VALUING LIFE ACROSS RACIAL LINES
To say the least, our country has been experiencing turbulent times in race relations. Our challenges have played out in recent history, primarily, in televised encounters between law enforcement and citizens from their jurisdiction. While these experiences have flooded airways of local news outlets and occupied the timelines of our social media platforms, there are ongoing undercurrent challenges in our society that continue to widen the divide between racial ethnic groups. Solving these challenges and healing the wounds that are deep and seemingly re-occurring is complex and requires a meaningful long-term investment from every member of our society. This article is not meant to be one of several steps toward this healing. Rather, it is an opportunity to take a look at how scripture informs our thinking about race relations and how to value life across racial lines in New England.
Our Differences Come from God
In the beginning, God did not create a diverse human race. It was not until Genesis 11, at the Tower of Babel, when the people sought to build a symbol of their pride that reached the heavens so that they could be like God. That is when God intervened to diversify humanity's languages.
The question we must ask ourselves is why did God decide to create these differences? Scripture provides insight into God’s thinking and his rationale for creating the diversity that we know today.
Vs 6, God recognizes the power of having one language in the world and that nothing will be impossible for mankind to accomplish.
Vs 7, To disrupt the unity of mankind and curtail their ability to set their focus on ungodly tasks, God created different languages that made mankind into unique groups
Vs 8, God subsequently dispersed mankind across the earth.
Naturally, many questions arise about God's thinking behind dispersing mankind. God later called us to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19) with the goal of uniting mankind for a more glorious and heavenly purpose – to spread the gospel and bring God's kingdom to earth.
How does God's deliberate effort to create unique social and racial groups inform what we now understand as racial lines?
The Reality About Our Racial Norms
The racial lines that we draw create comfort zones around our shared language, location, core beliefs, and other norms. People congregate with others within the same comfort zones. One example is the seemingly natural way urban cities become segregated along racial and social lines. There may even be further divisions within these comfort zones. While on the surface there appears to be similarities shared among people with the same skin tone, there are cultural norms, languages, and ways of life that profoundly separate these people. As a result, the segregation of a city along racial lines seems tied to an insecurity of leaving a comfort zone. How often do you choose to remain in your comfort zone on a regular basis?
Why We Should Cross Racial Lines
Crossing racial lines has enormous benefits, but you may be asking yourself why should you do it. The answer I have may be the simplest and most effective reason.
JESUS DID IT!
Turn to the familiar gospel story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7). Jesus asked this woman for water at a time when the Jews did not interact with Samaritans and were openly hostile towards them. Despite this, Jesus overlooked the societal norms of the time. He did not feel the need to abide by unspoken rules of engagement. Instead he chose to uphold one of the golden rules. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.
Jesus embodied the true intent of God – love – during his interaction with the Samaritan woman. He spoke to her kindly and offered her living water (John 4:10). Jesus broke protocol by crossing racial lines to share with the Samaritan woman that "God is the spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Jesus crossed racial lines with a purpose and on purpose. Do you have a purpose for crossing racial lines?
How to Appropriately Cross Racial Lines
This powerful example of how Jesus crossed racial lines may have sparked something within you and you may be wondering what the next steps are. Based on what we've learned from Jesus's example, here are some practical ideas we all can apply to our daily lives.
- Refrain from judging people by their race. As a Christian, our goal is to bridge the gap between racial groups and honor the differences that God created.
- Embrace the comforts of your group and strive to learn about other racial and ethnic groups. This exercise will help you to understand God when he created humanity's differences.
- Cultivate a desire to immerse yourself in different groups. Strengthen your ability to understand them and how they understand and engage God in their daily walk.
- Pattern your efforts after Jesus. As you engage folks from other groups, offer what you have and humbly accept what others offer you.
Dr. William Clark is the senior pastor at Living Faith Church in Hartford, Conn.