Over the last two weeks or so, our nation has faced another round of profound challenges as it concerns the issue of racism. Because racism is real, so is the aftermath. One does not need to be a Christian to understand the awfulness of racism, even though in my view, racism has within its core spiritual dimensions which are only adequately explained in the christian doctrine of sin. I pray that understanding racism as sin doesn’t signal a “cop-out” but rather increases our capacity for biblical lament and righteous anger when victims of racism are near us.
Some of us have friends who’ve been victimized through racism, and I suspect many of you reading this are acquainted with those injuries. If you two are brothers and/or sisters in Christ, then I certainly pray and hope that you are. If you are not, then it may do you well to ask someone you think the question would apply: Have you ever been a victim of racism or felt like you were treated differently because of your skin color?
I was 21 years old when I first asked this question to a colleague. I remember the very room we were standing and regrettably, I don’t recall anything “profound” coming out of that specific conversation. I just remember feeling the burden to ask because I really wanted to know.
As the years went on, as I grew in my faith, grew in courage to ask hard questions and grew in my understanding of issues related to racism in our cultural, society and even in the church writ large, I can’t think of a topic that has floated within arm’s reach in my mind’s eye more frequently than this conversation.
So now I am a professional counselor. I work with individuals from this very society where this topic of racism has been foisted to prominence once again. This time, it was through the death of a man named George Floyd. This particular incident “pushed me over the edge” as it were where I can longer stand silent about the gospel. I can no longer be ashamed of the gospel, especially as if it were some kind of irrelevant or perhaps incidental antidote to the problem of racism. The gospel is absolutely relevant to this issue and I can longer stand in silence while the nations rage about racism. I must proclaim the gospel.
Rage at racism without the gospel is vain; lament at racism without the gospel is hopeless.
Counseling in the context of racism not only involves grieving with those who grieve; becoming outraged over the individual acts of racism near us, but it especially means pointing people to real, long lasting and substantive solutions to racism. The counsel that must be provided is a counsel rooted in a christian worldview.
My counsel to you if you are someone who wants to know more about how your neighbor is affected by racism. Simply ask them: Have you ever been a victim of racism or felt like people treated you differently because of your skin color? Ask them to tell you about it. Ask them what it was like. Ask sincerely, wanting to know.
Be prepared to cry. Be prepared to become angry. If they are a non-believer, then be prepared to give an answer to the hope that you have (even though you may not necessarily have a chance to share anything…just be prepared). If they are a christian, then pray with them; give thanks to God for your friendship and commit to knowing them better going forward.