Happy Birthday to my dear mother, Beverly Ann Stanglin, who probably celebrated this morning with a free breakfast at Denny’s in Kilgore. Classy, dad! She’s seventy today. Seventy. Mom, you’re officially, legally, undeniably old now. Seventy is old. That’s you. And you’re doing it very well. I love you.
Racism is alive and well in the United States and, sadly, throughout the entire world. No one can deny it. We have passed anti-racism legislation and outlawed racist practices. We have marched and preached, promised and reformed. We have boycotted, protested, and rioted. Yet racism is seemingly just as much a local and global problem right now as it was a hundred years ago, if not worse.
Obviously, racism has not been ended, nor will it be ended in our lifetimes. And that’s a terrible thing to believe. It’s a horrible thing to be true. But it probably shouldn’t lead to despair for followers of Jesus.
Racism, just like all sin, is the result of something good gone bad. Mark Galli, in a recent column for Christianity Today, reminds us that racism is an evil distortion of affection for loved ones. Affection for loved ones makes family pride possible. It allows us to feel and display pride in our community. And that’s healthy. But just like healthy sexual attraction is prone to turn into lust and healthy self-esteem might turn into pride, healthy loyalty to one’s own people can easily turn into racism.
Galli’s point is this: given our sinful nature and the fallen condition of the world, we will never get rid of racism in this age any more than we will get rid of lust or pride.
But just because we can’t completely wipe out racism doesn’t mean we have to give in to its nasty and sinful expressions. And isn’t this where God’s Church comes in?
Like with lust, our societies create social norms and laws to keep it in check. We expect men to refrain from making lewd comments to women and we prosecute employers who sexually exploit their employees. Christ’s Body can lead the way in similar fashion as it relates to racism. If we acknowledge the terrible reality, if we can admit that there’s no way human beings are ever going to eradicate sin, we can turn our eyes and our hopes toward the only One who can. We can confess honestly, we can forgive faithfully, and we can work together toward various gospel expressions of reconciliation.
It requires accountability. It takes patience and long-suffering, love and kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. These are the characteristics of the Spirit of our God who lives inside us. This isn’t about disposing of all tensions, it’s about creating space where people can commit to reconciliation and can treat each other with grace and mercy through the tensions.
It’s the only way.
In the meantime, we wait in hope together. We wait for the great day of true and eternal reconciliation between the races when that “great multitude… from every nation, tribe, people, and language” worships our God together.