A Note from Pastor Chris about Racial Reconciliation

A Note from Pastor Chris about Racial Reconciliation
Written By: Pastor Chris Stukenberg

Our hearts ache with the state of the world right now. The frustration, anger, and deep sorrow we are feeling leaves us wanting something better, and that longing is an entirely biblical ideal! When we read in Revelation 21 and 22 about the New Jerusalem and the idea of dwelling with God forever, we should long for that! Amen?

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” -Rev. 21:3-4

The world we live in is so far from the reality described in this portion of Scripture. For the past few months, we’ve all been dealing with COVID-19: a brand new disease that’s completely changing the way we’re allowed to live our day to day lives. Many of us are frustrated with the way this disease started, how it’s presence has been handled, and how it feels too often like a political battle instead of a battle of allowing God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In the past few weeks, we've seen another difficult reality rise to the surface - racial tension. Unlike COVID-19, however, racial tension is not new to everyone. Many of us white people living in NW Illinois don’t have to face this tension on a daily basis, and therefore don’t realize that it’s a reality people of color have been living with for hundreds of years. 
When we see news stories from other cities and states where race plays a key role, our gut reaction is to wish we “knew the whole truth.” It feels difficult to make a judgment about a story when it seems that every news outlet is saying something different, and we don’t know who to trust. Even more, as a predominantly white congregation in a predominantly white county in a predominantly white state and predominantly white nation, we don’t know if it’s our place to enter into discussions about race, and we often wonder what we can even do. Let me encourage you to do these four things (at least):
1) DESIRE JUSTICE (OR LEARN TO):  We don't have to be painted into a corner of prejudice. The media we consume and our political opinions can do this very quickly. Depending on who you talk to, you’ll be called a racist if you defend the good police, and you’ll be called a race baiter if you demand justice from the police force. Let me encourage you to care more about the truth than about the names you might be called: speak up with grace and nuance. 
To desire a world without racism does not make you a "cop hater." To stand up for good policemen and policewomen does not make you a racist. To participate in a peaceful protest does not make you a liberal. To call for an end to rioting does not make you a conservative. 
You are a Christ-follower. Jesus desires justice. 
He desired justice so much that He took the justice due to us and paid for it himself! He desired justice so much that He healed Jairus' daughter and the woman who was suffering from bleeding. He saw the leper and the man at the well and confronted the religious leaders in the temple courts. Desiring justice and standing up for it with words and actions is biblical: staying quiet to keep the peace and not hurt feelings is not. We can desire and stand up for justice. We can promote change with our words and actions. Most who are protesting nation-wide are doing so peacefully. We can stand with those who are protesting, both in-person and by reaching out to our politicians. We should want to see a world where the color of a person's skin does not lead to different treatment. 
And as we confront our desires for justice (or, perhaps, the lack-there-of) let us pay special attention to humility, especially as white Americans. Have you ever seriously considered the reality of racism in America, and the fact that your perspective may be partial? Have you ever had a face-to-face, respectful, conversation with a person of color about race where you listened more than you spoke? Have you ever watched a documentary or read a book that was created by a person of color? Have you ever prayerfully asked God to examine your heart and give you wisdom about it? “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)
2) MOURN WITH THOSE WHO MOURN: There is something wrong with the system we are a part of, and this should cause us to feel deeply and to mourn. It’s not easy to know what to do with such heavy emotions when we feel them, but we cannot ignore them. Perhaps we should fast and as we feel hungry or sad about the world around us, we should drop to our knees. Jesus wept. We can too, and we should too. This world is so full of hate and pain that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Let's take that overwhelmed feeling to our Father and let Him set our course. Perhaps we need to consider how we feel and use this longing to call on God to right all wrongs and lead us back to Him.
3) REACH OUT: The white community will never know what it feels like to be a racial minority in this country. This does not mean, however, that racial tension isn’t “our problem” just because we may not feel it or see it every day. Reach out and touch base with your brothers and sisters in Christ who do not share our skin tone. Call or text your friends and acquaintances of another race and see how they are feeling right now. Pray for them. Love them. Walk with them. Support them. Listen to them.
4) CONFESS: It’s easy to look at others and see “how wrong they are.” It’s much harder to look inwardly and examine ourselves. We need to confess our own racism. Many of us have unhealthy views of race that need to be repented of. Psalm 139:1-6 might be a good place to start. Let's humbly lay prostrate before the Lord and let Him determine our next steps and mindset. The worst thing we can do right now is be silent because we’re afraid of ruffling feathers. Let’s be silent because we are listening, growing, reflecting, praying, and confessing. Let's do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) and love our neighbor, nation and community well.

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