I had an epiphany this year. I was struggling with whether or not human beings always act in accordance with their beliefs. The great thinker, Dallas Willard makes the comment in The Divine Conspiracy that we do – always. I, at first took issue with this. After all, I often do the things I don’t want to do. We Christians love Paul’s words in Romans 7 – “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” We resonate with those words because we recognize our own inability to live up to a moral standard – even ones we invent for ourselves.
I took that verse to describe the fact that my actions can and do venture outside the bounds of what I actually believe to be true. Yes, we certainly do commit sins we don’t want to commit, but that is only because we BELIEVE it would be better for us to commit the sin. (ie: we are deciding that the sin is worth it). I revised my understanding of belief, based on this simple, but profound realization.
Belief is a percentage thing.
The stuff that we say we believe, we probably only believe to some degree, which means we have warring beliefs that can conflict. I had always assumed belief and/or faith to be much like a light switch. It’s either on or off with no dimmer switch, no ‘in between’.
I think the same percentage thing I discovered about belief or faith relates to each of our personal struggles with racism.
Very few of us are 100% racist, but very few again are 0% racist. We all have some prejudice with regard to race that we either fight against or just accept. And prejudice is not a wholly different thing than racism, it’s a manifestation of racism. Most have learned to deal with it such that no one can really notice. If we’re honest though, we sense it within ourselves.
So many of us are looking to the government or to our pastors or thought leaders to say or do something that will help. And some of them will say great things and move the needle in a good direction. I don’t know about you, but I need some personal action steps. We can’t be looking to the government or someone else all of the time. Your greatest opportunity to effect change starts in your own mind.
These are little things that I am personally engaging that can move us toward a greater love and respect for the humans that are not like us.
1. Go out of your way today to talk to someone of a different race (mostly talking to white people). Listen or ask questions with sincerity. Don’t even share your opinion. Just engage the person in some kind of conversation and seek to understand.
2. If 1 is too hard, call or email a friend of a different race. Let em know you’re thinking about them and that you care about their well-being.
3. If you’re white (like me). Consider whether or not your life would be more difficult if you were not white. (ie: get a certain job, deal with a traffic stop, go to the store without dressing decently). This is called white privilege and if you’re not used to the term, it will offend you as a white person. I was once offended by it, and then I had to repent. If you feel offended, take that feeling of offense to a prayer time with Jesus and ask Him honestly how you should feel. And don’t point to a black person with a great job as proof that this is not a thing. Spud Webb could dunk, but most 5 footers can’t. There are exceptions to every rule.
4. If you really want to move the needle. Consider that your votes for district attorneys and mayors in upcoming elections matter. There may be options that agree with most of your other issues that do in fact verbalize a desire to confront this type of injustice. In other words, maybe you don’t have to defy all of your other deeply held convictions in order to vote for this. I have to believe that there is a greater diversity of opinion at the local level where police chiefs are chosen and criminal justice systems are affected.
5. If you’re thinking that conservatives are on one side of this and liberals are on the other. STOP IT!! It’s just not true.
6. Pray like Jesus that the Kingdom would come on earth as it is in Heaven. I think it is already…it’s just slow because we’re slow.
A closing thought: I’ve always seen the existence of evil as a clear result of God making humans with the beauty and terror of free will. If God were to create a world of humans with free will, then it would look just like the one we see today. I truly believe that Jesus is repairing things, but we need to step into all this pain and evil and be a part of the repair.
Written by Alan Wilser