29 May Faith Has A Color
So what does it look like to live by faith when the world around you seems to be filled with pain, death, and hatred? Being completely honest, I’d rather not even talk about it…I’m in tears even as I type these words. Like me, some of you are exhausted by the ongoing struggle against injustice and suffering. As I look at the past two decades of my life, I find that they are filled with painful reminders that the color of my skin..this gift God Himself gave me…is the reason why I am seen as a threat, judged as lacking intelligence, and/or not worthy of life. Here are some instances that came to mind.
It was the fall of 1999 and during my freshman year in college. One of my best friends lived in an off-campus dorm and one day when he returned to his dorm room, he saw a message written on his door that said, “N—— are not allowed!” This man is one of the most gentle and kind people I know but to the person who wrote this awful message, he was much less.
In March of 2005, I remember pulling up to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up a group of students returning from a conference in North Carolina. In a hurry to be on time, I hadn’t realized that I had forgotten my wallet.
With not quite enough space between the car in front of me and the car behind me, I do my best to squeeze my father’s white Dodge Dakota truck between the two vehicles. As I pulled up to pick up the passengers I soon realized that the bed of the truck was sticking out a few feet.
Before I know it I’m approached by a police officer shouting angrily as he points out that the back of the truck was sticking out and blocking traffic. He asked for my license and registration, but of course, I didn’t have my license since I had forgotten my wallet. I’m quickly asked to get out of the vehicle. The strange thing is I could have easily recited my license number from memory but was never given the chance.
He leaned in within inches of my face, raising his voice, interrogating me as if I were a suspect for a crime and not a missionary in training picking up students returning from a Christian conference. When I informed him the truck belonged to my father, he asked me, “How would your dad like it if I towed this truck?!” It was almost as if he wanted me to react with anger and rage, but instead, I simply said, “No sir, he wouldn’t like that.” After he completed his aggressive rant, he went on to instruct one of the students I was picking up to drive the truck home.
I sat in the back of my own vehicle, humiliated, and feeling stripped of my human dignity.
As the years went by, at times it felt like things were getting better, but then suddenly media outlets revealed the truth…that we still have a long way to go. Just this week, a man named George Floyd pleaded with an officer to remove the knee being fatally pressed upon his neck before taking his last breath. If you have paid any attention to the news, the words, “Please, I can’t breathe” are all over the internet.
There are many more stories I could share, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t. For more than twenty years, I have experienced and witnessed prejudice, injustice, and racism. My family, my friends, and people I have never met have been treated differently because of the color of their skin. Because of what they look like, they’ve been followed in department stores, passed over for promotions, racially profiled and even killed.
Often when I walk out of my door, I’m faced with the harsh reality that there is a chance I may not see my wife and my kids again. That while going for a jog in my neighborhood, stopping to get gas, or going to help out a friend, someone whose duty is to serve and protect me, might take my life.
So what does faith look like in the midst of all of this? Here are a few things we can do to display faith in times of difficulty.
For the majority (yes, this means white people), I encourage you to do the following:
- Be willing to face your own darkness. The word racism is jarring and it’s easy to dismiss it and say it doesn’t apply without doing the deep, hard work of doing an inventory of your heart. Do you feel less safe around people of color than you do around people who look like you? If so, why? The vulnerable, honest truth paves the way for God to move. He won’t heal what you refuse to reveal.
- Don’t let fear prevent you from using your voice and influence. Seek friendships with people of color and be curious. Check on them when major events take place in the world impacting people who look like them. Seek ways to bring awareness to people who look like you. Be willing to have hard conversations and even to be ostracized or ridiculed for refusing to be silent while the world ignores the need for systemic change.
- Don’t stop there. Love often doesn’t come with an instruction manual,
For people of color, as we grieve injustice (because we should) I want to encourage us to:
- Not allow it to rob us of our love, joy, and peace. With Christ at our center, these are the sources of fuel our souls need to persevere. Bitterness, resentment and a callous heart won’t bring about change any more than ignorance and passivity. Let us remember to guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).
- Be grateful for the advocates, patient with the learning, and prayerful for the unjust. There are people who get it and are using their voice in positive ways so let’s encourage them to keep doing so. There are some who don’t get it but are willing to understand and with a little education and meaningful conversation could become some of our greatest supporters. Let’s be patient and gracious towards them. Alas, there are some who lack compassion and don’t want to get it. It’s important that we pray for God to change their hearts because only He can.
- Lastly, let us hold on to hope. (Hebrews 10:23). This is a hard one, and at times, I don’t feel like there is much hope at all but I am reminded that I serve a God who is just and evil will not go unpunished (Proverbs 11:21).
Faith has a color and it’s red..the color of the blood of Jesus that covers a multitude of sins, heals the world of its brokenness and injustice and sheds marvelous light in seemingly endless darkness.
Only by remembering the life of Christ, His powerful love for all creation and His willingness to go into difficult places, can we walk into the type of faith He did.
Are you willing to step into this kind of faith? I hope that you are…because that’s what Jesus did.