I saw the police officer with the knee on George Floyd’s neck and I heard him beg for his life. I watched bystanders trying to help but they were blocked by another police officer. Slowly, that man’s life slipped away. It made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted it to stop. I felt the same way when I watched Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down. In those moments it was horrifying to see those men lose their lives on camera for the world to see. It was the same feeling I had when I watched The Passion of the Christ during the whipping scene. I just wanted it to stop.
As I hear of protests going on for now over two weeks, with no end in sight, I have seen numerous cries on social media for people to speak out against racism. I have heard people grouped together by their skin color or their profession (police) as if everyone feels the same or has the same experience. I think it’s wrong to say that all white people or all policemen are the enemy.
I took time to pray and reflect. I prayed Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.” This is a scary prayer. When I prayed and asked God to show me what’s inside my heart and what I need to confess and repent of, He showed me that the root of my sin was deeper than an issue of skin color.
I looked up Racism to make sure I had a clear understanding of the issue at hand. Here is the definition: Racism: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
As I read that definition and looked within I don’t think racism is my primary issue. I am afraid it goes deeper than that.
My biases and preferences go deeper than race.
I have a number of black friends, but the more I have thought about it, they are black friends that have conformed to the way I live. They are similar to me. I have found that I don’t like being around people that look a certain way, smell a certain way, live a certain lifestyle, act a certain way, talk a certain way, or even dress a certain way. It pains me to write this, but you see my biases are against anyone that is not like me. Anyone that makes me uncomfortable, I would never actively oppress them, or even be unkind (I am a pastor you know), but I would be something much more heinous…I would avoid them. Hatred is most clearly shown towards those we distance ourselves from. We sanitize our lives in a way that allows us to enjoy our bubble.
It would be comforting if this was limited to me, but it’s not. The Bible teaches that sin is in the heart of every man. While we may experience this at different levels we all have the same issues. I don’t know if I know ANY self-proclaimed racists. I’ve gone through the rolodex of my mind and I know of NONE! I know of no one that would knowingly and actively seek to persecute or discriminate against someone because of his or her skin color. All of our biases are more subtle…they are in our hearts and our minds.
I have heard a lot about unconscious bias and white privilege. I looked into this in my own life as well. I have both. I’ve tried to list some of my privileges:
I am Caucasian.
I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents.
You can look at this from a couple of different perspectives. The first perspective says that because of things I did not choose I should feel guilt and apologize to those who were born without the same privileges. Guilt is usually a tool of Satan that never leads to positive action. The second perspective, I believe is more constructive. I see every “privilege” that I did not choose as a “platform” given by God for loving Him and loving others. I see any advantage given to me as a platform for which I should make Jesus known to others.
Every person has some level of privilege or advantage. Here are a few more of mine.
As I thought about my privilege I thought about how being a man must be easier than being a woman. I ask my wife to not jog unless it’s at certain times in certain places because I have a fear she could be assaulted. I do not fear this for myself.
I have adult privilege. I can watch TV late at night and not brush my teeth before I go to bed because I am an adult. My children cannot do this. They are forced to go to sleep each night when I tell them to.
I was born in the USA! Most of the people in the world do not have the freedoms I have. I can worship freely and post all kinds of crazy things on the internet without fear of being thrown in jail or killed.
I was born with a mind that is just above average and I can coherently put together thoughts and have completed postgraduate degrees. This is an advantage I have to people with below average IQ’s.
The greatest privilege in my life is one that maybe others don’t think about but it’s the privilege of Grace. God didn’t have to choose to forgive me, but He did. He didn’t have to call me out for salvation, but he did.
I could go on for days about my privileges and if you took the time to really think about it you could to. All of these privileges that I have listed were not initiated by me, but given to me!
Are these reasons to feel guilt? Or are these gifts and platforms I have been given to exalt Jesus?
Every person has advantages and disadvantages.
You can always find someone who has had more privileges than you and you can always find someone who has less giftings and privileges than you. Guilt never solves or helps anything. You should find ways to empathize, but instead of living in guilt for things that you did not choose it would be more beneficial to see your privileges as a platform.
Privilege implies that you are using a gift that you did not choose in order to look down on those who do not have the same advantages. When you see your gifts that you did not choose as a platform you understand that God gives you a platform so that you can put Him on the platform.
The Christian understanding is that we have been blessed to be a blessing. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in the life of others.
We do not use our platform for promoting the latest “woke” social media fad but we use our platform to point people to the gospel.
Justice and Peace have true rooting only in the gospel. Apart from God and the word of God there is not foundation for justice, peace or morality.
Jesus gives us clarity on helping others who are hurting and broken. I want to give you two stories that Jesus told that I think will help us all in this season.
The Good Samaritan – (Luke 10) Jesus was illustrating to a privileged group of religious people how they were to love their neighbor. He chose to illustrate this with a racially charged story. He told about a man (presumably Jewish) who was beaten and left for dead. Two religious leaders who could and should have helped the man walked right by him, justifying their actions with religious jargon. A third man came by, a Samaritan. This was the people group that the Jews hated the most. The Samaritan had compassion on the man and helped him. Jesus said we are to be like the Samaritan. We have compassion and we help those in need, even if they are different than us. We love our neighbor when we help our neighbor. Now is a great time to do that! There is no doubt that my black brothers and sisters feel broken and hurt. It’s a time for those who can to pour salve on the bitter wounds of years of mistreatment. This doesn’t mean we all need to be bullied into following the latest fad on social media. It’s more helpful to have actual conversations with people who are different than us. Hear their stories. Empathize. Really care. Help our children be better than we are. Run to Jesus.
The Parable of the Talents – (Matthew 25) Jesus tells a parable of about three servants who were entrusted with three different sums of money (talents) that they were to invest for the master while he was gone. One was given 5 talents, one 2, and the other servant was given 1 talent. Each talent represented a large sum of money. When the master returned from a long journey the first two servants had doubled their money and pleased the master. The third servant buried his one talent and blamed the master. If you think about the talents in the story as “privileges” or “platforms” which a person was born with then the idea is to use them all to please the master. If we make our life’s work about complaining about how we all didn’t get the same amount of talents then we are essentially burying our talent. Use the gifts you have been given to please Jesus. If you have “white privilege” then use it to pull others up.
We all have wicked hearts marred by sin and full of prejudice.
Jesus is the only one who can fix our wicked hearts.
We should use whatever privilege we have as a platform to love God and love our neighbors so that we will please the Master (Jesus).
The black community is hurting right now and needs compassion.