By Daryl Crouch
The video is horrific.
A white, uniformed police officer, sworn to protect and to serve, placed his knee on the neck of a handcuffed black man. The man repeated, “I can’t breathe” until he literally couldn’t and didn’t. Another life lost to the demonic forces of evil.
The police officer was fired and now faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Unlike George Floyd, he will get his day in court.
Once again, the evil of racism denied justice, dignity, and life to a fellow image bearer.
Racism is a sin that finds its origin in the human heart. It’s ugly. It’s divisive. It’s destructive. And yes, it’s as systemic as sin itself.
While racism takes aim at all kinds of people groups, in America, to a disproportionate degree African Americans have carried the weight of racial discrimination.
As a white pastor, however, I’ve noticed the church isn’t always sure racism is actually a gospel issue. We know it’s a social issue. We watch the news and see the unrest.
We know it’s a civil issue. So we depend on government officials to maintain order. We look to elected representatives to speak words of peace and calm, and to pass laws that serve every citizen well. And we expect the courts to dispense justice fairly.
But what responsibility does the church have in addressing this specific issue of racism—of people of one skin color discriminating against people of another skin color?
Only Jesus can change the human heart, but the only way anyone hears and responds to the life-changing work of Jesus is through the faithfulness of the church, the people of God.
So this is no time to shrink back. Let us not allow another moment like this to pass by. Instead, prayerfully consider leading your church to respond to the sin of racism with these five simple acts of love:
1. Grieve together.
Racism (even the word) evokes all kinds of emotions. Truthfully, nothing I preach or teach about engenders more negative feedback than the topic of racism, but all of us have a basic responsibility to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
Whether we understand the pain of our neighbors of color or not and whether we agree about all the solutions to the problem or not, we cannot let our hearts grow hard to the pain and suffering racism continues to inflict on fellow image bearers.
So we don’t let anyone cry alone. Whether black or white, Christian or Muslim, rich or poor, we weep with the people who are already weeping. We enter the room, take a seat, and feel the loss together.
2. Listen long. Speak less.
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” James 1:19-20.
White people in a predominately white culture don’t understand what it means to be black. That is no one’s fault. No one knows what it’s like to be anyone else.
But rather than rushing to assumptions, rather than hurrying to platitudes, perhaps we could stop and ask a few questions.
After the Ahmud Arbery video surfaced, an African American pastor and I had a conversation.
In our discussion, I said, “I think a lot of white people are surprised this is still happening, but you’re not surprised, are you?”
And he began to tell me stories, more recent than I would have imagined, of ways he had been mistreated because of the color of his skin.
I listened for a moment, and then quickly chimed in with righteous indignation. But he interrupted me. He would not allow it. So I stopped talking and kept listening.
In that brief conversation, I learned what loving your neighbor looks like as I heard his story, full of pain, heartache, grace, and mercy. Loving our neighbors begins with listening to our neighbors.
3. Do what you can do.
You may not remember Ken Mattingly, but he was the astronaut who was supposed to be with Jim Lovell and Fred Haise on the Apollo 13 mission to the moon in 1970.
He contracted the German measles and had to stay home. But when the lunar module was in trouble, Mattingly stepped up to help find the solutions necessary to save the crew.
Because of his training, ability, and availability to help, he also had the responsibility to do so.
Notice Proverbs 3:27: “When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.”
In Luke 11, it wasn’t that the priest and the Levite didn’t have the ability to help; they just didn’t take the responsibility to do so. They passed by, but the Samaritan stopped.
We cannot do everything. Whether white or a person of color, none of us can fix all that is broken. But every one of us, every church, can do something.
In fact, we’re responsible under the lordship of Jesus Christ to do good, to speak up, and to defend the cause of the oppressed around us.
4. Speak to be heard.
I remember a few occasions in middle school when my teacher would remind students answering a question, “You’re mumbling. Speak to be heard.” Again, Proverbs says,
“Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy” Proverbs 31:8-9.
Most of us in the white evangelical community care about black people and are horrified at the tragic injustices still ravaging our nation, but perhaps too many of us have been mumbling about the sin of racism.
We have a voice, we have influence that has for too long remained dormant while those who have less influence have been overlooked and oppressed.
Earlier, I mentioned nothing I talk about gets more negative feedback than the topic of racism. That’s true, but that criticism comes only from my white brothers and sisters. It only comes from people who’ve never been a minority.
On the other hand, when I speak clearly and compassionately about racism, my black neighbors call me, text me, and email me saying, “Thank you! I know it will cost you something, but thank you for speaking up. I know I’m not alone, but sometimes the silence makes it feel that way.”
“A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings” Proverbs 25:11.
Statements, declarations, phone calls, and articles like this one aren’t everything, but they’re better than mumbling. They’re words of life to our neighbors.
5. Keep sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we want to contrast gospel work with social work. It’s true that not all social work is gospel work, but all gospel work puts us right in the middle of the public square.
Jesus made disciples in the streets, courtyards, and along the countryside, among all kinds of people. He helped and healed. And He made a habit of associating with the unclean, the outcast, and the despised.
His insistence on demonstrating generous love in every corner of society, making no distinctions religiously, ethnically, or socially about who He invited into the kingdom ultimately cost Him his life.
This gospel still reconciles all kinds of people to God and as a result, removes the dividing wall between us:
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace” (Ephesians 2:13-15).
So reconciliation with God and with one another isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a present hope purchased by the blood of Jesus.
DARYL CROUCH (@darylcrouch) is senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.