Racism {Part 1}

Editor's note: In the following days, we will be posting a multiple part series on the subject of racism that Pastor Bryon addressed on Sunday (click here to view his message). Check back Friday and Saturday (6/5,6) at noon for new posts. The conversation will continue in this Sunday's message 6/7 and blog post to follow that message. 

In Philippians 2, Paul exhorts the body of Christ to live in love and unity by following the example of Jesus, who emptied himself of the honor, rights and privilege of his position to humbly take on the form of a servant. In Acts 1-2, we read of how the first disciples were faithful to Jesus’ instruction by doing the hard work of waiting for the Holy Spirit to come and empower them to bear faithful witness of him and the new way of life available in his kingdom. They waited and prayed and were transformed with a power far beyond themselves when the Spirit came and filled them. In his first truly Spirit-led sermon, Peter quoted from the prophet Joel using apocalyptic language, but it wasn’t the end of the world. It was just the end of the world they had always known.

Pastor Bryon's message on Sunday went far in informing our response to this dire cultural moment. Our country has cautiously emerged from the suffering and restrictions of a global pandemic only to be rocked by multiple instances of police brutality and racist acts leading to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, GA, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY and George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Protests sparked by George Floyd’s death have continued for days nationwide, at times spiraling into destructive riots. It leaves us shaking our heads in disgust of systemic racism and questioning what any of us can do about it.

So what are we to do? In a powerful little booklet entitled Deepening the Soul for Justice, Bethany H. Hoang makes these insightful comments:

"More often than not we are so eager to jump straight into whatever we perceive to be the ‘action’ that we distract ourselves from the very practices that must form, inform and even transform our action – the very practices that must form us if our action is to be wise, effective and sustained throughout the inevitable obstacles and distractions to come. For many followers of Christ, being obedient to God’s commands to do justice is certainly a daily, on-the-ground, person-by-person work of rescuing and protecting victims and restraining the hand of oppressors. However, for every follower of Christ, being obedient to God’s commands to do justice is just as much a daily, on-the-ground, person-by-person work of prayer . . . When we seek justice without first, and throughout, seeking the God of justice, we risk passion without roots. And passion without roots cannot be sustained. Burnout is inevitable. Beyond this risk of burnout, when a justice movement loses its roots of formation in Christ and yet continues wildfire growth for a season, justice itself can be turned into a commodity by the very people passionate to pursue it. The commodification of justice is a sign that we have begun to pursue justice more as a means toward our own self-actualization rather than a means toward the true end of freedom and transformation for those who desperately need rescue from violent abuse."

I should add here though that waiting on God in patient prayer, as the apostles did at Pentecost, should not be used as a cover or excuse for passive acceptance of current conditions and a vague hope that somehow they will change with time. As Martin Luther King noted in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “I am coming to feel that people of ill will have used time much more effectively that the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

I will close this post with an excerpt from The Book of Common Prayer: 

“Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

by Steve Lamp
Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.