“I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:23-25
The words of the apostle Paul run true in my heart this morning. I know that this same fight is in me and to be honest, I absolutely hate it! A few weeks ago, Mike Brown was shot in the streets of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Upon initial report, I knew something was different about this incident. Not different in the sense of facts vs. fiction, Lord knows that’s going to happen when things are politicized, but rather I saw that it was different in a form of a cultural staple moment….the potential for a movement if you will.
We’ve seen it before: Rodney King, MLK, Trayvon Martin….heck, even weeks leading up to this incident came stories of various police brutality around the country that ended in the deaths of African Americans. But something was different about this one for me. Whether it be I started paying attention or hearing the cries of my black brothers and sisters, I do not know. All I know is that this one would drive me to examine my own heart. It forced me to.
I had hints of this exploration a few years ago when Trayvon was shot. My white upbringing taught me the defenses that should be implemented immediately when questioned: He looked like a thug! He was in a neighborhood he shouldn’t have been in! He went looking for trouble!
Like Paul the apostle, I saw and experienced something in me rising up that I knew was wrong. It definitely wasn’t in congruence with the Gospel. I didn’t want to think the things coming to mind. I knew they weren’t correct and weren’t Godly. But why were they in my heart?
On August 18, I tweeted:
“As an anglo, when issues in our world happen like Ferguson, I’m forced to search my heart. It’s never as clean as I wish it was.”
This is a fight that white evangelicals must explore. It’s easy to point to our flesh and make excuses for why we think these things, mainly because for many of us, we value our politics and biases more than we do the gospel. But the gospel calls us to do something different. The gospel calls us to see people the way Christ sees people. The gospel calls us to bear our brothers and sisters burdens.
It amazes me some of the comments I’ve seen and heard from various white evangelicals around the country in response to this incident. Here are just a few:
- “Black people’s struggle is one the media created.”
- “What’s the big deal? Black on black violence happens everyday. It’s just another dead black.”
- “Keep living the dream Black America, look where it’s gotten you.”
- “The overall black culture is repulsive.”
To my white friends and readers, this ought not be! One of the individuals who mentioned an above comment (i.e. the second one) is a pastoral ministries major at the largest evangelical undergraduate program in our country. Why is it that many white evangelicals value their comfort and politics more than the mission of God? It breaks my heart. It makes my soul unsettled.
Just to be clear and transparent, I am not excused from this. As a white evangelical, everyday I find myself fighting this. I am faced with a decision almost DAILY either to listen and lean into my biases, or trust and fight for the gospel. I beg the Holy Spirit to change me.
Just this morning I was faced with this exact experience. Every morning I work out at a local LA Fitness and after getting ready, I go to the Starbucks up the street to get a cup of coffee and read my Bible. Typically I do all of my bible reading on my computer, so I brought it out and went up to the counter to order my drink. As I was ordering, there was a group of about 5-7 black teens in the shop getting drinks before they went to school.
I found myself feeling this nervousness swell up in my heart, fully convinced that if anyone would steal my computer, it would be one of these black teenagers. This morning I failed. I chose my bias over the gospel. Once again the passage from Paul runs true in my heart and my mind:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of death? Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord!”
White evangelicals, you and I must believe better. We must fight to bear the burdens of our black brothers and sisters during this season. We must fight to listen. We must fight to put our own biases to death. We must fight to understand. We must fight to love.
But the good news? We don’t have to fight alone. Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord who gives us the strength to fight.
Various articles and videos on how white evangelicals can respond to Ferguson: