I had a professor lead our class through this prayer in college:
- God, can you bring back my earliest experience of racism?
- God, can you show me how my childhood affected how I view people of other colors, nationalities, and ethnicities?
- God, how do you want to confront those inconsistencies in my heart and mind?
So because I love to talk about race and explore how God is healing us through multicultural worship (which I will talk about later), I want to tell you some of my story and how God has moved me into freedom.
My first memory of racism was on a playground when I was five. I was playing with a black girl and a distant family member told me I should not be playing with her because she was black. I was confused, but I also felt different.
Fear had taken root.
One of my best friends at school was one of two black children in our class and I watched her struggle with the systemic racism in our school and friends. I felt compassion, but I also didn’t know how to help. I wasn’t afraid of her because I knew her. I was only afraid of people of color in certain places (mostly urban) where I already felt out of place.
I would not have said I was racist because one of my best friends in the world was black! I never considered myself superior to her. But then in college, I was asked to ask God about it. That changed everything. Because when God tells you that race is an issue for you, you listen. I never was racist in a sense of seeing my race as superior because I loved Jesus and loved the world. But when God tells you that you make negative and hurtful judgments and assumptions of people because of their color, you listen.
You are offended. And then you listen. And you submit to truth because God does not lie. He is correcting you because He loves you. He is disciplining you because He loves you. It doesn’t matter if you would define my presumption and fear as racism or not, what matters is that it’s wrong and it leads to more fear, not love. It might also lead to pity, and tokenism, but it doesn’t lead to the mutual brotherhood and building of unified believers.
Here’s the mercy of it and why God is so against racism…ALL racism (regardless of our color) is always rooted in fear. It is a wall that has been built because of the way we were raised, by past hurt, and sometimes legitimate pain (either our own or the teachers/friends/family who raised us). So when God points out racism in your life, He is not condemning you…He setting you free from fear!
God rooted racism out of this Georgia peach back when I lived in Southside Chicago for a summer…there was a lot of fear–I knew I was living in a high crime, high drug use area. I chose to go there on purpose for ministry. But living there was a new level of fear. I had volunteered in downtown Atlanta before (during the day when it was “safe”) but this was not the same as volunteering–I lived in Southside. I shopped there. I worked there. I used public transportation. And I felt afraid. And I was ashamed that I felt afraid.
This is how Jesus set me free from fear. He asked me this simple question:
“What are you so afraid of…is it physical harm, rape, theft, what is it?”
It was all of it. I felt myself stiffen as I walked past homeless people and groups of black men cursing and smoking weed on corners. I tried to not act afraid but I was. I had always been taught to never be alone in places like this and I was the recipient of a lot of colorful comments which made me even more uncomfortable. I was afraid of black men, but also latino men, arab men, and white men too in urban contexts.
But He called it out in me and we played it out to the worst case scenario I could imagine.
Father, what if they hit me?
If they hit you, you turn the other cheek and you show them Perfect Love.
Father, what if they rape me?
If they rape you, you show them Perfect Love.
Father, what if they kill me?
If they kill you, you show them Perfect Love.
This is the same truth for all colors of God’s people. For those who have adopted the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are a royal race, a Kingdom of Priests. We are those completely submitted to the Law of Love (Galatians 5:14, Matthew 22:35-40).
Too strong? It’s just the Kingdom folks.
I remember the Spirit whispering to my heart. “Are you willing to deprive them of my love by hiding in fear?”
Well, Jesus…obviously not, now that you put it THAT way.
And then He told me to just smile and say hello to everyone I walked by–to look them in the eyes and to ask God for His heart for that person. And just trust in God for my protection and defense, which may actually end in my physical death. Really. It’s fine. Here’s why it was fine. We have already died with Him and our life is hidden in Christ.
Is 1John 4:8 true that “I AM love”? (Yes.)
Is 1John 4:13 true that “You are in Me and I AM in you?” (Yes.)
Is 1 John 4:18 true that “Perfect Love (who lives in you) casts out ALL fear?’ (Yes)
THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE
Why are you afraid of those who can hurt the body but not the soul? (Matthew 10:28) (I’m not anymore)
True love only works if there is no fear. It’s love unto death. If they hit you, you turn the other cheek and you show them Perfect Love. If they rape you, you show them Perfect Love. If they kill you, you speak the blessings of Jesus over them in Perfect Love.
Radical? Yes. But my fear and racism was eradicated when I made the personal decision to follow Christ in fearless love.
My fear of physical harm was gone when I submitted to the radical love of God. (My fear of man would have to wait til later 🙂 ) I met the most amazing people who I found were my brothers and sisters in Christ. I got to share Jesus widely and speak truth to sick, hurting people.
It was a fearlessness that led me to pursue work and ministry in urban contexts for 5 years in SE Washingon DC and a fearlessness that allowed me to endure men in another culture poking and pinching me in busses and trains for a year.
You look everyone in the eyes. And let every person that encounters you encounter the love of Jesus. Then all the fear in you will melt.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 18-21