Racism is evil, and racism is sin.
There’s no getting around that.
And though, as a white woman, racism is not an area of expertise for me (I deeply encourage you to head to @beabridgebuilder to learn and listen because their curation of resources is so much better and more comprehensive than anything I could put together and what I am using myself to learn) I do know something about spiritual warfare and dealing with sin. So that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
Because, since racism is sin, the devil loves it.
He is the Divider, the Accuser.
He loves it every time we dehumanize each other, whether because of skin color, differing politics, social status, or shirt size. It doesn’t matter to him – he’ll take it all.
And that’s why I think it’s worth it to take a beat in the midst of all the other important conversations going on right now and remember some of the spiritual realities we’re dealing with.
First of all, we have to start from a place of seeing the Image of God in everyone we interact with – black people, as that is the primary issue at hand, but also people who are a part of the problem – bigots, people hardened in sin, deniers. We can’t trade one hatred for another.
Secondly, we aren’t all called to do the same work. We have to resist the urge to judge others based on what we personally see them doing, because we might not be seeing the whole picture in dealing with this sin, just as in many others.
As St. Paul tells us there are many gifts and many callings that flow forth from the One Holy Spirit. If a friend is seeming “silent” on social media they might still be living in their own calling and indeed doing their part to uproot this sin, perhaps to fasting and prayer or action in a bodied way. They also might not, but there’s no way to know. We can’t judge the movement going on in their heart and mind.
If we feel the need to speak to them about their effort in fighting racism, I think it’s most helpful to point out ways we may see their specific gifts serving the pursuit of racial justice in a way that encourages them to get involved and doesn’t accuse them (let’s leave the accusations to the Accuser).
Thirdly, we can’t end sin under human power. We need Jesus. And just as we can’t use this as an excuse not to do the work that needs to be done (the quote from the Talmud comes to mind: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”) we also need to remember that better social systems won’t end sin.
We need a Savior for a reason. As long as people are working under their own power they are limited. It is only in God that all things are possible.
And lastly, we need to both acknowledge where we are right now and where we desire to go, both personally and as a society, accepting that there is a distance between the two and that distance will not close overnight.
What we are facing right now is not a sprint, but a marathon. Just as the systems that perpetuate racism were developed over time, it will take time to disassemble. Emotions burn bright, but typically the flames do burn well enough to support a long campaign. It’s not healthy emotionally or spiritually for any of us to work in frenzy. Our light will quickly be exhausted.
And so in the midst of this work, whether you are black, brown, or white, it’s necessary to rest. Rest is only possible in God. Hell is an existence of no rest, no peace, no joy, and no God. We can not live truth from a place like that. Rest doesn’t mean abandoning the work and it doesn’t mean complacency. It means we are letting ourselves be fed by God so we can continue the work.
I have seen many people in the last few weeks faulting those around them for not speaking quickly enough or with the length and clarity desired. And though some of those criticisms might be valid–I don’t pretend to know the motivation of others speaking or not speaking–speedy response for its own sake is not the best goal.
I would argue that the best goal is for each of us to ask the Holy Spirit to show us how this particular sin is nurtured in us and then invite that same Spirit into the work of uprooting it. That might be a public process, and it might not. It might be tangled up with other sins and we might find ourselves, regardless of our race, fighting some deep demons.
Those demons need to go, for sure, but it might take some time.
And I guess, at the end of the day, that’s what I feel most moved to say – time is necessary and God is necessary. We need time to learn, time to listen, time to let God move in our hearts. We need God to break into our hearts and help us change.
I’ve seen so many of the devil’s fingerprints on my own reaction to everything going on – urging argument, urging hard-heartness, urging pride, urging speed, urging frenzy that comes from anxiety and not the swiftness that is of God. I’m a broken, sinful, messed up human being and this situation seems to be a powder keg of everything I don’t want to face about myself.
I think a lot of people are feeling that. And we don’t WANT to feel that.
It hurts to see how much sin still flourishes in us, especially when we deeply love Christ. The climate of my heart is still way too amenable to the growth of everything that hurts the heart of Christ.
We all have work to do to uproot sin – racism, pride, anger, lust, and many more – and it’s going to take the rest of our lives. I see many people already starting to ask if all the people posting black boxes on their Instagram are still going to be around in 3 months. As Christians, it should be the expectation that we are in it for the long haul because we know that sin isn’t going to stop when fighting it in this particular inciting incident stops trending.
Fighting sin takes endurance that only comes from being fed by a relationship with God. We can’t go on solo offensives no matter how noble. We will be beaten and we will be broken even more. (ask me how I know…)
So for what it’s worth, my goal has become to simply walk with God in this situation. I don’t have the answers, but He does. We absolutely need to listen to our black sisters and brothers right now, but we also need to listen to God. Only He can help us faithfully navigate our hearts out of sin and into the light.
God bless you.