enemies; or claiming America as God’s favorite.
You can’t miss the fact that this is all a form of racism. It’s considering people different than you to be lesser than you. It’s not peace, and it’s not Christian. For the Christian serves the stranger them and treats them as more important than themselves.
This is an adapted excerpt from my book, A Taste of Jesus.