Earlier in the year we introduced you all to The Influence Commons. As a Network we want to give our members a chance to use their voice. We hope to share a new piece each week, so if you’re thinking about sending a pitch, don’t hesitate! Don’t forget that we plan on hosting a writer’s retreat and workshop in 2018. We’ll offer 3 scholarship positions chosen from the submissions on The Influence Commons.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
I’ve heard these verses preached dozens of times in my life, years upon years of sermons about the miraculous work of Christ making a way for us to be united with Him, the old passing away, the new coming. It is entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that in those dozens of sermons, words were preached about the glorious extension of that uniting with Christ—the joy of being united to other image bearers, the co-reconciled. Whether I have heard these verses taught that way or not, I can’t say, but I know that in the past few years they have taken on entirely new meaning to me as I have begun to explore the world of racial justice, and, fittingly, racial reconciliation.
My life, by virtue of skin color, economic status, educational opportunities, and a host of other things has been filled with what I now see as a privilege that is mine to acknowledge, harness, and leverage as I seek to model my life after Christ’s reconciliatory work. And “with great privilege comes great responsibility.”
One of the ways I have been learning to be an agent of reconciliation is through intentional, active listening to people of color. This may sound overly simple, but I can guarantee you that it is not. We know and believe in the power of listening when it comes to friendships, marriage, and parenting. There is time for action, but there is also a great deal of time for listening, for hearing the sorrows and joys, for communicating affection and solidarity with a closed mouth and open ears. For the white, Christian woman, this is the first step in beginning to engage racial reconciliation.
Since the idea of active listening to people of color may seem a bit nebulous (who do I talk to? How do I keep from tokenizing someone? What kind of questions should I ask?), I’m going to help us get started. I asked a few friends of color what they want to say to white, Christian women, and I’m going to share their responses with you now.
I hope you’ll read each quote slowly, and read any that make you feel a little itchy more than once. This is a habit that those of us who represent the majority culture must begin to develop—listening to those who have had no choice but to listen to us.
“My struggles with Midwest white women are tone policing, applying their standards as gospel truth, and telling me I’m angry when I’m not. — Melissa, a Latina Immigrant from Peru
“Don’t wait until you adopt a black child to consider life from our perspective. We’ve been here struggling.” – Jon Pyle
Similarly, Frances Crusoe stated, “Don’t let adopting a black baby be the first time you start to concern yourselves with the plight of the black community. She also said, “if you showed up for the Women’s March in pink hats, yet are silent when black women are killed by police, you are part of the problem.”
“White Christians, do your research. The same fervor that you devote to growing closer to God in any other area, whether that is His heart for orphans and widows (i.e. being pro life) or understanding godly parenting — that is the same level of devotion that is needed here. If you care, don’t be lazy, do. the. Work. Because it is exhausting to do this work when I’m doing 90% of the lifting.
We are all hypocrites in some area of life but for the literal love of God, please know that your hypocrisy in the form of turning a blind eye to race relations in the USA turns people of color away. You cannot say that you love God’s people if you only mean white people. You cannot be pro-life without being pro-black lives. When you are unbothered by the mistreatment of people of color, it shows that you don’t *really* care about us beyond words.” – Dr. Apryl Williams
“My advice is summed up by Kendrick Lamar, ‘sit down. be humble.’ So, this means listening more than you speak. One book does not an expert make.” – Kathryn Freeman
Take a moment to assess your inner-heart, to ask yourself how these quotes make you feel, what they make you want to do. Do you want to run away? I get it. Do you want to fight back? I get that even more. Do you not know what to do because you have already adopted a child with a different skin color from you, and you’ve never thought about the potential repercussions? Grace abounds, and that means you can get to work now. Do you want to listen, learn, seek to understand? Praise the Lord.
Whatever your initial reaction, know that it does not have to define your posture toward racial reconciliation from here on out. God created us all, with all our varying skin tones, in His image, not so we could ignore our differences but so we could celebrate them and seek unity rather than uniformity. How we treat one another based on race is an image of God issue, which means it is a discipleship issue, which means it is a sanctification issue. And just like in any other sin or immaturity in our lives, God is faithful to grow us beyond ourselves and help us shed the old for the new. Our step of obedience is to follow His heart for compassion and justice, and to refuse to turn a blind eye when it does not abound.
If you aren’t sure what to do next, I encourage you to consider one or a few of these next steps:
- Check out BeABridgeBuilder.com and consider joining the Be the Bridge to Racial Unity Facebook group (make sure you read the pinned post!)
- Listen to the “My Sista’s Keeper” episodes of Shalom in the City, in which Osheta Moore and I discuss racial reconciliation from a Christian perspective
- Read Jemar Tisby’s reflection on Philando Castile.
- Email me. Really! I’d be honored to help you begin to think through how you can engage racial reconciliation and justice, or to hear your story.
This is our work, friends. As Christians, we are agents of reconciliation, and we stand only to glorify God by walking into the perhaps unknown waters of doing so across racial lines. He is with us, and He is calling us away from fear and into love. Let’s follow Him.
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Upwrite Magazine. She is a co-host of the Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore and coordinates communications for a non-profit organization. Abby co-facilitates community efforts in racial reconciliation and in support of foster and adoptive families. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. Find Abby at www.joywovendeep.com and on Twitter.