Precious friends, with a bit of fear and trembling, I want to tell you about something God has put on my heart in the last week or so. I feel He has something He wants to say to those of us who identify as “white Christians”. (If you are not a “white Christian”, please know that you are SO loved, but this message isn’t necessarily intended for you.)
As has happened with so many of us, my heart has been broken over all the recent shootings in our nation. Starting with the shooting in Orlando, continuing with the shootings of Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, and then five brave Dallas police officers. First, I want to start by commending all those in law enforcement who witness the unthinkable every single day; put their lives on the line for the safety of our citizens; leave worried spouses and children at home, praying they will come home again that night; and the countless officers who demonstrate integrity, compassion, and extreme courage. I can’t even imagine their sacrifice or those of their spouses.
However, the recent shootings have felt to me like a ground-shaking moment for our nation. It’s as if there’s this giant, invisible curtain that usually stands between the seen (physical realm) and the unseen (spiritual realm) that has suddenly been pulled back to reveal the ugly face of Evil itself, alive and well in our nation and in some of its people.
My first instinct is to distance myself from the perpetrators of each of these violent and heinous acts. After all, I am not a racist. I do not hate minorities, gays, or cops. I am not a murderer. Quite the opposite. I love Jesus and I love all the people he created. I love everybody.
Or do I?
Because then I join the millions who are looking for someone to blame. I don’t know what to do with all the emotions these tragedies bring up in me. I feel despair. I feel sickened. I want to take sides. My mind is desperate to explain it all. It’s hard to look at Evil and then just look away again, as if you didn’t see it. (We do it, but at what cost? Loss of sensitivity to the things that should sicken us? A hardening of the soul, perhaps?)
When tragedy strikes, we are quick to proffer our opinions, offer solutions, politicize things, theorize about root causes, cast blame, and promote various agendas. This week I came to the realization that the only thing our world needs from you and I, in this dark moment, is JESUS. Not our politics, not our opinions, not even our promises to “stand with” various groups, cities, or people. Brothers and sisters, I do not believe our God is calling us to “stand” at all in this moment.
Our God is calling us to fall to our knees.
He is calling us to repentance.
He is calling us to climb on down – jump, even – from the self-righteous pedestal we’ve built for ourselves and embrace the fact that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Including me. Including you.
He’s asking us to take him seriously when he tells us, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chron. 7:14)
Last week, for the first time, I was finally willing to search my heart honestly. What I saw there made me fall to my knees and repent of racism.
Shocking, right? Nobody was more shocked than I was. After all, I’ve always despised the Confederate flag as a racist symbol. I’ve thought of myself as possessing no prejudice whatsoever. But this week the heavy hand of conviction rested on me, and I realized that out of ignorance, I’ve sometimes doubted or downplayed the current continuing struggle of African-Americans in our country. I’ve been quick to pat our collective selves on the back for having come so far since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr.; when the reality is, racism, that insidious evil, has not been completely annihilated. I’ve held hidden opinions that some African-Americans were seeing a struggle where there was none.
Sure, I’ve never used nasty labels – not even in my mind – and I’ve loved and admired many African-Americans in my lifetime – but I had to come face to face with the sobering fact that my ignorance was fostering some hidden prejudices that were below God’s standards for holiness in my life.
Last week, it was an act of will and an intentional dismantling of my pride when I confessed and repented of my prejudices, ignorance, and even racism to the Lord. After all, insisting that racism isn’t an issue (because, let’s face it: it’s NOT been an issue, for me – a white woman) is, at best, a Pollyanna-type view of the extremely broken world we currently live in, and, at worst, a callous belittling of the struggles of entire races of people simply because I haven’t personally walked in their shoes.
Then, the Holy Spirit urged me to take it further. I was reminded that generational sin is a thing. A real thing, according to the Bible (see Num. 14:18, Exodus 20:5, Ezekiel 18:19-20 for starters). So I confessed and repented of any racism in the generations preceding mine. A distant memory was triggered of hearing a rumor, as a child, that I’d had an ancestor who was part of the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t know if that was true, or not, but I repented on their behalf and on behalf of any of the other hundreds of ancestors in my family tree who may have harbored racism.
The Holy Spirit told me I wasn’t done yet, so I then repented on behalf of my nation. I repented on behalf of those who, like me, foster prejudices they don’t even realize they have. I also repented on behalf of those in my nation who perpetuate racism by classifying the worth or quality of themselves or others based on nothing more than the color of their skin.
I have to tell you, I get chills even now as I tell you this story of my time of confession and repentance, because I had an overwhelming sense as I was doing it that it was powerful. Deeply powerful in the unseen realm. Don’t get me wrong – at first, it just felt painful. Facing your own ugly sin is not fun in any way. But the grace and forgiveness I immediately received was amazing, and it was like I could almost feel a stronghold break around me in a powerful way…a stronghold I hadn’t even realized existed. Imagine if believers all over the country could have enough victory over their pride to come to the Lord in repentance for any shred of racism they might harbor. Imagine the strongholds that would be broken! It would be deeply significant in the spiritual realm, but I believe we would see the results in the physical realm as well. Imagine if a predominantly white church were to gather around a predominantly black congregation and lay hands on them and pray blessings over them? Love on them? Maybe even repent and ask forgiveness of them on behalf of their ancestors for the despicable crime of slavery? Who can say what kind of healing would take place in the hearts of individuals and communities due to such an act?
Brothers and sisters, it’s time for the Church to set the example. We are the only ones on earth who can break down strongholds (in the name of Jesus). We are the only ones who can sap Satan’s power by our humility and repentance. We know the value of the grace we’ve received, therefore we should be the most gracious of people. We are the only ones who can demonstrate what true repentance and forgiveness looks like – because we know we’ve been forgiven ourselves.
I plead with you to, in your own quest for personal holiness, consider asking the Lord to reveal to you any racism, ignorance, or hidden prejudices. In His goodness, he will gently reveal what is hidden. He is so gracious to offer complete forgiveness if we confess our sins. If we do not, it will be impossible for us to truly follow Jesus’ commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We will miss out on the blessings and healing God offers for us, our communities, and our nation. The only way to make sure we are not living a watered-down version of Christianity is through the willingness to stop pointing fingers; to forget about the speck in other people’s eyes and start attending to the log in our own. To stop “standing” with our words, and start “kneeling” with everything we’ve got.
Then, and only then, will this world see Jesus in us. The Jesus we all so desperately need.