The Bible is clear that all mankind is made in the image of God and that He shows no partiality towards people of any race (Genesis 1:27, Acts 10:34-35, Romans 2:9-11). Despite this and years of hard work by individuals promoting unity and equality, there is still a lot of racial discord in our nation.
As we pause today to celebrate the vision and hard work of Martin Luther King, Jr., I think it is fitting that we consider several ways that we—as Christian individuals—can promote racial unity in our communities.
Ways Christians can promote racial unity
Stop pretending racial divisions don’t exist
I’ve encountered a number of individuals who are content to ignore the events going on around them. They claim to be “color blind,” say that everyone gets along in their neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, etc., and downplay incidents of racial conflict that they hear about on the news. If this is you, then I lovingly encourage you to stop. No one is truly color blind. You may not think poorly of a person because of his or her skin color, but you still see it. Moreover, though you may not want to acknowledge it, you likely hold deep-seated expectations of individuals because of their races.
If we can’t be honest about what goes on in our own minds and what is happening in our communities, then we can’t make progress. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with each other: We still have a long way to go before we achieve genuine unity between racial groups in our nation.
Pray without ceasing
Prayer is effective and the Bible teaches us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We need to include in our prayers topics related to racial unity.
- Pray for wisdom and guidance on how to handle the situations we personally face
- Pray for understanding between groups with opposing views
- Pray for victims of racism
- Pray for perpetrators of racism
- Pray that protestors would be peaceful and respectful
- Pray for the safety of law enforcement officials and protestors
- Pray before speaking and before posting comments or articles on social media
Act lovingly towards neighbors
If we love and serve our neighbors (people who live next to us and people with whom we interact while out and about), then we create an environment that supports positive interactions between individuals of different races. I know some people who feel it is necessary to seek out individuals from various racial backgrounds and get to know them, but I’ve never felt this was needed. I feel it might inhibit the formation of genuine friendships because it feels like we’re trying to check “Meet someone of a different race” off of a to-do list.
However, as long as we live in racially diverse areas, we’ll have relationships with diverse people if we just know our neighbors and love on them. Walk across the street or next door and introduce yourself to your literal neighbor. Take them some cookies and learn how you can be a good neighbor to them. Be kind to cashiers at stores and wait staff at restaurants. Ask about their days. Ask how you can pray for them. Volunteer with community organizations. Visit with other parents when you take your children to the park. You get the idea. It really is simple!
I know from personal experience that your kindness won’t always be welcomed. Individuals of all races can refuse to engage in conversation with you or rudely respond to offers of help, but keep in mind that you are not responsible for their reactions—you are only responsible for trying.
Validate what others have experienced
Here’s how much of the national conversation on race has gone recently:
White Americans say that we’ve come so far since slavery and the Jim Crow era. They blame racial inequality on individual factors (laziness, lack of education, participation in crime, drug use, etc.). Black Americans, in contrast, say that there is still racism and unfair treatment of blacks. They blame racial inequality on cultural and institutional factors (lack of employment opportunities, lack of access to affordable housing, etc.).
It’s time we stop polarizing ourselves in this way. There are elements of truth in both perspectives. Are there cultural and institutional factors that form barriers to blacks? Absolutely. Are there lazy individuals who happen to be black? Of course.
We must not write off the experiences of those who differ from us and must do our best to see things from their viewpoints. Though we can never fully understand what it’s like to be in the place of others, we can acknowledge and be empathetic about their experiences.
Read books and articles that offer insight into other perspectives
If we’re going to try to understand what it’s like to be in the place of others, then we have to learn about their experiences. One of the most effective ways to do this is to read books, blog posts, opinion pieces, and other works that offer insight into various perspectives.
To gain the most benefit from these, we must humble ourselves. As we read each piece, we must be willing to consider if our perspective is wrong and if that presented by the author is correct. Whatever our conclusion, this careful consideration of another viewpoint or another experience helps us have a better understanding of the role that race plays in our society.
Consider the racial diversity of a church before choosing to attend there
Have you ever noticed that many congregations remain segregated by choice? It seems that people find it easier to “do church” with others who are like themselves. Though this may be the easy way, we must question if it is the right way. If congregations are reaching their literal neighbors, then shouldn’t they mirror the diversity of their communities?
Let me be very clear here about what I’m saying: Racial diversity should not be your sole consideration when selecting a church. You must seek a church that believes the Bible and puts it into practice. If you find a diverse congregation that doesn’t follow God in this way, then it’s probably not wise to attend there. However, if a church is located in a racially diverse area, but the church is comprised of only one race, then you might question if it is truly putting the Word of God into action.
Remember that the path to unity runs through the cross
We will not become unified by pointing fingers or putting blame on others. We won’t become unified by engaging in debates or making persuasive arguments. We won’t even become unified by busing students to schools across town to make sure races intermix in the classroom. Why? Because, as Benjamin Watson describes it in Under Our Skin, we don’t have a skin problem, but we do have a sin problem.
Disunity among the races occurs because we live in a fallen world. Subsequently, it is only by turning to God that we will find the forgiveness and deliverance that we need in order to have collective unity. Though seeking unity will be an outflow of our relationships with God, we must not expect it to always be simple or easy. We must be prepared to sacrifice and to be humble (Matthew 16:24-25, Luke 14:27).
I often feel discouraged after watching accounts of racial tension on the news. Sometimes I even wonder if actions such as these can make a difference given the widespread and ever-changing nature of racial discord in our nation. I’m encouraged, though, by these words from the Bible:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Do you agree that the actions noted above are good ways for Christians to promote racial unity? Would you change or add anything? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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