Christians of Color: Can You See the Stars?
Dear Christians of color,
This is your time.
In many respects, the problems of racism and interracial dysfunctionality in America appear more intractable than ever. And yet, there also appears to be, in the Church, an unprecedented opportunity for growth and change. As Prof. Theon Hill recently wrote, “More and more Christians realize that in order to do something, we cannot avoid these discussions or remain silent as society around us grapples with such an imbedded issue.”
And to make the most of this opportunity, we need you to stand up, speak up, and lift up your end of the banner of gospel reconciliation and peace.
I know you’re tired. Especially after a week like last week. You’re doubled over in discouragement, maybe even despair. And it’s true that in many respects the onus is on our dear White brothers and sisters, who at a time like this need to lead in repentance, listening, and the endeavor to establish equity and cross-cultural hospitality in our neighborhoods and churches. (And many have begun to do so. Amen.) Yes, they have an important, irreplaceable responsibility in this kingdom project.
And so do you.
You know that popular passage about “racial reconciliation” in Ephesians 2? One of its most overlooked features is this: Those words were originally written to ethnic minorities — Gentiles in the predominantly Jewish covenant community throughout redemptive history.
These were people who had been subject to racial hostility (v. 16), denigrated by slurs (v. 11), and excluded from religious privilege (v. 12). It was to such as these that the Apostle offered those timeless words of exhortation (vv. 19-22): You are citizens, not foreigners. Don’t let anyone treat you—don’t treat yourself—like strangers. Stop acting like outsiders. You are a member of this covenant family. You see, Jesus destroyed that “dividing wall of hostility.” Jesus died for you.
And the same goes for you, dear Minority Christians. Seize your covenant privilege. This Church belongs to you. Don’t sideline yourself. Take hold of your kingdom citizenship, and the promise of unmitigated inclusion that is yours by right of covenant.
Reject the internalized racism of diminished expectations for the Church’s members of color. Respectfully insist (humbly demand?) that you be treated as a peer—more than that, as a full-fledged member of Christ’s family. Because that is what you are.
You might need some space right now. I get it. Maybe a moment to catch your breath, to cry, to scream, to take a break. But then, please rise up. Let the grace of Christ strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees with the power of the resurrection (Heb. 12:12). And stand. To share your story. (Your sisters are listening.) To speak of your wounds. (Your brothers are weeping.) To seek justice. (Your church is learning.) To insist on spurring on growth and change. (Your family seems willing.) You won’t be alone.
Because the Church needs us for such a time as this, this potential “racial turning point” in the history of American Christianity. Not just for her health, but her wholeness and holiness, her gospel maturation out of grotesque, unreconciled malformation (Eph. 2:14-15; 4:15-16).
You’re not so sure, I know. You don’t love what you see out there. But, as Prof. Hill quotes Dr. King: “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
Dear Christians of color, I know you see the dark.
Can you see the stars?