I thank God for the work that you are doing in the church. I know how hard you work: hospital visits, sermon writing, and committees. You pour out so much for your community. Thank you.
I’m writing today because I think that we have something to offer. I’ve noticed something, there are some patterns in White North American culture that are causing real pain in the struggle for racial equity and justice. And they are problems that I believe are the result of too few of us believing the Gospel. Let me explain what I mean.
Good or bad?
When a person of color points out that we have done or said something that is racist our impulse is defensiveness. “I am not racist, I am a good person. You’re over-reacting.” So, over time, people of color are less likely to point out the ways that we have hurt them because we communicate that we do not want to hear it.
White Tears, and White Fragility were common words this year, but what if the church helped people to develop racial stamina and resilience by developing a deeper understanding of the Gospel? I believe the Gospel is more than just conversion. More than just asking Jesus into your heart for a ticket to a future heaven. I believe that the Good News of the Gospel is that God transforming both in individuals and the world.
One thing that I notice in myself and in others from White culture is an either-or, all or nothing, good or bad thinking. People are either good, or bad. But the gospel tells me that we are both heirs to the original blessing and the original sin. We are made in the image of God, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we are beloved, we are a new creation, and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are both sinner and saint.
But we don’t believe that in our gut. We believe that we must be good to be worthy. We believe that we matter because of our goodness. In White Culture, when someone does something bad, they are bad, and are no longer worthy of belonging and love.
Imagine if we knew that we were God’s beloved child. We are enough because we are made in God’s image. Imagine if we knew that we have been made new in Christ. It is no longer us who live but Christ living in us. Rather than being threatened by someone pointing out how we have acted in ways that are racist; we could rejoice in an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. We have a new opportunity to grow to be more like Christ. A failure does not mean that we no longer belong. It does not mean that we are no longer loved. It only means that we failed in this case.
In White Culture, we often believe that we have a right to be comfortable. It is true that God is a great comforter and that there is comfort in the gospel, but the gospel is not about being comfortable. We love to quote Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But We forget that Paul is talking about being content in comfortable and uncomfortable situations. The role of comfort in the gospel is for us to comfort the oppressed and the heart broken, to grow in tolerating being uncomfortable. To become more comfortable with mystery and vulnerability.
Debby Irving, in her book, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself In the Story of Race says. “The sooner you can become comfortable with seeking what you don’t know, as opposed to proving what you do, the more you will learn and the more effective you’ll become as a racial justice advocate.”
The good news, (The Gospel) is that we can move from a place of courageously facing our sin of racism, to a place of transformation. We can both individually and collectively be less racist in January 2018 than we are in January 2017. It is something that obviously requires practice, but the spirit of God helps us with. We are not already perfectly good, but we are becoming more and more like God through the work of the Holy Spirit and intentionally engaging in the work.
As you preach and counsel and teach and lead in the next year I invite you to consider what the Gospel means for Christians in White Culture in a multi-cultural multi-racial kingdom. You have so much on your plate. I offer this invitation to you, not so that you will have a longer to do list, nor that you will be weighed down with more guilt and shame. Allow the Gospel to be good news. Good news that offers worthiness and courage to face our racial sin bravely. Good news that offers opportunities for transformation and healing (what the old Christians call sanctification).
Here’s where I see the invitation for those of us in ministry with White people this year.
- Preach God’s love: Preach the love of God that sets us free from needing to be worthy by any other terms than God’s love.
- Preach Courage: Preach a Gospel that is so deeply rooted in God’s love that we find the courage to face the uncomfortable truth. The truth is that we contribute to racism, that we are imperfect and that we are vulnerable. But our very real imperfection is NOT threat to our worthiness as human beings.
- Preach Transformation: The good news is we can be transformed. The racism and sin that we face is not who we need to be. The gospel is good news of a new creation. Teach your congregation through spiritual practices like prayer, holy conversations, repentance, scripture study, protest, considering other’s perspective, and forgiveness to be transformed more and more into God’s likeness.
I pray the best for your ministry in 2017. I pray that we will see a world transformed by God’s love.
Your sister in faith and ministry,
 (I’m going to short hand it to White Culture moving forward)
Image Credit: Simon Cataudo Sermon Time