Exposing the Truth
During this worldwide pandemic, it seems to many like the world has stopped. We have experienced a level of uncertainty no one could have fully prepared for. It seems as though all of the things people could so easily sweep under the rug are now exposed.
When I saw the attack of Ahmaud Arbery of Brunswick, Georgia on the news, my stomach dropped. As an African American woman myself, hearing about so many racially charged deaths my whole life has been hard enough to process. This time felt personal, and the blow stung much longer than ever before. My family lives in Brunswick, Georgia. I could not help but imagine the faces of my loved ones on the body of this young African American male with his whole life ahead of him.
As my world stood still without the distraction of my job and other activities that once filled my weekly schedule, I felt even more wounded and vulnerable. I lamented with this young man’s family. I began to pray prayers of protection for my own. The evil of racism in America has always existed, but the systemic racism that is costing the lives of more and more Black women and men every day is now being captured on camera. It is reaching eyes across the globe. We, as Christians, cannot afford to just turn a blind eye.
The Prerequisite to Action
The injustices that plague our nation are now at the center of the conversation. Those who have had the privilege of escaping these issues are now eager to understand. Many people have contacted me wanting to know how to make a difference. What many people forget is the heart issue and ultimately the sin issue behind it all. A good question to answer next is, “Are you willing to go through a process?”
The prerequisite to action, and ultimately speaking out, is seeking healing from within by processing the truth. This requires education to unveil a dark history that continues to live on in the present. It requires shedding light on the root of it all, on the creation of race as a social and political device to divide and oppress.
The next step is repentance. Once we admit that we all have a very specific role to play, and identify areas in which we have neglected to act, a change of heart and perspective follow by the work of the Holy Spirit. This transformation means it should be almost impossible to turn a blind eye to these brutal and violent expressions of hate and do nothing. After our eyes are open, this realization should compel us to act. At this point, we can speak out.
Processing the Truth
I hear the statement “I want to learn because I did not know” so often lately. Race is something that impacts Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) every single day. I remember hoping I would be seen as more than just new material for a racist joke, someone to watch closely like a criminal in a convenient store, or a threat to someone’s immediate safety while living in rural South Georgia.
An entire community lives day to day with these same hopes. Meanwhile, our White sisters and brothers have the privilege of not being forced to consider any of these preconceived notions before leaving the safety of their homes. The truth is that God calls his people to obedience to the Gospel. He tells us not to conform to our former ways when we were ignorant of the truth (1 Peter 1:14). With knowledge of the existence of sin like systemic racism comes the responsibility to respond.
Scars and Forgiveness
There have been many instances in my life when people have gone out of their way to make racial slurs that left internal scars. A former high school classmate of mine contacted me a few weeks ago. He reminded me that he made a comment to me that he now recognizes was racist, ignorant, and insensitive. Although he remembers apologizing, he said he did not fully understand at the time how hurtful his words were.
This classmate said the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have made him angry and upset due to the disregard for Black lives that continues to plague this country.
He said, “As I’ve contemplated what I can do to try and make a difference and effect change, I’ve realized that it starts with me, and all white people, to acknowledge when we have said things that are racist and insensitive. We have to continue searching our own souls to root out any prejudice that exists. Nothing can or should excuse what I said to you. But I do ask for your forgiveness for my insensitivity and ignorance at the time. In many ways, I am a different person now than I was then. Moving forward I hope to continue growing and checking my own privilege as I strive to continually become a better version of myself.”
Healing from Within
Many people of color bear the internal scars of racial trauma that come from being a minority in America. So many of us remember specific faces, comments, and unfair treatment that have scarred our souls. While the world’s response would be vengeance, retaliation, and hatred, God wants us to give him our scars for him to heal. When we choose to follow the Lord we are putting on “the new self.”
The Lord tells us in Colossians 3:13 that forgiving those who persecute us is part of this healing process. My Grammy used to tell us that unforgiveness typically does more damage to the place where it’s stored than to the person on which it’s poured.
When we understand the magnitude of our own sin and the stripes Jesus bore on the cross for our sin, we remember our need for forgiveness and grace. God chose to love us despite our sin that nailed his Son to the cross (Romans 5:8). He calls us to extend this same grace to others (John 13:34). God loves us from where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there (Ephesians 2:4–6). When we experience God’s love and grace, we begin to understand that we need to exercise grace just as we have received it.
Repentance that Speaks
As we’re seeking to find ways to be agents for change, it’s hard to identify what to think, what to say, what to do, how to respond, and what role to play. Everyone can play an important role in the battle against injustice and should move forward in confidence and peace. Instead, many people feel pressured into acting after being “guilted” into doing something by someone else or not compelled to do anything at all.
God is a gentleman who simply asks us to give from what he has already given us. The questions we should ask ourselves are, “What do I have?” or “What has God given me?” The Lord tells us that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts. Each part has a specific job that contributes to the proper functioning of the full body (1 Corinthians 12:14–20).
In the same way, God calls us to serve according to our own giftings. This also means the way in which I contribute to the cause of racial reconciliation may look different than my neighbor’s. God expects us to give from what we have. If you are a writer, you can use your pencil. In the same way, if you are a speaker, you can use your voice to speak words of wisdom. If you are a singer, you can lift your voice to move the hearts of many. Let’s do our part and own it!
What Can You Offer?
What skills, gifts, abilities, and areas of influence do you have to offer in the ministry of racial reconciliation? You may choose to exercise your right to vote and elect government officials who believe in providing resources that do not exclude minorities. There are local businesses owned by people of color that you can support. Maybe this makes you more aware of the diversity or lack of diversity in your friend groups and who you let your children invite to your home. The goal is not to be color blind but to be inclusive.
In response to the message the boy from my high school sent me, I knew that God was calling me to obey his words in Colossians 3:13. I thanked the boy for his apology and acknowledgment and shared that he is forgiven by me and the Lord. God’s love and grace allow me to respect the person he is becoming and be thankful for his vulnerability in the name of obedience to God’s call for reconciliation.
My prayer is that we, as Christ-following women, would recognize racism for the sin that is. May we use what the Lord has given us to make an impact in our homes, places of work, communities, churches, and throughout the world. In a sinful world filled with uncertainty, we can place our confidence in our Creator. He has the power to heal broken places with his love. His selfless love models the heart posture he wants us to have toward others.
God’s command to love others in John 13:34 does not exclude those who look different than us. Instead we are encouraged to reach inside even the lowest parts of ourselves to love everyone and forgive those who persecute us. When we love others well, we are truly living lives of obedience.
Consider the list of resources found on Latasha Morrison’s Be the Bridge website. The heart of this organization is to make sure people and their organizations are fully equipped to respond to racial injustice and remain grounded in biblical truth. No matter where you are on the spectrum of engagement, this is a great place to start.
Meet the Author:
Mariah Hollis has the privilege of serving as a Music Educator at Northside Elementary School, where she was named 2019–2020 Teacher of the Year. Her world includes singing songs, playing instruments, dancing, and turning into a frog-kissing princess for sweet students in grades K–5. When she is not in her classroom, she enjoys serving middle and high school students in the local church. She has recently spoken as a WinShape Camps communicator for the past two summers and is grateful to continue to participate in opportunities that allow her to fulfill her calling as a mouthpiece for the Lord unto all nations.