The Witness

Do We Alienate Our White Brothers and Sisters?

Keith Echols

Recently, in response to the article “I, Racist” written by John Metta, a white friend of mine wrote a very impassioned Facebook post expressing heartfelt frustration. Her post ended with the following:

“I can’t possibly understand racial issues because I am white and the cause of the problem; But at the same time I’m supposed to speak up and help fix the problem.”

Responses that Alienate
As her brother in Christ, her frustration grieves me. The racial conversation in America is extremely exhausting for Blacks. We have a right to be frustrated and angry, and a right to express these feelings. Could it be that in all our expressions, we create tension with our white brothers and sisters?

I am not advocating our white brothers and sisters get a free pass from hearing our feelings and concerns. I am saying it is possible the rhetoric we use to discuss issues impacting our community is also language that alienates our white brothers and sisters.

As long as sin remains, there will be tension along racial lines. We cannot determine how the majority culture responds to racially charged incidences. However, we can control our response and how we discuss these issues. I offer the following questions to consider as we move forward.

1. Is my response to racial issues Christ-exalting and Gospel-advancing?

In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to identify the true enemy. We must remember the root cause of racism is sin. The remedy for sin is the Gospel. A good model for response would be one that identifies man as a sinner (Romans 3:23), exalts Christ as Savior (1 Timothy 1:15), and offers the Gospel as the hope for reconciliation (Ephesians 2:11-22).

2. What are my expectations for a response?

Does the black community say white people are incapable of understanding the problem while, on the other hand, expecting them to solve it? Do we have standards for what would qualify as an acceptable response? If so, have we made these guidelines known to our white brothers and sisters?

Most importantly, is it fair to have the expectation that they speak to our issues in a manner that we deem appropriate?

3. Are we truly part of one Body?

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Paul lays out the vital importance of each member of the body of Christ and how we should operate as one body. When we come to Christ, we do not check our ethnicity at the door. But we do commit to our ethnicity becoming a secondary identity to our identity as a follower of Christ.
We do not have the right to say the perspectives and feelings of our white brothers and sisters do not matter, just as they do not have the right to say as much to us. We are all members of the Body of Christ. Our responses as Black people should reflect this reality more deeply than the reality of our ethnicity.

4. Are we truly part of one family?

All believers in Christ have been sealed by the Spirit of Adoption and made fellow heirs of the grace of God (Romans 8:14-17). Before we are black or white, we are sons and daughters of God. This status before God was purchased at the great cost of the blood of Christ. As members of one family, we have a bond that was forged through the horror and the beauty of the Cross.

As Black believers, we must remember that we are members of the family of God before we are members of an ethnic community.

5. Is the blood of Christ sufficient to address my pain and frustration?

Christ paid the penalty for all sins, including the sin of racism when he shed his blood on the Cross. In our quest to search for answers, we must first start by looking to him and his sacrifice. No man or woman alive can fulfill our desire for justice. It is only in the Gospel of Christ we can find peace and answers to the chaos of this present world.

In recognizing that in Christ we have the remedy for our pain, we may find that a specific response from our white brothers and sisters becomes less important.

Conclusion

As we seek to form our responses to the racial atrocities of our day, we must wrestle with why and how we respond. Our voices are important, but we must use them with prudence. When we do harm to our white brothers and sisters in our speech, we are harming members of our own family.

The road to racial reconciliation is a long and arduous one requiring all believers, regardless of ethnicity, to traverse it together. Taking pride in who we are as a people and standing up for our community is vitally important. I encourage us all to take steps to ensure we take our stand from a Biblical perspective.

May we all, both black and white, walk together in the grace and peace our Lord Christ Jesus provides as we work towards racial reconciliation. May we also take hope in the Day, when the sin of racism is no more as people from every tribe, tongue, and language gather around the throne, giving praise to our God and King!

 

Have you had a conversation with a white brother or sister to address issues of racism in America?

If so, what conclusions did you leave the conversation with on how you could move forward together as members of the family of God?

11 thoughts on “Do We Alienate Our White Brothers and Sisters?

  1. Keith

    David,

    I find it interesting that you would call into question my Christianity and my affirmation of Reformed theology and those that would agree based on this sentence. Do you ever feel frustrated or angered by anything? If so do you express it? If that is the case, then based on your statement I, and others that did not have an issue with this sentence, have grounds to question your faith.

    By highlighting this sentence you basically have ignored the whole premise of this blog post. I made it clear that black believers should do all they can to express themselves in a God honoring way. It is clear that you disengaged from my premise once you read that sentence and that is unfortunate.

    Ephesians 4:25-32 states the following: Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    It is clear to me that Paul was saying that we should speak truth, but do so in a way that shows respect and honor to the hearer. What He does not say is that we should not feel anger and frustration. He does not say that we should not express such feelings. He says do not sin in doing so. That was the point of my blog.

    What I hear you advocating is that black believers should simply remain silent if we feel frustrations. If that is the case that a flatly reject your position. How can I not feel anger and frustration when I see my black brothers and sisters being slaughtered? How can I remain silent when I see such injustice? My responsibility as a Christian, Reformed, black man is to channel my feelings in regards to racial injustice in such a way that I advanced the Gospel. This is what I tried to do in this blog. I am not perfect, but I believe God is working on the hearts of many through this blog and for that I am grateful to Him.

    I am sorry that you felt differently. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please let me know.

  2. Keith

    Malcolm,

    I appreciate your thoughts here. I was in no way trying to insinuate that the “right” to feel frustrated was confined to only black people. Firstly, this article was meant for an African American audience so I felt it important to validate feelings that we all have. Secondly, I did not want the message to the audience to come across as me saying we should not express these feels but rather remain silent.

    I agree that no one has the right to be angry and sin which was the whole point of this blog post. How do we express our feelings in such a way that we can convey a point, but do so in a way that is God honoring and not divisive.

    I also agree that if it is a righteous anger then all should be able to stand together in opposition to such sin. You say that biblically everyone, regardless of skin color, should be angered by the crimes against blacks. I agree, but when it comes to the racial conversation in America, and specifically black white relations, people do not default to the bible. My point in this post was to remind black believers specifically that we should default to the bible when we seek to express our opinions in regards to racial charged issues.

    I hope this clarifies my position. If you would like to engage in further dialogue please let me know.

  3. David Buck

    “We have a right to be frustrated and angry, and a right to express these feelings”. Really? Can any Christian (let alone one claiming to be reformed) honestly assent to that statement, given the whole weight of Biblical teaching to the contrary?

  4. Malcolm

    I have trouble understanding the comment “we have a right to be frustrated and angry, and we have a right to express these feelings”. Biblically, we (every skin color) should be angered by the crimes against blacks, just as we should be angered by any crime against humanity. But if this “right” is confined only to black people, isn’t that what perpetrates the problem? Furthermore, no one has the right to be angry and sin, so what does this right entail? If it is truly righteous anger, then the color of your skin doesn’t matter. I recognize that white people may not be able to emphathize as well, but they can be angered by sin just as much.

    I greatly appreciate the rest of this article. Echols has done a tremendous job of outlining the issue and providing a biblical, christocentric response.

  5. Barbara

    Love is not puffed up, it does not dishonor others, it does not seek its own way, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. That seems to be missing from much of these conversations.

  6. William Hicks

    Excellent, Christ-centered and focused treatment of the issue. Please see also work by Dr. Joe Feagin, specifically, “The White Frame” (YouTube.com) and a recent New York Times article, an interview of Dr. Feagin about his research. These will provide leverage into the conversation we desperately need to have.

  7. William Douglas

    I greatly appreciate this article because it is a reminder of the essential things that get drowned out be the noise of momentary things. Our African American brothers and sisters feel hurt and made small so they speak out of that. White brothers and sisters feel unfairly blamed and misunderstood and speak out of that so we talk past each other and move apart. What a great article that reminds us of our sinfulness before God and the cross where our Savior died for our sins — not our pain and not our self justifications. I am called in this article to see my sin and to see the Savior and because of those to reach across all divides. Only when the cross of Jesus Christ is the biggest thing for me can I do that. Thanks for an article that has a big cross.

  8. george

    If I don’t know my own church history then I will lump American Partiality in with all other historical partiality. Those black men and women who want to give me a pass are actually the ones doing me harm. I know my history now. If I am easily offended by the obvious truth, then it is me that is in sin and in need of repentance. I am in need of the wound of my brother. Do me a love, wound me and don’t let me think that the American church has been just as fair to my black friends as all others. Tell me the truth so I won’t have to give my Lord and excuse later. Will you love me like that or will you tell me what I want to here?

  9. Lutullus Penton Jr.

    We are all ministers of reconciliation. In everything we do and say it should be tempered by the love of God for all of his children. The wedge of division is being driven in deeper and deeper because of anger and ignorance. It is the enemy’s “MO”, it’s his job to divide and conquer. White people don’t have to have the black experience to understand. It is a human experience. I have never experience slavery as a black man, yet I understand it. It is the bitterness and anger that prohibits them from hearing what we are saying. We must speak the truth tempered with the love of God always. If we don’t, we are just contributing to the problem.

  10. Edward L. Bryant

    I live in the greater metropolitan St. Louis region and last year, following the shooting of Mike Brown, one of the things that I found very concerning was how surprised the majority of whites in my congregation were when they learned of how I felt regarding “Ferguson.” My position, did not line-up neatly with the typical conservative perspective, that started with something like submit to the ruling authorities…Instead, I had to remind my brothers and sisters about how our understanding regarding the image of God bears upon situations regarding race relations, the history of race relations in America, and even my own background (growing up as a Black kid in Memphis in from the late 60s to the mid 80s). many realized how much about me they had either taken fro granted or not been aware of and i was able to help them to at least realize that there are other points of view on issues of race and racism that are just as Gospel honoring as their own. More importantly, I have been able to point out some issues of racial bias and privilege that many middle-class whites are completely unaware of and sometimes unwilling to accept exists.

    Fortunately, within my faith community, one of our values is covenant and we strive to live out covenant and community as a body of believers. This does not mean that we will always agree, but that we will remain committed to working out/through our differences in a Bible-Centered manner.

    Another one of our values is restoration and these recent “tough” conversations have provided me with opportunities to remind and even challenge my brothers and sisters to re-examine what we mean by restoration. Specifically, I’ve not only challenged understandings of racial justice, but also our suburban/middle-class presuppositions of how things ought to be.

    My hope is that we can work towards reconciliation and even towards solidarity.

  11. John N

    More questions could be asked, such as, “#6 Are African American evangelicals addressing the their own racism toward white American evangelicals and the rest of the white American population?” I am thankful that a few are. Men like Voddie Baucham and Conrad Mbewe are truly helping advance the cause against racism among all professing Christians. and society at large. Baucham in particular clearly sees racism as a sin that is the scourge of every tribe, tongue and nation.

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