Life has a way of shaping each one of us, does it not? Our upbringing, our peer group, our neighborhood, our teachers, our education, and the list goes on. From a child we are engrained with certain thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors. For me there were some pillars of my early childhood development for which I am eternally grateful: saying “yes ma’am”, “no sir”, “please”, and “thank you” were but a few. To this day I cringe when I hear someone answer with “yeah” and I shake my head when I watch a man walk through a door without holding it for the lady behind him. I want to scream when I’m in a waiting room and an elderly couple walks in to a room with no empty seats and men younger than them never consider to offer their seats.
I was not raised to be racist; however, I was not raised to stand against racism. I had African American friends, Mexican American friends, and Caucasian friends. My upbringing led to me being more outraged at belittling someone based on their clothes and wealth than the color of their skin. I would revolt at the thought of a person of affluence mocking or treating poorly someone with less economic or material resources.
But Jesus. The Lord taught me a lot at the second church I served in as Student Minister (you can read more about that HERE). But one thing He taught me was to be outraged at racism. Half of my student ministry was comprised of by African American students. It was the first time I had groups of black kids in my home. Our students knew where the pop tarts were in the pantry, where I kept the remote, etc. Some of them called us their other mom and dad. They called my sons their baby brothers. One moved off to college and put me down as his emergency contact. My wife and I cried with them, celebrated with them, and discipled them as if they were one of our own. They were a part of our family. Some of them were black. Some of them were white. But we learned that it did not matter.
Within the community there were undeniable racial tensions. There were white people that didn’t like black people in their community. There were black people that didn’t like white folks (me) around their kids/grandkids. But I’ll tell you who taught me the most: the students. The local school was 1/3 Hispanic, 1/3 Caucasian, & 1/3 African American. There were no minorities. Those kids loved each other. There were no race issues in classes, on the court, in the locker room, or the band hall. They had zero issues going to youth camp together and had no problem referring to our student ministry as their family. They would stand up for one another, and would stand shoulder to shoulder with one another.
They didn’t realize it, but they taught me to stand up against racism. Satan would be caught giving away free snowcones before I stood by and let someone talk down to any of my students because of where they came from or what color they were. It wasn’t just there. To this day I become immediately enraged when I hear adults talking down about students or other adults based on their color or socio-economic status.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God (Imago Dei) he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). If we truly believe that God created man in His image, it MUST shape our view on racism… along with how we treat the poor, the homeless, democrats, republicans, the rich, the spoiled, the addicts, the prostitutes, the beggars, and the con-artists. God has created every one of us with an intrinsic value that is not conditional and is not based on merit or pedigree. It is based on the fact that GOD saw fit to create each one of us in our mother’s womb. AND He saw fit to send His Son to die on the cross for each one of us while we were in our sin. If God values white, black, brown, and yellow people enough to equally send His son for each of us, then why in the world do we look at a race of His creation as not-good-enough?
Adults, I encourage you to take a moment and listen to the Millenials and Gen-Zers that we so quickly write off. Listen to their heart. They need to know their voices are heard. I would go so far to say that they doing a much better job at racial reconciliation than the generations before me have.
I pity the man, woman, or child that calls themselves a believer but hides malice in their heart for a person based on their appearance. I urge you to open your eyes. I urge you to see that person through the eyes of Christ. I beg of you to repent. And if you refuse, I pray God brings you to your knees in repentance. It is not enough for me to say, “I am not a racist.” May we corporately and unapologetically say, “I stand against racism.” But more than that, may we not merely proclaim the message but may we live it.