When Jesus taught us how to pray, he said, Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. His prayer is our prayer.
This coming Monday, October 5, we will launch season two of our podcast As In Heaven, with the title A Christian Conversation on Race and Justice. As In Heaven devotes a whole season to a deep dive into one major topic. And perhaps no topic is more urgent, challenging, and complicated in 2020 than the national conversation on race and justice.
Much of the conversation has devolved into mere evaluations of Black Lives Matter (the organization) and Critical Race Theory. We can and should evaluate BLM and CRT, to be sure, but evaluation alone is insufficient to address myriad past and present issues that affect black and brown Americans. We aim to help the church navigate this complex conversation biblically, historically, and relationally.
Perhaps no topic is more urgent, challenging, and complicated in 2020 than the national conversation on race and justice. We aim to help the church navigate this complex conversation biblically, historically, and relationally.
We spoke with more than 20 pastors, professors, ministry leaders, counselors, and writers who helped us connect many dots. At the highest altitude, five refrains were consistent throughout the season: the need for humility, curiosity, listening, empathy, and action in our ongoing conversation about race and justice in America.
One of the scariest Bible verses is this: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Various versions of this sentiment appear in the pages of Scripture (Ps. 138:6; Prov. 3:34; 29:23; Matt. 23:12; Luke 1:52; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).
Unfortunately, humility is rare in this cultural moment; rigidity and certainty are more common. As battle lines have developed, each side has become deeply entrenched in its positions, to the point that meaningful conversation is impossible. But for Christians especially, humility should lead us to acknowledge that we each have blind spots, and that there’s more to learn and understand about this topic than we already know.
Humility leads to curiosity.
The tendency in a soundbite culture is to retreat to canned talking points and the comfort of whichever tribe offers us security and identity. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, but in this particular conversation the presenting symptom is usually defensiveness. But what if we all resisted the urge to be defensive and resolved to trade our defensiveness for curiosity?
We see this posture of both curiosity and listening in James 1:19: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (see similar sentiments in Prov. 10:19; 12:15; 16:32; 16:21; 17:28; 21:23).
Curiosity leads to listening.
Life and ministry have taught us to beware of simple solutions to complex problems. We knew going into this season that the problems of our cultural moment are varied, complex, and often intractable. After listening at length to so many wise and learned guests, we have an even deeper appreciation for how challenging it is to untangle the Gordian Knot. This isnt just about whats happened in 2020. There are centuries of history, trauma, sin, unjust policies, and entrenched suspicions that necessarily figure into this conversation. There are all kinds of political, ideological, and sociological complexities at play. There are numerous ways the church has been and is complicit in these things. Listening alone isnt enough, but no path forward can be accomplished without it.
Listening leads to empathy.
Romans 12:15 exhorts us to weep with those who weep. Jesus himself wept (John 11:35). Certainly the life and model of our Lord serves as an example that we ought to emulate. We also think of the many “one anothers” in the Bible that pertain to how we relate emotively to one another:
- Love one another (John 13:34)
- Honor one another above yourselves (Rom. 12:10)
- Care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
There are also many other “one anothers” that are relevant here that don’t merely remind us to have a posture of empathy, though. They also exhort us to tangible calls to action.
Empathy leads to action.
There is much to debate about the right actions to take to address the problems of racism and injustice. But for Christians, Scriptures one another commands should be a bare minimum:
- Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10)
- Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)
- Build up one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11)
- Be like minded towards one another (Rom. 15:5)
- Accept one another (Rom. 15:7)
- Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
- Bear one anothers burdens (Gal. 6:2)
- Be patient with one another (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13)
- Consider one another better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3)
- Look to the interests of one another (Phil. 2:4)
- Comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18)
- Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
- Show hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
- Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
Dialogue in Community
When it comes to race and justice, have our brothers and sisters in Christand our image-bearing neighborsbeen maligned and wronged? If yes, are these things ongoing? If ongoing, is the heart of God grieved? If he is grieved, what can we as Christ’s church do about it?
Join us this season as we explore these questions. We’ve also built discussion questions to aid dialogue about these things in community. We hope humility will lead you to curiosity, and curiosity to listening, and listening to empathy, and empathy to action.