When is enough really enough? When do we call out in loud exclamations of ENOUGH!? How many people have to die at the hands of those who feel superior because of the color of their skin or the location of their upbringing or their sexuality? When do we, as the church, stand up and proclaim the way of Jesus – which doesn’t look anything like any of this!? When do we really make movements to show this is not okay? Are we waiting for a time that it affects us? Are we waiting for a time when we feel threatened? Are we simply passing the buck because it isn’t our homes that are terrorized?
As a white male, I am aware of white privilege and those heavily influenced by white supremacy. I am aware that I am looked at differently because of the color of my skin and being a heterosexual male. I understand that I pastor a mostly white church that operates as a white church in an area where the majority of the population is not white. I get that I have the freedom to move about without worry because I was born here. As someone that exercises outside, I am aware that I can run or bike in pretty much any area without being looked at as suspicious for the color of my skin. I am even more aware of these privileges when I consider what is happening on a regular basis in this country and even perpetuated by key leadership that look like me.
So why mention this as a white heterosexual male minister with privilege in a worship service on a Sunday that is Mother’s Day in the middle of a pandemic, no less? Why not? When does it become a good time? When is it appropriate? Many non-white churches and places of worship have been speaking of this for years and years. How many people have to die before it is a good time for the church to call this out? How much has to happen before enough really is enough for the predominately white church? What has to happen before white people call out our privilege and begin to work towards a different world? And I speak of non-white because it is the African American community – but it is also the community that is non-white or different – Hispanic, Jewish, LGBTQ, Muslim and more.
Sure, the conversation is uncomfortable, terrifying at times, and quite difficult. I can hear people speaking right now…Pastor Brad – you know I am not racist. If everyone that says they are not racist weren’t actually racist, we wouldn’t need to have the conversation. What if racism is so built into our society and into our churches…white privilege so ingrained in our lives…that we don’t even notice when it is being used? What if it isn’t just about being blatantly racist but about embedded racism that rears its ugly head on a regular basis, often unnoticed by those who use it?
With this, I think the time is now. It is Mother’s Day and I cannot imagine the fear a non-white mother must have as she sends her non-white children out into the world, giving them instructions on how to avoid even appearing to do anything wrong. I cannot image giving them directions on the best way to get places so that they are in places where they should not be. What about giving them guidance so that the white people won’t think they are dangerous or a threat? I can’t imagine because I am white. What I can say is that enough is enough.
And I don’t know where else to start when enough is enough than the Bible. I don’t know how else to find direction and guidance than God’s instructions for life – God’s instructions that show love and peace and kindness without any difference. I don’t know any other place to begin than with the grace that is so freely given. I can only begin with the life of Jesus – a non-white person that led the way to love.
There are many places we can go from here. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors when that was not okay – not only shunned but dangerous. Jesus went and sat down with a Samaritan woman in order to show her love in a time and place that was not acceptable. He taught a parable about who was our neighbor using someone from a different culture and was despised by those he spoke. Jesus gave examples of inviting all people to the table and welcoming the forgotten and the oppressed. He died for all people and gives us the command to love God and love others, regardless. And we have turned that, all too often, into loving people like us. If you don’t believe me, look at those that have been accused of these hate crimes over the years…those that claim faith, that claim to be a part of a church, that also claim superiority and fear of someone different taking over. Wasn’t Jesus hung for similar reasons – fear of someone else taking over and superiority? We tend to forget that Jesus wasn’t a white male American – or the fact that he wasn’t white at all.
In Bible Study this week, we looked at 1 Peter 2:2-10. I want to revisit a particular few verses of this scripture – and for some of us, introduce it for just a moment. Verses 9-10 read, “2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” One people, holy to God. That people is not a color or an origin or a sex. One people because we are God’s people. This does not mean white people. This is God’s people.
If indeed, we are to work to become more like Christ, to be one people, where do we begin? As white Christians, I have to believe we begin with repentance. We begin with acknowledgement where we have misunderstood, where we have fallen short, where we have taken advantage of our privilege without fighting for true equality. We acknowledge that our privilege has held others down. We begin to understand that we have allowed our fears to direct our actions. We begin by asking for forgiveness – both from God and from our brothers and sisters that have a different skin color or origin than us. Forgiveness is hard because it is uncomfortable and causes us to confront the issues we have that we might not otherwise acknowledge. Being repentant means we don’t want it to be like that any longer – meaning as white heterosexual people, we are willing to release our power and privilege and fight for the rights of those not like us. Repentance means that we do the frightening work of having conversations of where others have been wronged. When we are willing to sit down and hear the voices of other people unlike us, we can begin to work towards something different.
I want to offer one more scripture as I bring this to a beginning (though nearing the end of the message, I pray the beginning of a new start)
9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s[d] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled[e] you[f] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[g]
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[h]him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
There is a lot packed in this scripture, but I hear the desire to live a life worthy of the gospel. I want to live fully pleasing to God. I want to have my eyes opened to the truth – even when it hurts. I want to enter conversations that challenge my thoughts and actions so that I can see where I have gone wrong. I want to follow Christ wherever he leads me and his church. I want to lift up my brothers and sisters, as we begin to ask for forgiveness, a small step in moving forward. My prayer is that God would be glorified in it all. I pray that hearts would begin to heal, efforts would be made towards justice, and lives would be changed. I pray my life begins to show the love of God for all of his children.
Church – will you begin with me?
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.