A special post for If:Gathering and Be the Bridge.
“All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. And all my white friends have one black friend.”—Chris Rock, comedian
In Genesis, God asks Cain where his brother was not because He didn’t know where Abel was, but because He wanted Cain to acknowledge his responsibility for his brother’s fate. While we haven’t killed anyone, I believe we have abdicated responsibility for our sisters. Because our sister may not look like us or live where we live or worship where we worship we have told ourselves the lie that what happens to her doesn’t affect me.
The New Testament reminds believers over and over again that once they belong to Christ they are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters. Once we are adopted into fellowship with God, anyone who also has been adopted becomes our brother and sister in Christ (John 1:12-13, 1 John 5:1). More than an empty platitude, the change in family status meant something to New Testament Christians (Acts 2:42-47).
I believe God is calling on the women of this generation to remember their sisters, the ones who are trafficked, the ones struggling to make ends meet, the ones mourning the deaths of their teenaged sons, and the ones facing the pain and consequences of racism. More than remember, we should be in the trenches with our sisters, because if she feels marginalized, ignored, forgotten, lonely, we should be there, because that’s where Jesus would be.
The problem of racism has not been addressed by those most qualified to actually fix the problem – the church. Most Christians fall into one of three camps, the first camp argues racism is a thing of the past and since they do not consider themselves racist, think everyone just needs to move on. The second camp acknowledges racism still exists, but they do not want to rock the boat so they are silent. The third camp is in the trenches actively working to demolish racism in their churches and communities.
Racism isn’t just conscious hate like that of the young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters at Wednesday night bible study, it is a complex system of social and political structures set up to preserve the superiority of a particular race. In this country, racism created a system to elevate white Americans over non-white Americans first through the attempted erasure of Native American culture, then slavery, then through restricting immigration from Asian countries, and then segregation.
But, even with the formal end of segregation, the effects still linger, because when you spend 200 plus years building walls between racial groups you cannot demolish that wall or its effects in 40 years. Even for those who are not personally racist, the stain of racism still lingers in our society, in our individual prejudices, in our speech, in our jokes, in where we live, in where our kids go to school, and sometimes in our churches.
According to Ephesians 2:14-22, the blood of Christ allows us to be reconciled to God, but it also allows us to be reconciled to one another as God’s people. The reconciliation of the gospel does not remove differences, but it does unite us as one body. If we are truly sisters then you should care about my experiences as an African American woman in America.
As my sister you should not tolerate prejudice, favoritism or racism because we are all created in the image of God and to tolerate those things is to disregard that truth.
Our love for our sisters should not just be true in word, but also in deed. While prayer is powerful, we can no longer afford to simply pray for more racially diverse friendships or the end of racial inequality or against racial hatred, we must act. James 2:17 tells us faith without works is dead and it is time to move beyond just prayer.
It is not enough to not be personally racist. It is not OK to hear racist talk or see racist behavior and be silent. To paraphrase Bishop Desmond Tutu, to be silent in the face of injustice is to choose the side of the oppressor. In the same way, I would not stand silently by if someone made cruel or hurtful remarks behind, my little sister Candace’s back, you better believe if I hear something racist about Latinas, I will speak up. Because you aren’t just talking about a faceless group of brown women, you are talking about my sister, Melessa.
If we are sisters, we should know one another, we should laugh too loud together, we should share what the Lord is doing in our lives, we should sit together over coffee, we should pray for one another at our kitchen tables, our kids should play together, and we should invite each other to church.
An important first step is to look beyond your limited worldview and getting to know someone who isn’t just like you. This will require lots of grace-filled conversations full of tough questions, but the work must be done for the sake of gospel. If we are to demonstrate to the world what it means to be daughters of the King, we can begin by showing our supernatural unity despite our differences.