Dear Readers: I believe the Holy Spirit Thursday morning gave me a prophetic analogy to help us all see beyond the obvious with what is going on in our nation in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd. So bear with me – knowing that the analogy breaks down in a couple of places.
One of the challenging marital dynamics we pastors and marriage and family therapists have to deal with from time to time - is the occasional occurrence of wives laying their lives down for their husbands and children; and husbands taking that for granted and continuing to pursue their careers, hobbies, and other non marital and non family building interests.
Typically the wife is very responsible, conscientious, observant, diligent and hands on with raising the kids; keeping the house in order; trying to support her husband in his pursuits, etc. She’s not perfect, and a big reason for whatever imperfections (like maybe insecurity or fear) she walks in is because of living in a male dominated society that in general does not know how to honor women.
So back to the wife in the home. In the beginning she often overlooks her husband’s tendency to take her selfless hard work for granted; and to not join with her in all of these family priorities and responsibilities. She will try to keep peace. Eventually she will drop a hint here and there hoping he will understand. But typically he does not understand. So the stress and frustration and disappointment and resentment builds until finally she erupts, at which point the husband does kind of understand. He will usually at that explosion point, quickly, but temporarily make whatever adjustment she has emoted about. But once things calm down again and everyone is seemingly stable or happy again, he goes back to his same patterns.
Sometimes the issue can be as simple as putting his socks or clothes where they go instead of leaving them in the floor or on the bed or on a chair in their bedroom. The wife will do it for him initially. Then she will drop a hint or make a sincere request. As this continues, she may make a snide comment. Then a bark. Then usually when other stresses are contributing, she will explode, at which point he responds and hangs up his clothes, or puts them in the laundry hamper or the appropriate drawer or wherever. He might even apologize.
Worst case scenario: This will happen in several areas of home life, over a long period of time. The husband will react, and very unwisely speak to his wife about her anger issues. He or someone else (maybe even a church leader) may even suggest she get counseling for her anger issues. I’ve heard of wives who for years have layed their lives down for their husbands and children. They suffered emotional and mental and financial and verbal and even sexual abuse at the hands of their husband. And then finally the wife explodes and hits her husband or throws something at him. He then calls the Police or Sheriff, and they come and arrest the wife for domestic violence, being oblivious to all the years of abuse by her husband. More times than not, that extreme doesn’t happen. But the next thing the husband knows – his wife wants a separation or divorce or is pursuing a relationship with another man who seems more responsible and less selfish than him.
The best case scenario: After this pattern has occurred a handful of times, the husband will go to the Lord and to whatever mentor he can find, who not only understands the evil of this pattern, but has overcome it himself. This husband will repent of his sins towards his wife and children. And with help from wherever he can get help, he will put into place lifestyle attitudes and practices and spiritual disciplines so that he on his own sees the things that need to be done in his marriage and in his home. And by the grace of God he does them consistently out of the fear of the Lord, and out of a growing pure and genuine love for his wife.
So in this analogy, turning our thoughts now to the ever fragile relationship in our nation between Whites and African Americans, in general terms - who is the wife and who is the clueless husband? I believe in general the wife represents our African American citizens, and the husband we White folk.
Listen friends, dirty socks and dirty underwear lying around on the floor over a period of months or years are nothing compared to 246 years of legal slavery in the United States of America ending finally in 1865. Add to that another 100 years of legal racial discrimination finally ending in 1964 with the passing of the Civil Rights Act. And then add to all of that - the senseless murder of one of the most beloved, non violent, peaceful, but oh so courageous African Americans ever to live in our nation – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the age of 39 years old, by a white man. And then add to that all of the senseless murders at the hands of white men since then. And we White people are in shock at the explosion of emotion going on in our nation right now of George Floyd?
Here’s the rest of the story folks: I believe Jesus Christ has called us White folk to a God glorifying marriage with our African American brothers and sisters. He has never agreed with our “Central Coast Coexist” mentality, which basically is:
- "I will not say anything unkind or ungodly about African Americans"
- "I will not do anything unkind or ungodly towards African Americans"
- "I will not participate in any kind of overt discrimination towards African Americans"
- "I will smile at them if I see them out and about"
- "but I will continue to live my independent white privileged life without any intentional efforts towards loving my fellow African American citizens as myself"
We are called to a much higher plane than that. Jesus died for much more than that.
Too much damage has been done; too much wounding of their souls has taken place. It is a gaping oozing wound, and it will never be healed until we White people, who have been greatly blessed by God, go out of our way as a lifestyle to bridge the great divide in any way we can. If there was ever a need for peacemakers and repairers of the breach – it is now!
So where in the world do we start? Well I would like to suggest we first get a firm grip on some basic biblical truths.
From my studies of the scriptures, I want to start by saying, there really is only one race – and that of course is the human race. The apostle Paul – in an open air spontaneous address to people gathered in Athens one day made this very clear. Allow me to read part of his address, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man (Adam) every nation (ethnos from which we get the English word ethnic) of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, …” Acts 17:24-28
This passage teaches us several things:
1. All humans have descended from Adam. Therefore we all have one human father, therefore we are all of one race.
2. While we descended from Adam, we were created by God. God created us, and sustains us - - our very breath comes from Him.
3. He has determined our ethnicity and even where we live with the overriding purpose that we might come to know Him as our Creator, Maker and Savior.
So biblically there is one race – humans, among whom there are many distinct and unique ethnic groups, all of whom are made in the image of God, and thus are absolutely equal in value and importance. We learn this early in the Bible from Genesis chapter 1 vs. 26 which states, “Then God said, “Let Us (Us being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Now we could spend hours talking about what it means to be made in the image of God. But allow me to camp on the obvious. To be made in the image of God means we have the capacity (unlike all the rest of creation) to love, and to live in relational unity and harmony with our fellow humans regardless of the diversity of our ethnicities, our gender, our background, just as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have lived together in perfect harmony and unity throughout eternity, despite the fact they carry out different roles and functions.
It was this conviction of the sanctity and value of all human life that caused our founding fathers to embed in our Declaration of Independence these words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And it was this Biblical conviction, along with the words I just quoted, perhaps more than any other that gave Dr. Martin Luther King the courage and stamina and authority to come against a mighty wall of racism in our nation back in the mid 1900’s.
In God’s eyes, all humans and all ethnic groups are equal in value. Biblically, God never meant for one to rise up over another in any kind of superiority or domination.
Some believe His people Israel is an exception to that. But that is not what the Bible teaches. When God first called Abraham to be the Father of this great nation Israel, He made it clear in Genesis 12:3 that a major part of His purpose in pouring out His favor, blessing and love on Israel is so that and I quote, “…. in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The Psalmist knew this and thus he prayed in Psalm 67: “God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us – That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.”
God did indeed bless Israel in many wonderful ways. But His blessing was never meant to become a source of pride or superiority for them. To the contrary it was meant to be a source of blessing for others. And at times it was. Often it was not.
Throughout Israel’s history with God, He often spoke to them about how they were to treat foreigners or aliens (people from other ethnic groups) such as in Deuteronomy 10:17-19 where Moses first speaks of God’s character and nature, and then how Israel should be like Him among the nations surrounding them, “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
When Israel lost sight of who God is and what He is like, and when they lost sight of their former slavery, and thus lost sight of their purpose among the nations of the earth, God had to discipline them, sometimes severely. I wish we could look at that in more depth, but we need to move on to Jesus.
When Jesus Christ – a Jew, not a White man - began His ministry on earth, He clearly focused His efforts on the Jews. His twelve disciples were all Jews. But both in His day to day interactions with people as He traveled from city to city, and in His teaching, He was preparing these twelve to take the good news of a Savior for all peoples to all peoples. Jesus’s ministry to the Samaritan woman and the Syrophoenician woman (both non Jews) are just two examples of such. When He cleansed the temple, He called it a “house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17). After He rose again and before He ascended to heaven, He met with His disciples and commanded them to make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19,20). This phrase “all the nations” is translated from the greek phrase (panta ta ethne) which is the word we get ethnic from, and has the idea more of ethnic groups or people groups than it does a political nation).
Two truths come up repeatedly in the writings of the New Testament. First Jesus died for all peoples. The apostle John was given a supernatural revelation of worship in heaven. Listen to the words from this song: “…You (Jesus) were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 Second., Jesus died for a unified and purified church as the apostle Paul stated, “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself He might make the two (Jews and Gentiles) into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” Ephesians 2:15,16 Later on in the same book speaking of the purpose of Christ’s death he wrote, “…that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing…” Ephesians 5:26
It was passages like this that led Bill McCartney (the former very successful head coach of the University of Colorado football team) to lay down his football career, and start a movement called The Promise Keepers. For a couple of decades instead of filling football stadiums with screaming football fans, Bill and his team filled stadiums all across our nation with White, African American, Asian and Hispanic men (7 million total) all longing to know and follow Christ, and be united with men of other ethnic groups. We worshipped and cried and repented together, especially of racist attitudes towards other ethnic groups and of the sin of neglecting our families. Racism was addressed in every single gathering.
But here we are again with protests and rioting in our city streets spurred by yet another senseless murder of an unarmed black man by a hard hearted and depraved white policeman. How should we – the church respond?
Well let me make a few suggestions:
1. Deepen your pursuit of God. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not perfect. But he would have never pulled off what he did without faith in a God who was bigger than the problems we face. And what he pulled off in his very short life is amazing! Listen to his words, “The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition, and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”
2. Ask God to teach you to pray with broken ownership of your people’s sins like Daniel and Nehemiah prayed. Daniel is one of the godliest men ever to live on this planet; but when he prayed for his people Israel, who were under the judgment of God (as in some ways I believe we are) he shared in their guilt. Listen to part of this great prayer in Daniel ch. 9 starting with vs. 4, “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, …we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances..” For many years we white folk enslaved our fellow African Americans, treating them like animals, splitting up their families, sometimes sexually abusing their women, sometimes murdering the men if we felt they were out of line. When slavery was finally overturned we continued to treat them as sub humans – discriminating against them as to where they could sit on a public transport bus; where they could sit in a restaurant; and in a hundred other ways; arresting them if they batted an eye lash at a white person; taking justice into our own hands and lynching them in our neighborhood trees; establishing the majority of our abortion clinics in their neighborhoods resulting in far more of their babies being aborted than ours; and on and on the list of sins goes. I realize some of the riots and violence to person and property going on in our cities is being instigated by organized anarchists that are just taking advantage of another dagger in the heart of our African American brothers. But if you and I – watching all of this - find ourselves judging the emotional responses of our fellow African American citizens, then we haven’t given proper attention to the sins I’ve just listed, not to mention all the ones I didn’t list.
3. Ask God to cleanse you from generational sins. God’s clearly stated will and greatest commandment or expectation – several times repeated in the Bible - Bibles that were easily accessible to your parents - was that they were to love God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind, and their neighbor as themselves, which if they were white, certainly included African American people. If your parents did not try to live this way as a lifestyle, and help you live this way as a lifestyle, then you most likely grew up in a home for an average of 20 years wherein racism was at least latent, if not expressed. It is impossible to not be marked by that; and Jesus wants you to be absolutely cleansed of every vestige of it. Not only that, he wants you to turn this trajectory around in your family and clan.
4. Take every opportunity to interact with African American people as the Holy Spirit leads you – especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ. "White privilege" is very real, especially here on the Central Coast where we can go days without even getting near an African American. All the more why when we do get the opportunity we need to seize it again as the Holy Spirit leads and opens a door.
5. Follow Mother Teresa’s advice with ever greater diligence and focus: “If you want to bring happiness to the world, go home and love your family.” But recognize that if you truly love your family, you will help them truly love God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind and love their neighbor (especially folk of color) as themselves. Families who practice this have the potential of being greatly used of God to bring healing to our nation.
6. Finally repent and turn to Christ. If you have never stopped your busy distracted life and admitted to God you need His mercy and forgiveness, and that it can only come through Jesus and what He did on the cross for us – you need to do it now.
“By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists … Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.” Martin Luther King Jr.