People of color have endured racial inequality in our country for hundreds of years. The reality of injustice is clearly displayed from the stories I listen to—many from friends who silently suffered. During this reawakening of racial injustice, the Holy Spirit is reminding me of several truths. Maybe these truths can help you journey in uncharted waters as well.
1. Unity in ethnic and racial diversity is a picture of the kingdom of God (Rev. 7:9–17).
After the tribulation, believers from every nation, tribe, and tongue, will worship together before the throne of God in perfect unity (Rev. 7:9-17). But we are not there yet. And Jesus knew the goal of unity on earth would be as difficult as walking through a sandstorm.
That is why, I think, Jesus prayed for his future disciples (including us), to be one—united—so that the world may believe the Father sent Jesus (John 17). Our savior used his precious few words in this prayer to ask the Father to help us, perhaps because genuine unity requires God’s supernatural aid.
Another time Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. In his example, he led them to pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). The Revelation passage shows us God’s will for all nations to come to him and worship him in perfect unity. Every nation. Every tribe. Every tongue.
So, unity in racial and ethnic diversity for the glory of God—is the will of God for life on earth right now and will be a forever reality after Jesus returns.
But genuine unity is not possible through law or moral striving, but through the uniting power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of believers—God’s kingdom come on earth.
That does not mean we cease advocating for justice for the oppressed. We do the good work of the kingdom while we are on earth while also praying for unity.
2. The image of God is diverse in its beauty (Gen. 1:27).
From the beginning, God reflected his creativity in diversity by making both male and female in his own image. United, but different. God is brilliant in his craftmanship in everything from the electric blues and oranges of topical fish—to the diverse breeds of domestic dogs. The shaggy English mastiff and the small, yappy chihuahua each reflect God’s brilliance.
Humanity, however, is set apart from all other created things. We were crafted from the earth to image God on the earth by taking care of his creation and living out his character. Every. Single. Person. Straight hair, or curly; light skin or dark; short or tall; lanky or robust—God made humanity diverse and all of us are purposed with worshipping God and imaging him in the world.
Diversity is what makes life beautiful and useful. For example, we can smell the lavender and basil from our neighbor’s window box on a walk around our neighborhood. We can fry together peppers, onion, and flank steak for fajitas for dinner. We can collaborate with a graphics designer and computer programmer on launching a new website. If every smell, every ingredient, and every skill set were the same, our life would be as beautiful as mud. All of God’s unique parts of creation reflect his glory and his creativity. Especially diverse humanity.
3. Preferring others based on their appearance is a sin (James 2:1–13).
In the book of James, the biblical author shares a story about a rich person and poor person entering a gathering of believers. If the believers offer a choice seat to the well-dressed person and a less favorable place to the shaggy-dressed person, they practice favoritism. And James says very plainly: if you show favoritism, you sin . . . (James 2:9).
The passage then encourages listeners to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” No matter who is around us—we are to love them and not show favoritism. I think favoritism is at the heart of racism. And this passage from James is helping me detect any favoritism I show based on biases and repent of them. Do you show favoritism in any environment?
4. There is a time to listen and a time to speak (Ecc. 3:7).
The suffering of others should not be a social media strategy. We don’t want to add to the noise, but if we speak, it should be carefully considered and helpful.
Right now, as a white American, I’m choosing to listen well to the stories of those who have been hurt by racism in various forms.
I’m holding the burden of their stories in my chest and letting their words shape my heart. In time, as I listen and reflect, the Holy Spirit leads me to action (such as writing this blog post).
The important part: to listen well and pray deeply. As we take the time to soak in other’s pain, the Holy Spirit will lead us in how we are to respond.
Do you have a story of suffering racial inequality? If you are willing, I would appreciate hearing your story, holding your burden close to my chest, and praying for you. You can share in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.