What Breaks God’s Heart? Racial Injustice

God wants to heal His human family, and as long I can remember, I have yearned for that, too.  He places a very high priority on the relationships among those He has created. Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First, make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 CEB

Since grade school, I have wondered what I could do about the painful issue of racial injustice. My parents set an excellent example. They actively protested the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and during the Depression, my mother often cooked food for people who knocked on our door.

My father, a family doctor, served many people of color.  Some of his patients did not have the means to pay, so he specified that they not be billed. As a little girl, I remember attending some of his patients’ baby baptisms with him.  Our neighborhood and my school had little diversity. My first African American friend was Peggy Brooks, who came to help my mother once a week. As a young girl, I shadowed Peggy in her work, and she taught me to iron. This is still my best domestic skill, although not in high demand these days!

As college students, Steve and I married. We learned about a program for underprivileged minority children. If they lived with families within that district during the week, they could qualify to be considered eligible residents of a superior school district. We did not know if they would accept us – a young couple – as fill-in parents.  But they did, and we had two middle-school “daughters” for the next couple of years.

When Pastor Dick Leon established a sister church relationship with Mt. Calvary Christian Center in the Central District several years ago, it meant a lot to me to be part of the formation team. As we traveled in the evenings between churches, we all had to work through our fears of going into unfamiliar neighborhoods. We had challenging conversations as we compared notes about being black or white in our country.  As we began worshipping together and meeting in one another’s homes, we celebrated our oneness as Christians. Our shared love of Jesus dissolved the barriers of race, age, economics, gender and culture as nothing else can!

Our country seemed to be moving beyond racism, and as the news reminds us daily, racial tension and hate crimes are still very apparent.

I am thankful that BelPres has created a Justice and Reconciliation Team. Its efforts to engage our congregation in educational programs, service opportunities, and person-to-person ministries can help turn the tide. I am excited for this way God is inviting our church into His work of redemption!

 

BelPres offers several different options to learn more about diversity and racial injustice:

May 13, Saturday, 9:30am – 2pm:   Racial Reconciliation Workshop/Frames & Filters with Tali Hairston

May 24 or June 4: Racial Reconciliation Post Workshop Discussion

May 25-June 29, Thursdays, 7pm: Justice+Reconciliation Workshop/Facing Racism

Racism and the Gospel, a visit with Dr. John Perkins

Racism: the belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. Racism breeds fear and distrust, robbing everyone involved of their identity in Christ, created in God’s image, to know God, to love and bJohn-Perkinse loved. Racism is hateful and evil, pitting one human against another human, destroying relationships and ultimately bringing death. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  All people. Racism steals away the good news of the gospel.

John Perkins began his life in 1930 in Mississippi as the son of a poor sharecropper. When he was seven months old his mother died and his father abandoned the family, leaving the children to be raised in poverty by their grandmother and extended family. John was seventeen when his older brother was murdered by a town marshal, and John’s family became afraid for his life. Vowing never to return to the place of his birth, John fled to California.

Fast forward to 1957 when John, through his son’s encouragement, attended a church service and encountered the Lord, giving his life to Christ. Though he had vowed never to return to his boyhood home, God had a bigger plan for John. In 1960, John moved their family to Mississippi to share the gospel of Christ with those still living in that area. John became a vocal supporter and leader in the civil rights movement, was beaten, arrested and tortured in jail, but never lost sight of the call on his life or the love of God in his heart. He came through this experience with a vision of a holistic ministry designed to remove the bondage of racism from all people, the oppressor and the oppressed.

Through the next four decades John wrote, spoke, taught, earned degrees and became an international leader in the church. He authored nine books, created non-profit ministries, joined boards at World Vision and Prison Fellowship, and became a leader in community development for impoverished people in urban and rural settings.  In 2004, Seattle Pacific joined with now Dr. John Perkins to launch the campus-based John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development.

Dr. Perkins was in town last week. On Monday, I had the privilege of joining a small gathering of urban leaders for lunch and teaching with by Dr. John. We met at Urban Impact and for two hours we sat at the feet of the master of reconciliation. At 85 years of age, he is an energetic man with a gentle demeanor and an incredible heart for God’s people. Moving around the room as he spoke, he made eye contact with each person. Words of scripture flowed effortlessly from him as spoke about the utter devastation racism had on our country, our communities and our churches.

He asked, “What is the time in which each of us is living? It is not the time to profile and hate, it is the time to start reading the word of God and believe what it says!” God has not designed us to be defined by race; we are all members of one race, the human race. We come from different ethnicities, cultures, lands, and we are all one race under God.

Dr. John spoke on God’s call on our lives to love. He said, “Love is the best chance…people get trapped in their own cultures…we have to love their eyes open…to look for ways to serve both sides.” The Gospel is the power to reconcile people together, and as the church we are called to reconcilers, to let the God of Reconciliation live in our hearts and walk out reconciliation in our lives. As Dr. John stated, “Let’s enjoy loving each other across all lines that divide us.” How do we do this? By coming together, working and learning together, and by staying together no matter what.

Have you experienced racism in your own life? If so, how did it impact your faith and your understanding of reconciliation?

Are you interested in further conversations on race and reconciliation? If so, BelPres has a Justice and Reconciliation team that meets twice a month. For more information contact me,  Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach at mmccracken@belpres.org.