I remember my first preaching class in college. On the first day our professor stormed into the room and launched into a tirade about “how dare we assume we could speak for God.” He spent the next forty-five minutes convincing me I had no right to say words on behalf of the Lord Almighty. He blasted away, and when he finally stopped to give us a ten minute break, I gathered with some others from class and we actually began formulating plans for changing our majors. We were shell-shocked. I have no idea why I returned for the second half of class. But the same professor then spent forty-five minutes declaring that “those who know the truth cannot remain silent.” God needed us, called us, to take his message to the world. How could we refuse?
I left confused and convicted. My call to preach was much more daunting and weighty, yet much more important, than I had come close to imagining.
So when events happen like those in Ferguson, MO, or Staten Island, I struggle. I struggle with whether I, as a white male, have the right to say anything? Or whether as a proclaimer of Jesus I have an obligation to speak? Dare I tread these tumultuous waters too casually or self-righteously? Dare I avoid this topic when I follow the suffering servant?
So these words are not put forth lightly. And these words do not presume to be the entire truth. But, these words are an attempt to once again heed the call.
A word to my white brothers and sisters. Be careful. Wounds are deep and raw. Be careful. Watch your words. Be careful. Guard your hearts. This is an opportunity to love and understand, or a chance to drive wedges so deep they may not be overcome in our lifetime. It is all there so be careful.
Understand that you don’t completely understand. That you can’t. That is okay. You don’t have to completely understand to love.
Don’t be foolish. If an answer is easy and obvious, it is probably not an answer and is best kept to yourself.
Remember, this is about more than any one incident, about more than some single statistic.
Before you defend your “side” or “government” or “ideals” or whatever, remember that if something is good and righteous and loving, it does not need to be defended.
Don’t pretend to know what it is like. I am not a poor black kid. Neither are you.
If you feel the need to point something out, think twice. No, think three times. I saw that someone I know felt the need to mention that “those people are stupid and self-defeating to riot.” Notice the “those.” I am seeing far too many “those, them, and they” in much of what I read.
And remember, what do you do if you truly believe the system is against you? You cannot uphold George Washington and John Adams as heroes and then tell others they must demure to the system again and again when they perceive it to be stacked against them.
To my brothers and sisters of color. Please forgive me. I love you in my heart. I love you in my head. But I cannot always seem to find the right actions or words. I want to help things be better, be right, be just. But I don’t really know what to do most of the time.
I would never call you a bad name, but I have ignored your plight. Forgive me.
I have often loved you as individuals, but not as a people. Forgive me.
I find some things that some people of color do offensive. I struggle with whether that is some form of privilege or racism. I honestly don’t always know. Help me.
I want to help, but I am not sure where to start. Teach me.
Finally, to all of us. We are close to Christmas. We celebrate that God came near. That He came as Immanuel. God With Us. We get the God part. We get the with part. Let’s not forget the us part.