Listening, Seeing, Weeping, Praying

There are so many voices today, speaking, shouting, accusing, pleading, weeping, and praying. Some voices tell me that, as a white woman, I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. Other voices tell me that, as a white woman, I need to speak up. Nothing I ever write or say will please everyone. But I’d rather try to say something, instead of staying silent and appearing indifferent, because I do truly care about my brothers and sisters of color. I’ve waited only because I am prone to say stupid things if I rush myself. But I have been listening, watching, weeping, and praying.

There’s so much that I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up and live in this country as a person of color. I do not feel a difference in other people’s perceptions of me based upon my skin color. I do not have the same fears sending my sons out into the world that my African American sisters have. I don’t even know the extent to which I can’t understand the lifelong and generations-deep differences between us. There are no shoes I can wear that will allow me to walk a mile in the life of a Black person.

But this I do know—in the core of my being, deeper than skin or culture can reach, I share with every member of the human race the same nature that we all inherited from our first parents. God created man in his own image, but when Adam and Eve sinned, that image was shattered, and they bequeathed to every one of us the sin nature from which flows every evil ever committed, to include racism, hatred, and murder. The corruption was immediate and total. The very first son Eve bore murdered his brother. Reaching for the forbidden, in order to elevate themselves at the bidding of the Serpent, our parents plunged us into the abyss of sin and separation from our loving, wise, and holy Creator God and from each other. We ALL have sinned and gone astray (Rom. 3:23).

Scripture tells us that our sinful actions originate in our hearts (Mark 7:21). Our sins certainly are shaped by the cultural environments in which we are raised. And different cultures lead to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding one another may not be a sin, but when my lack of understanding turns into a refusal to see or listen, that is sin. Cultural change and understanding are needed, but lasting change can’t begin at that level. Real and lasting change must begin in the heart. Yet scripture also tells us that we cannot change our deceptive hearts (Jer. 17:9); we need new hearts. We cannot repair the shattered image; we must be made new.

Thankfully, God made a covenant with his people to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises the heart-transplant that we need: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). By grace, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, we are made new: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Then, and only then—in Christ—can we truly be reconciled to God and to one another.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Cor. 5:18–21).

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:13–19).

Reconciled through Christ, to God and one another, all Christians, no matter the color of our skin or the differences in our cultural upbringing, are members of the body of Christ. Therefore we are to care for one another and share one another’s pain and suffering just as if we literally shared the same flesh. “God has so composed the body (of Christ—the church) . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Cor. 12:24–26). I may not be able to relate fully to or entirely understand the pain that racism causes my Black brothers and sisters, but at the deepest level, because of Christ, I share that pain. In order to help carry the burden, and maybe even ease the pain, I need to be willing to listen, to see, and try to understand.

Listening and seeing and fighting against my own misunderstanding requires depths of love and humility that I do not on my own possess. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial love for me, I am called to love my brothers and sisters in a sacrificial way (1 John 3:16). I’m not only to give lip-service to this love, but I am to walk it out in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). Fortunately, Jesus paved the way, so that, encouraged by him, comforted by his love, and participating in his Spirit, I can follow him in his humble love-in-action for others (Phil. 2:3–8).

So I’m standing up and confessing that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I denied the reality of injustice and oppression and prejudice that my Black brothers and sisters have testified to for years—generations—a reality to which I turned a blind eye. Please, forgive me. I am listening and will continue to listen. I will weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). I will support any further legislation that will help to bring justice. But most of all, and most effectively, I will pray. Speaking to the One Who alone can bring true and lasting change, I will petition the Lord to bend the heavens and come down, that his justice will roll down like waters, and his righteousness like an ever-flowing stream upon our land (Amos 5:24), that his peace would be the balm to heal the broken hearts of the oppressed.

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. —Psalm 10:17–18

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