By Danny Burns
Since the tragic death of George Floyd and the days of protests across the country, there are a wide range of reactions. Fear, outrage, anger, hatred, sadness, frustration to doubt, indifference, and plain apathy. The issues that are before us are as wide as they are complex and have plagued our country for centuries and our world for even longer.
As such, there aren’t enough pages to write here to provide all the answers we need. There are some answers we won’t ever get. But in this moment as a follower of Jesus who has a responsibility to lead not only my family but assist in the leading of an entire church, I have a duty and calling to serve….to try and be helpful – to point us back to Jesus with the hope and desire to be used by God to be agents of change for as long as He calls us on this earth.
As a white Christian who will never fully know what it’s like to be a minority in the US, what is our posture? How do I respond amidst this pointed time in history? Media outlets and social posts give us long lists of actions we can take, groups we can join, and causes we can take up. Some believe it’s easier to be quiet for fear of saying the wrong thing or offending the wrong person. Others believe the problems we face are too many to solve. Still, others don’t believe the level of response we’ve seen in our streets is even warranted.
Our First Response
Regardless of where you find yourself, as Christians, our first response should be one of brokenness. At minimum, we should recognize a man lost his life, while pleading for it, while others begged for it at the hands of men who weren’t supposed to take it. That moment on 38th St in south Minneapolis created a ripple effect that continues to travel like a never-ending ocean current. Families forever changed, communities ravaged and scarred, countless lives that won’t be the same. As my fellow pastor, Will Turner, preached this past Sunday, “It’s not supposed to be like this…”
That posture of brokenness as Christians is one we should have. In Romans 12:15 God says, “weep with those who weep.” Feel the weight of this command. Then layer in all the history of oppression, unfair and unjust systems, and the realities of what it’s like to be black in this country. I will never know what that’s like, but I can and should still mourn, because it’s not supposed to be like this.
Getting To The Root
God says the human heart is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). While we, as Christians, are redeemed and made new (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are still capable of sinning. I’m personally convinced that because we live in a fractured world, even as followers of Christ we have biases – beliefs that we have about certain people, groups of people, governments, organizations, etc. that aren’t actually true and are unfair. Some of them we may be aware of, and sadly some of them we are not. These biases are the most insidious because we live each day completely unaware of how these beliefs are hurting us and others. They rob us of our witness, hinder our effectiveness, and cause us to not look anything like the One we say we follow.
While we may not self-identify as racist, we are capable of holding biases of all types and sizes deep in our hearts. We must do the work of seeking the Lord, reading His Word, and asking the Spirit of the Lord to search our hearts to reveal those things we incorrectly believe about someone or something. May Psalm 139 be our cry! “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 NLT.
I’m confident the Spirit of the Lord will teach us, will train us and will impart wisdom on us to reveal those dark parts of our soul. Work with your pastor, small group leader, mentor, or fellow brother or sister in Christ to get to the root. Then work through the process of repentance. Repentance is a vast topic in itself, but here is a helpful place to start.
After the Holy Spirit has awakened us to our own sin and the biases we have, after we have taken the time to repent, I believe only then are we in a place to truly be the light of the world. Over the last few days, I get the sense there are Christians who are afraid to say the wrong thing so don’t really say anything at all. I’ve seen some who would rather wait it out and just hope it goes away. I’ve had conversations where people believe the challenges are too big.
Be mindful of cynicism. The belief that nothing can change and there is little hope. Cynicism leads to indifference, and indifference leads to inaction, and inaction leads to history repeating itself.
God is going to have to do what only He can do. But the complex challenges of race don’t give us as Christians an excuse to do nothing or to limit our actions to prayer alone.
Our Christian faith has always been one of extensive action. Proverbs 31:8 says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Jesus himself was a man of action and the New Testament writers give us countless instructions that action is an integral part of our faith. As the writer James told us, without action, we have no faith at all.
I believe once we have been broken by the events around us, that we’ve done the hard work of letting the Holy Spirit reveal the dark places of our own soul and repenting of those things we can put action to our faith.
Prayers of Lament
With a posture of brokenness, we can enter into prayers of lament. This is a powerful, Biblical approach to communing with God. You can learn more about that here and in a recent sermon at Redeemer Fellowship
Get Educated About Our City
Racism has a history in Kansas City that runs deep. Here are a few selected titles that have been recommended to me to give important context about our city.
Learn About the Unique Challenges of Someone Who Is Different Than You
There is so much power in empathy, and we can increase our capacity for empathy by learning about others even if we will never fully know what their life is like.
Invest In Your Community
Investing in your community will look different for everyone, so be led by the Spirit and be courageous. Look around your neighborhood, have conversations about the events unfolding, and listen. Pray for genuine friendships with people from other races and ethnic groups. Consider joining different organizations or groups that are pursuing racial equality. Explore serving in a leadership role in school or city government. Learn about all the issues our cities and nation are facing and vote when the time comes.
Be Mindful of Social Media
Social media continues to be a polarizing, at times impersonal, and fractured way to foster real change. Use it as a place to empathize and encourage and a starting point for deeper, in-person, one-on-one conversation.
May we be awakened to the brokenness all around us, to our own depravity, and the call for action to be a part of our faith. May we be encouraged by the fact that we serve a powerful God who will one day return to restore this place to the way He made it. And until that day comes, may we never stop pursuing all that God has called us to as active followers of Jesus Christ.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Grace, peace, and courage friends.
Photo credit: KSHB.com