As I continue to process the current events unfolding around us in the United States (and there are many), I wanted to step back and consider the things I may be missing. We tend to be very reactionary as humans, allowing the moment to control our emotions, our thoughts, and our actions. If we are going to catch our errors and omissions, we need to slow down and reflect. There is no better way to slow down than to ask ourselves a series of important questions.
The following are questions I believe Christians would be wise to ask themselves about the current racial tension that exists. I also believe these questions might easily be adapted to help us think through a variety of other things we’re dealing with today (e.g., COVID-19, troubling Supreme Court decisions, etc.).
- What do I want? This is a question I’ve been learning to ask from my friend and co-elder, Dr. Roger Bayramian. It is a question that helps me to see what is really going on inside of my heart as I come face to face with life and life’s circumstances. It is a personal question that only I can answer fairly:
a. When I am faced with the racial tension that is plaguing our nation, what is it that I want? Do I want a quick answer that makes me feel better about myself so I can go on just the way I have been living? Do I want to make it go away?
b. Or do I want to honor God in how I act, react, and think about everything happening around me? Do I want to be sanctified, conformed to the image of the Savior, and grow?
Just pausing to explore my own heart and desires already begins to refine my thinking and chisel away at the extra “stuff” that’s hindering me from open and honest assessment.
- Am I ready to submit to God’s call in this regard? If I come to understand that my approach thus far has been inadequate or even sinful, am I ready to repent and obey?
This question is a way of turning immediately to prayer. Often the best thinking is done on our knees, humbly before the Lord. As I’m thinking about my heart, as I am considering my prejudices and presuppositions, I need to have a spirit of humility ready to respond obediently to my Lord.
- What does the Bible have to say about all that is happening? Take this topic by topic and don’t be superficial in your reading of Scripture and don’t limit the time it takes to really dig into the Word.
- What does the Bible say about race and racism?
- What does it say about justice?
- What does the Word of God say about my role as a Christian with regard to injustice?
- What does it say about how I deal with those with whom I may disagree?
- What does it say about where true justice comes from?
Scripture, not the latest fad, must inform our thinking and actions. Here’s a caution: read broadly in the Scriptures and don’t fall into the trap of finding only what you’re looking for. It might be helpful to read articles from people with different perspectives, as long as they’re pointing you back to the Scriptures.
- Am I thinking about the people involved as image-bearers, that is, human beings created in the very image of God and valuable in His sight? Or am I dehumanizing them so that I don’t feel any responsibility to listen and hear them out? Am I loving God and neighbor in my approach to those I am confronted with today?
This may be where most of us fail miserably! It is very easy to take sides and vilify. It takes much more effort to think carefully and seriously and treat all humans as women and men of great value before the Lord. Just remember Paul’s word to us in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our real enemy is not a group of humans who oppose our views but the one who has blinded them (2 Corinthians 4:4).
If Jesus could look out at His accusers while being unjustly executed on the cross and pray for their forgiveness (Luke 23:34), we better be able to look at all people and remember, these are also made in our God’s image and He desires them for Himself as well (1 Timothy 2:4).
- Have I already decided what I think about all the issues and so feel no need to hear anything more?
I’ll just leave these verses here—
Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Even if we’ve spent time studying the issue, we should be sure that we are never simply dismissing people and their thoughts. Sure, often there are rehashed arguments, but we should always be inclined to listen in order to understand. This offers respect and dignity and usually makes for clearer thinking and reasoning.
- Am I more concerned with what people will think of my views or what God thinks? Maybe put another way, do I even care what God thinks?
On the issue of race, this is a pretty significant concern. It appears to me that there are some who pander to certain groups because they are afraid of the consequences of not doing so. Too many Christians have “bowed” to a perspective they don’t fully understand because they are afraid of what other people will think (see my article on cancel culture).
But on the other hand, it seems that some Christians are worried about being cancelled by their own. Maybe we’re afraid to vocalize our heartache for the black community because we think that by stating anything supportive means full endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement/global network. It doesn’t. We should definitely distinguish our “mourning with those who mourn” from support for an organization/network that is godless and antithetical to all that God’s Word says is good and true (BLM’s own stated beliefs are clear and it is not a movement I could ever endorse).
But we cannot be afraid to stand up and call out injustice if we believe that’s what we are seeing. See Galatians 2:11-14 for an interesting example of falling into peer pressure.
- Am I oversimplifying the issue? Part of our problem is that for those not directly impacted by the situation, we are in danger of oversimplifying. “Just stop sinning” has been counsel offered to many, but those dealing with the struggle against an entangling sin see that there’s more to it. Some non-blacks might say things like, “get over it,” slavery was done away with more than 150 years ago! I imagine most people would agree that such a perspective is a profound oversimplification and misunderstanding of our humanity.
But we should also ask…
- Am I overcomplicating the issue? Another problem is that when we are directly impacted by the situation, we are in danger of overcomplicating things (we give ourselves much more leeway than we offer others). “You just don’t understand” has been the retort given by many, “you don’t know me or my circumstances.” But God knows every person’s circumstance and He makes it quite clear, we are still responsible for our own behavior. Americans appear to love playing the victim.
- Finally, what do I believe is the real problem and what is the solution in Scripture to such problems?
The problem is always some variant of sin. The answer is always the Good News of Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection. But, of course, wise application must follow.
If we don’t diagnose the problem properly, we can never offer the right solution. If we offer something less than the Gospel, we know that it can never be more than temporarily effective.
And related to our understanding of the Gospel is the Gospel witness. In other words, Christians represent Christ the King and our lives, including what we are willing to be vocal about, tell the world about our Head.
Does our approach say, Jesus is King? Or is that message muffled and left in the background?
There it is, a list of questions to help process what’s going on. Now the hard work begins. But imagine what would happen if we all did this hard work well…