Under Our Skin
On November 25, 2014, the newscasts broadcasted that the St. Louis County decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson over the death of Micheal Brown. While I was sitting in my bedroom in St. Louis, I recall reading a post from NFL player Benjamin Watson on Facebook that soon was shared more than a half million times around the world.
It was not surprising to find out later the post he wrote turned into a book: Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us. This book was a helpful and amazing read. Watson details his encounters as an African-American, but also gives insight into how two people can be raised in the same city, yet have different cultural experiences. He pinpoints the problem of racism as sin and points to the solution: the gospel.
After hearing the Ferguson verdict and so many different opinions, I was thinking how should believers respond. I have family who are in law enforcement, and I have family members who are African American. Does it help the situation by pointing fingers back and forth? Does it help to act as if what people are upset about does not exist? Should I look at law enforcement whom God has placed here in a different way?
What I found most encouraging was how Watson looked at situations from a biblical worldview. He says, “I believe in a personal God: the God of the Bible, whose Son, Jesus Christ, is real and who transforms lives by redeeming human hearts. The God who loves me and you, the black person and the white person, and all persons personally, desperately, sacrificially.” Watson identifies the problem of race and rebellion of authority as not “out there,” but is in the “human heart.”
One chapter reads, “I’m encouraged because ultimately the problem is not a skin problem, it is a sin problem. Sin is the reason we rebel against authority, sin is the reason we abuse our authority, sin is why we are racist and prejudiced and why we lie to cover for our own; sin is the reason we riot, loot and burn. But I’m encouraged because God has provided a solution for sin through His son, Jesus, and with it a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being.”
I was reminded in reading this not to allow what I see on the news to dictate my perception of how I view people or law enforcement. We are not to look to the news as our source of truth. We are to look to the Bible as the source of truth about man and his condition. This is what Watson does very well in this book. He diagnoses the problem as sin and the solution as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Under Our Skin is a great book to think about, read and ponder. It articulates a cultural difference that reminds us of Scriptures’ mandate in Mark 12:31: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Even though we may not come from the same background, or share the same experiences, I love you and want to know more about you. The Gospel is the Message that we are to proclaim. It is the Gospel that saves and leads us to eternal life with the Father.