While the social media world moves on, as it always does, a woman who shared her story about the racism that existed in her heart is left bleeding and wounded on the side of the road. Scores of people who read her article on a popular evangelical site, TGC, have either applauded her imperfect effort to share her heart, or took her words and the story of her daughter marrying a black man to strip her emotions bear, beat her and then depart, leaving her heart, her story, and her motives half dead, on the side of the fast moving social media autobahn. (The article has been removed at the author's request. See link at the end of end of this article for a follow up response)
There might still be people responding negatively to the story several days later, but for the most part, in the world of social media, her story was yesterday’s news. However, during that brief moment in the land of internet news feeds, it literally blew up the Christian world for a day. Everyone, their dog, and their goldfish had something to say concerning WHAT she wrote, especially because of HOW she wrote it.
Repentantly, I confess, that includes me.
The title grabbed my immediate attention, but not in a good way. Her selection of words and how she pieced together her thoughts gave further clues that she still had a long way to go with wrestling that ugly monster called racism and putting to death any lingering racists thoughts or beliefs that might still exist in her heart.
Furthering my analysis were her bullet points.
I think my biggest issue with the article was the condescending tone of the entire piece, especially the way in which she expressed her thoughts in her bullet points. However, I won’t rehash exactly what it was about those bullet points that caused such a ruckus in my heart and soul because I don’t need to be a slave to my emotions any longer than I have been on this issue. I do need to say that the article festered in my heart the entire day after it was published and my emotions were indeed taken on a roller coaster ride that included shock, anger, and then sadness.
As a brown skinned Mexican woman, I have been a recipient of past racists behavior and comments. I know first hand the pain of being rejected for simply being who God created me to be, color, culture and all. I have been witness to not only racist’s tactics, but I’ve also seen body language of others who made it obvious that I did not fit in with their ideal.
Rejection and Racism
Prior to God saving me, when I was in my 20’s, I married outside my ethnic culture. The marriage was very short lived, less than 3 years, but at the onset of that relationship, it was made very clear that I was not welcome in that family. The mother of the man I married vehemently and unapologetically questioned her son why he felt inclined to marry outside his ethnicity.
“Why do you feel that you have to marry this woman? she asked.
"Don’t you think you could find someone in your own race to marry?” were the kinds of questions she wanted answers to.
Not only did I sense and feel a lack of acceptance from this man’s mother, but the entire family made sure I heard their back handed insults, insinuations and negative comments about who I was. They made sure I was well aware that I was the outsider.
God did not transform and redeem me until after that marriage dissolved but I have never forgotten the searing pain of rejection for simply being who God made me to be.
Within a year after God saved me, as a new Christian, I was immediately thrown into an all white setting. I had to learn not only Christian culture, but Christian culture in a majority white context. I had to put away my own cultural preferences and had to accept people who were different than me, and then intentionally focus on what connected me to them and them to me….the person, work, death and resurrection of Christ. I had to look at people, specifically white Christian people and see them as family. I didn’t think I had permission to struggle with this issue. The Holy Spirit moved my heart in such a way that I felt obedience was my only choice.
Obedience to the Spirit meant that I could no longer see white people as “devil", "self-serving", “power hungry”, “oppressors”, “weird”, “crackers”, “dirty” or “people who lacked flavor” (there is a Spanish term that I heard growing up that conveyed the idea that white people are like a dish without salt). All of the stereotypes that I heard growing up concerning white people had to die in my heart. Since my first exposure to Christian living was in an all white setting, I had no choice but to put those stereotypes to death, especially after learning the reality that God’s Word reinforces the idea that community in a local body of believers is instrumental in a Christian’s life. God placed me in a local body of believers who providentially happened to be all white. I was faced with seeing people, who I thought I could never have in my life due our differences as vast as the Grand Canyon, as my new family in Christ.
CONFUSION And the Word.
Unfortunately, the longer I was a believer, I soon realized, others did not have the same conviction that I did. Imagine my confusion when I came face to face with people IN the church that exhibited behavior that resembled that of non-Christians. Easily and without remorse these church people rejected others simply for belonging to a different ethnic group or culture. This rejection came in the form of name calling (sometimes from the pulpit but mostly in personal settings), withholding fellowship from others, and outwardly expressing the belief in negative stereotypes of these different ethnic people groups.
My confusion forced me to search the scriptures for answers. In my early non-scholarly research, I found plenty of scriptures that stated that God will have people from all nations and tongues worshiping him so I knew that he did not prefer one people group over another. Since that was my guiding truth, what was I to make of church people who did not make every effort to live out that multi-ethnic reality?
Then I came across Mathew 7.
Here I learned that Jesus acknowledges and rebukes religious folks who judge others without acknowledging their own sin. He also encourages treating others in a way you would want to be treated. Then he explained that diseased minded people (false believers) will ultimately bear diseased fruit in the form of diseased behavior, actions, and thought patterns, which will inevitably lead others to do the same. Jesus says, without remorse or sadness that he will cut them down and throw them into the fire.
Ain't no sugar coating or "gentle" truth telling there.
Ain't no sugar coating or "gentle" truth telling there.
Jesus goes on to expresses his concern that there were people who claimed to know him (calling Jesus "Lord Lord" signified a presumed close relationship with him). Again, these people were religious people, meaning they probably knew scripture well enough to recite full passages. In a contemporary setting, these would not be sole holiday church attendees or Sunday pew sitters. These people would be those who play deep in the playground of a church setting. Jesus stated that he will tell these uber religious folks to get away from him...that he NEVER knew them. Not knew them for a little bit and then they fell away....but NEVER knew them. Could Jesus be saying that there is a possibility that there are long standing church people that he will say "depart from me, I never knew you"?
If that is true, then there are indeed church people who are not actually really Christ followers, though they might even think that they are because of all the church-y things they do.
Let that sink in for a bit.
ANGER...and the Word.
After my initial state of confusion, that I felt was clarified well with the very words of Christ himself in Mathew 7, I felt like I was given permission to not necessarily judge people, but instead look for the fruit of people's lives, apart from seeing only long standing church activity.
Reading Mathew 23 gave even more clarification.
The righteous anger of Jesus is on full display here. If there is one thing that Jesus clearly shows that he hates, it is:
1) people who pretend to love God outwardly
2) but inwardly only love themselves and their projected appearance and/or their reputation in the church
3) as these religious people do #1 and #2, they do so at the expense of showing justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Mathew 23:23)
Isn't obeying the law to a T proof of faithfulness?
Isn't memorizing scripture proof of faithfulness?
Isn't being a long standing member of a church proof of faithfulness?
Isn't doing lots of church-y activities proof of faithfulness?
Not according to Jesus it's not.
Not if all of those actions are void of showing mercy and justice towards others.
Part of owning a sincere faith and showing that faith is recognizing that we need to treat others justly and mercifully, and without distinction. If long standing church people are not exhibiting these qualities, then they have no right to call themselves lovers of God. And I didn't say that...Jesus did.
As a new Christian, I was able to see that having righteous anger for the right things is not unbiblical. It's not wrong to feel anger at hostile acts of racism, subtle nuances of racist tendencies, or open hypocrisy. On the other hand, in our righteous anger, acknowledging that we are indeed redeemed sinners as well, we need to be very careful with our righteous anger. We need to make sure that it doesn't consume us or control our actions in such a way that we lose sight of showing mercy and justice ourselves, yes...even to the long standing church people who don't show mercy or justice toward us.
Romans 5:8-11 can help with reorienting our anger.
But God shows his love for us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
After reading Mathew 7, in light of Romans 5, we must also remember the end of Mathew 5. Here Jesus calls us to love our enemies in a way that proves we are his people. He does not tell us to love our enemies with a half hearted token kind of love, but with a kind of love where we are moved to pray for them.
Pray for people who struggle with racism in their hearts? Pray for people who don't see us as equal? Pray for people, even Christian people who hurt us?
I don't know about anyone else, but when I pray for people who hurt me, reject me, misunderstand me, or show that they hate me, the Spirit begins to work mightily in my own heart. My anger, hurt, or frustration is replaced with compassion, understanding, forgiveness and patience.
Don't ask me how that happens.....it just does.
God's Spirit reminds me in scripture that only Jesus had the right to show strong righteous anger. Only he had the ability to show strong righteous anger and NOT sin. We don't have that ability. Not even as sanctification works out powerfully in our lives.
Can I be the Good Samaritan?
With all that said, I felt inclined to reach out to the woman who wrote the article that caused my emotions to go on a roller coaster ride between confusion and anger. In my reaching out, I shared with her my concerns about her article. I am thankful that she not only wrote back but she also shared with me her heart and her motives for the piece. In our short correspondence, specifically in my last email to her, I asked for HER forgiveness for reacting the way that I did. In my heart and with my words, in anger I accused her of not being a true believer because she shared to the world through social media that she struggled with racist beliefs. If indeed she carries racism in her heart, does that give me the right to condemn her harshly and openly rebuke her?
A resounding NO!!!!!!!!
And neither does anyone else.
If I am a lover of Jesus, I am directed to love her and pray for her. If Jesus is my King, I cannot determine who is and who is not a member of his kingdom. I don't have that right....only Jesus does. Yes I can look for fruit in people lives, but in that looking I have no right to condemn, beat up with my own words, or treat people harshly....in person OR on social media. If I am a Holy Spirit led soul, then I cannot let my past hurts and personal experiences with racism dictate my current behavior towards others, church people or not....even if they do not exhibit justice or mercy towards me or any specific ethnic group of people.
Scripture does not give us an exception clause to Christ's directive to love others, to show mercy towards others and to show justice towards others.
Racism has a way of making people lose their minds....not only for the people exhibiting and expressing racist behaviors, action, or words, but also to the recipients and victims of past, present and even anticipated future racist behaviors, actions and words.
As Christians work towards reconciling our faith with mercy and justice, proving we are indeed His people, we must give others room to figure out what that looks like in their own lives. That means that those of us who have been on the receiving end of racism are called to reconcile our faith with mercy and justice to those we think are our enemies. Especially to those people who don't want to or struggle with showing mercy and justice towards me or the ethnic group I belong to.
Christ did not say it was going to be easy. That's why he gave us His Spirit.
As the author of that article shared with me the deep hurt she felt for causing others pain through her article, the Holy Spirit helped me see that I also contributed to her pain.
I had a choice to make.
Knowing that the collective mass of comments and tweets was leaving this woman bleeding and beaten on the side of the social media road, I can either
1) continue to throw stones at her....or
2) walk on the other side of the road, knowing that her emotions are being left raw, beaten and bloody and think to myself "that's not my problem" or worse...."she probably deserves it".
The Spirit of the Living God would never ask any Christian to respond to any situation that way.
There is a 3rd option.
3) I was prompted to repent of MY harsh accusations, which led me to repent to God for MY words and then felt convicted to make sure I also asked HER for her forgiveness as well.
I don't want my past hurts and first hand experiences with racism and rejection to keep me from experiencing the beautiful blessing of unity in the body of Christ.
For those souls who the Spirit is moving to purge racism from their own hearts, they should also not be kept from experiencing the beautiful blessing of unity as well, even as they work out that mess that causes pain towards others.
As God cleans up his bride, whom he loves and sent his Son for, there will be scraps, dirt, dust, and ugly remnants of trash that needs to be recognized, honed in on, and destroyed. It's not going to be pretty, neat and organized. God will indeed purge things that need to go. Personally and collectively.
Racism is one of those things.
Just like in our own personal journey of sanctification, Christ-likeness does not and will not happen in a day. Neither will the after effects and current effects of racism be purged in a day either. Things will probably get uglier before it gets better. However, we know that God will have the last word on this matter.
There WILL be people from all tongues, nationalities and ethnic groups worshiping him and giving him the glory that he alone deserves and demands.
He will have that last word on racism....actually......
He DOES have the last word!
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”(Revelation: 7:9-10)
The author requested that her initial post be removed from the Christian website that initially posted her article. Please join me in prayer that this author, a fellow sister in Christ, can move forward in such a way that her life and the lives of those close to her can rest in knowing that they serve a merciful and mighty God and not even this situation can NOT detract from giving God glory. We know that God made us all...whether black, white, brown and everything in between and we have got to remember to listen to each other, have compassion for one another, and LEARN from one another as well. That means white people need not get offended with the stories of the plight of non-whites, and non-whites need not show impatience with whites as they make attempts to put to death their own non-loving ways.
Here is a link to a follow up conversation the website posted.
Controversial Article and What We Can Learn