Three things the church can do about racism: repent, resist, and restore.
Recently on the Color Correction podcast, Bethany, Andrew, and Kris asked me what the church can do about racism, and so I offered three things that I think the church is particularly equipped at leading our society to do.
The first thing I think the church is particularly equipped to do is to lead the way in terms of repentance. We serve a God who has saved and forgiven us for all the harm we’ve done in the world. And that bounty of grace frees us to repent of the ways that we have been complicit in racism with no shame and no condemnation. Because we are the beloved of God, we can rest in the assurance that we are redeemed, and so we are free to repent and move toward transformation. In a sense, Jesus was cancelled for us, and so now we are free to admit our failures and move on.
I think it’s hard for people to admit their guilt when all that follows is condemnation. The assurance of our salvation and the completion of God’s work allows us to both see one another gracefully, but also without fear of admitting when we’ve missed the mark. We can lead the world in repenting, as Christians.
In following the life and way of Jesus of Nazareth, we are able to point out in the world where it fails to do that. Because we are free to repent, we can also prophetically name the sins that the world needs to repent of. We can name the evils of police brutality, the criminal justice system, and racism incisively because our hearts are so attuned to suffering. We feel and see because we follow the suffering servant. We resist evil together because of the pain it causes.
The prophets of the Old and New Testament, including Jesus, do the same thing. They empathize with God’s feeling, and when God hurts, they hurt. Let’s ask God to soften our hearts as we bear witness to the suffering around us, and may God also sharpen us as we cut through the evil.
More than just repentance and resistance, we can restore the world to how God created it and how Jesus is transforming it. Because we are so familiar with the other vision for the world that Jesus has authored, we can cast vision for that world.
Allow me to briefly jaunt through the first. When Jesus was born, in Luke 1, the angel announced, “peace and goodwill to all.” In Luke 2, Mary prophecies that:
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
John repeats Isaiah’s prophecy in Luke 3:
Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
and the rough places made smooth.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.”
In Luke 4, Jesus prophecies that he is here to give good news to the poor:
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And that’s just the first four chapters of the Gospel of Luke: a proclamation for peace and good will, a promise for filling the hungry with good things, an assurance of lowering the mountains and filling the valleys, and then a ministry devoted to preaching good news to the poor to liberating the oppressed. The church can lead the world in this restoration. We can offer hope to a cynical world; love to a hate-filled world; faith to a certain word; and truth to a world full of lies.