Among other things, this pandemic has exposed the need for racial justice. Not only have Black people and other minorities disproportionately suffered and died from COVID-19, but now everyone has seen their brutal, unjust killings.
God deeply feels the suffering and pain of individual and systemic racism, as we see in verses like Psalm 22:24: “For [God] has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.” If you’re hurting, God loves you, is present with you and cares deeply about your pain.
If you’re seeking to grow in your understanding about racial justice, God calls us to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15), to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to act: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
So how can we grow in living out God’s heart for racial justice?
1. Develop Relationships with People Who Are Culturally Different and Be Open to Receive New Things from God Through Them
God invites us to listen and learn from people who are different from us- even if it means feeling discomfort, pain, helplessness, or misunderstanding. My journey of both experiencing God’s healing of wounds as a marginalized person and his call to enter deeply into the pain of another who is oppressed is never ending.
As I experience deep multiethnic relationships, God exposes my blindness and sins, and he shows me his power to heal and transform. Challenging cross cultural relationships are often a great opportunity to learn and grow. Seek to understand why someone might be hurting and traumatized because of racial injustices without being defensive. Don’t make it a question-and-answer friendship but ask God how you can love as he would. God calls us to transformation, which means letting go of assumptions and mindsets of both inferiority or superiority.
This doesn’t happen instantly-crossing cultures is never easy. I remember visiting my friend’s gospel choir, and I was the only person that wasn’t Black. I felt awkward and felt so intimidated when it came time for solos. I wanted to participate and not be a spectator, but I was so self-conscious I couldn’t even sing beyond the first line. I have learned over and over that entering a new culture means I must be willing to take risks, make mistakes and be humble and vulnerable. I also remember countless painful and awkward conversations in my multiethnic fellowship in San Francisco as we tried to listen and learn from one another. Grace and forgiveness were much needed, and confessing our sins and blindness was crucial in pursuing true unity in Christ.
If you’re from a dominant culture, be willing to experience displacement as you enter into someone else’s world. After being part of the Native Hawaiian community for over 20 years, I’m still learning, discovering blind spots, and changing. Consider also learning theology and faith practices from followers of Jesus from different ethnic groups to grow in your walk with Jesus.
2. Reflect, Lament & Pray
As we experience or learn about the injustices our Black, Brown, Native, and Asian brothers and sisters are facing, our heavenly Father invites us to lament. Pray for those who have lost loved ones and are suffering. Bring him your sadness, anger, and confusion. Be honest about your hurts and fears and receive God’s love, comfort, presence and power. Let him speak to you.
What is he calling you to let go of? What is he calling you to put on?
Here are some questions to reflect on and pray through:
Am I open to change? Is there anything blocking me from letting God transform me? Ask God for humility and a heart of repentance. Let those from another culture speak into your life.
Is there a new way God wants me to see myself and my people group? Ask him to reveal lies that you are believing and ask him for his truth to be revealed. God created all of us in his image. Ask him how he sees you. How does he want to heal you? What does he want to affirm and change in you?
In what ways have you embraced your ethnic identity? How have you and your people sinned against others? What kind of power do you hold because of your skin color or ethnicity? How have you benefited at the expense of others? Are you defensive? What makes it hard for you to linger in the uncomfortable? Confess your bitterness, judgements and pride.
3. Take Practical Steps by Faith
Your steps in living out God’s heart for racial justice may be different depending on your ethnicity and life experiences. But here are some options to consider:
Research & Engage
Listen and learn about racial injustices, especially systemic racism. Ask why Black people and other minority groups have been so hurt and traumatized by America’s history. A good place to start is watching films like 13thor Just Mercy. InterVarsity’s Diversity Department has an excellent list of Christian books on racial justice.
At this unique time in America, countless events are taking place. Search local websites to see how you can engage in what’s happening near you.
Share What You Learn
It’s hard for me to talk about things that will make others feel uncomfortable. It’s also hard to confess and see ways that I am also benefitting from an unjust system in my passivity or silence. As you hear from friends from different cultures, share with others within your own people group. You may find yourself in difficult conversations as you listen or lovingly challenge others with what you have learned. Humility is key. Ask not only yourself, but also friends of your own culture how can you help bring change to unjust systems that promote racism.
God wants us to share his heart of compassion for those who are wrongfully oppressed, and it’s critical that we respond in this unique time. Living out God’s heart for racial justice is a life-time journey. May we all learn to take on humility and acknowledge when we’re wrong. May we all learn to receive from those who have been oppressed, so we can fully understand the deeper pain of racism. As we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will know God in a more intimate, powerful way.
Brenda has spent over 41 years leading, discipling, and developing InterVarsity students and staff in San Francisco and Hawai`i. You can support her ministry at https://donate.intervarsity.org/donate#17.