Just about every Jesus follower wants racism to stop, but that’s different than working to stop racism.
Wanting to stop racism does count, but it’s only a start. Now, listen, this post won’t solve all these problems that have taken centuries to create. We probably won’t even get everything right. But we have to get better. So let’s start here, together. We’d love for you to read the whole post, or use the links below to navigate to your next step.
Why We Need to Do Better
To choose to be a follower of Christ is to follow the example of the way He lived His life. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously pointed out that the difference between the good Samaritan and the other two travelers in Jesus’ parable was the question they asked. The religious men walked on by wondering, “What will happen to me if I do something?” The good Samaritan stopped and reversed the question: “What will happen to the man if I do nothing?” Unfortunately, we’ve all had a lot of opportunities on social media and the news to see what happens when people do nothing.
If we believe racism is the opposite of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our goal isn’t just not to be racist. Our goal should be to oppose racism alongside people who are experiencing it. Because, ultimately, the temptation to overlook racism or let someone else handle it is a temptation to overlook Jesus and let someone else love Him (Matthew 25).
Practical Ways We Can Do Better
1. Remember that Values > Opinions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of race, it’s often a tragic event that gets us talking. There have been far too many of those lately. Still, we need to establish our values now instead of waiting on the next tragedy.
So, take this moment to identify your values. As Christians, we have clearly defined values throughout Scripture. Identify the value that is driving your emotion. Then, look to discover how that value aligns with God’s truth in Scripture. Maybe your value is justice, and it’s based in the truth of Jesus’ words in Luke 4:16-21. Your value could simply be loving your neighbor as yourself (one of the points Jesus was making in the story of the Good Samaritan). Whatever it is, own it and then live by it daily. We don’t all have to have the same values, but they should align with Scripture.
2. Follow Jesus’ lead.
As we read through the Gospels, we see God, in all of His glory and power, take on flesh as Jesus. And what did Jesus do? He moved decidedly toward people who were mistreated, underrepresented, and overlooked. Just look at what Jesus declared His plans were for His short time on earth:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 NIV
If Jesus had used social media, He wouldn’t have stopped there. He went into people’s homes, knelt down with them, walked with them, and loved them directly and actively. How will you follow Jesus directly into the midst of someone’s pain?
3. Pray for unity.
Prayer is not so much about getting God to hear your voice as it is about inviting God’s voice into your life. God is the source of justice, peace, unity, and hope. We need more of Him if we’re going to do better. Spend time on your knees, on your face, or walking around your neighborhood in prayer. Ask God for His heart. Not sure where to start? Ask God to give you a sustainable outrage against injustice and a sustainable passion for justice (2 Chronicles 7:14).
4. Be a learner.
It’s not enough to care about, speak up for, or even act on behalf of someone who’s been hurt by racism. We need to start by listening and getting to know people who are different from us (Proverbs 18:13). What does your inner circle look like? What do they believe? Where did they grow up? How did they grow up?
Be intentional about befriending people who will help expand your worldview but also befriend them just to be friends. People who don’t look like you aren’t an issue to be solved or a need to be helped. They’re people to know and love. Ask your friends to share personal stories, but don’t expect them to be your education. We will have to do the work to become aware (Proverbs 18:15).
How to Discover Our Own Biases
Bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another. We all have biases. We’re all in some way prejudiced. To be prejudiced is to form a judgment on an issue or person prematurely and without adequate information. Just try visiting your own family without being prejudicial at least once. Like, “I know Uncle Jim is going to say something about my new car.”
Why do we all do this? Our brains were created to sort information quickly and make judgments. It’s a survival mechanism that’s not inherently wrong.
So many things factor into our biases, and some of them we had no control over: where we were born, who our parents were, where we went to church as kids, did we go to church, what type of education was available to us, what our social circles looked like growing up—all of these things influenced us. Biases are not the core problem. The problem is when we don’t think we have them, or when we’re ruled by our biases, or when we keep poorly formed biases that counter godly beliefs and values (Matthew 7:1-5).
The next time you find yourself developing an opinion of someone—anyone—based on anything other than fully adequate and extensive first-hand information, stop and examine the bias. Ask yourself why you have it, where it might have come from, and whether or not it lines up with your beliefs and values. Then, act in the direction of your beliefs and values.
Reasons We Might Be Afraid of Speaking Up
Remember those biases we talked about earlier? Sometimes they can keep us from speaking up. Here are a few reasons we might be afraid to speak up against racism.
1. Maybe you feel like you’re not part of the problem.
The truth is, all of us have some area in our lives or in our hearts where we fall short of loving our neighbor (Romans 3:23, 1 Corinthians 13). But if we’re Jesus followers, we have no other option but to be part of the solution (John 13:35).
2. Maybe you don’t know what to say.
You might worry you don’t have the “right” words, so you say nothing. But we need to focus less on being seen as right and more on loving those who have been wronged (Exodus 4:10-12).
3. Maybe you’ve wondered, “But don’t all lives matter?”
Yes, they do, and that’s why Black lives matter (John 3:16). One does not negate the other. But the “all lives matter” response to your hurting neighbor is not the message Jesus followers should want to send. What if our cities told us all roads matter every time we mentioned a pothole? When Jesus left the 99 sheep for the one, it wasn’t because the 99 didn’t matter (Matthew 18:10-14). If we think justice for someone else means injustice for us, then God may have some work to do in our hearts. And isn’t there always room for God to make our hearts more like His?
4. Maybe you’ve thought we should be “color-blind.”
God isn’t color-blind. He sees color—that’s why He made it. For we are His masterpiece (Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10) that He created on purpose as the ultimate Artist. If we tell a person of color that we are color-blind, we are saying something like, “I don’t see you, and God didn’t mean to do that.” Is that what we meant to say? Probably not, but it’s what came out. If you’ve said something like that, now is the best time to make a change. There’s always enough grace for all of us to take another step closer to Jesus.
5. Maybe you think things used to be bad, but it’s better now, and everyone has the same opportunities.
Nope, we all have different opportunities, and with those different opportunities come different responsibilities. Jesus makes this point in several of His parables (see Matthew 25:14-30, Matthew 20:1-16, Luke 10:30-37, and more throughout Scripture).
6. Maybe you’re worried about what your family and friends will think.
People may disagree when you speak out. But Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25 that whatever we do for people who are oppressed, we do for Him. And likewise, He goes through the trouble of pointing out that the opposite is also true.
Whatever reasons we have not to act, now is always the best time to do what’s right. Where can you start? You might need to speak up when an uncle makes a racist joke, or when you hear someone talk about color blindness or “all lives matter.” You might need to speak out against unjust rules at work or where you live. Listen to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to give your next steps, because God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Find Helpful Resources
Most of these tools were not created by Life.Church, so we can’t affirm every word or idea. Still, they’ll be helpful as you identify your values, discover your biases, follow Jesus’ lead, and take action.
- Sign up to serve with a local missions partner.
- Read and watch Just Mercy.
- Join or start a LifeGroup to get to know people who are different than you.
- Watch Pastor Craig Groeschel’s message, Races Reconciled.
- Start the Bible Plan The Bible Project | Justice.
- Read Becoming Whole by Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic and start the Bible Plan.
- Start the Bible Plan Overrated.
- Start the Bible Plan Love Undocumented.
- Read Generous Justice by Timothy Keller.
- Start the Bible Plan Justice Parables.
- Start the Bible Plan The Poetry of Justice.