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Race and Culture

It goes without saying that we are experiencing a contentious time in our country as it pertains to race, culture, class, etc. Sadly, the church as a whole has not been at the forefront of reconciling these differences. We have followed the culture’s lead and have parroted the stereotypes and perspectives that have been so divisive. Shame on us! We have been given the “ministry (service) of reconciliation” -2 Corinthians 5:18. Maybe we have forgotten that we serve a God who formed everyone in his image. That means its wrong to see fellow image bearer as something different then us, which quickly moves us to seeing them as less than ourselves. Its basic empathy we are lacking.

 

One of the best lessons of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The overall point is that we have to show kindness and compassion to our neighbor, who don’t look like, sound like, or think like us. I’ve been intentionally sharing this message in predominately white environments to hopefully change the false narratives we have sadly embraced as the people of God. We must do better, for after all “judgment begins first at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). We the church have a problem and we can’t expect “the world” to fix an issue that we are too afraid to face. Below is the response from one young lady that has begun the long process of becoming a reconciler...

 

Dear Damian,


I am writing to you today because I have felt compelled to write to you ever since you spoke at _____________(Large predominately white church -LPWC) back in July. I am a little ashamed that I have procrastinated until today. My intent was to email you, but I figured Facebook was as good a venue as any.
My name is _______________. I live in _____________(Suburb), and have pretty much lived in white suburbia my whole life. I have never known poverty and hunger and desperation the way you preached about it that Sunday morning. I have been in church my whole life, saved when I was six.
I just wanted you to know that in all of the sermons I’ve heard my whole life, no one ever preached on the Good Samartian the way you did. It impacted my life and changed my heart forever. Since then, the Holy Spirit has been chipping away at the judgmental privilege that has been rooted deep inside my heart.
I have always been afraid of talking to people who look different than me, who do things different than I would. “I would never stand on the side of the road and beg for money.” “I would never let drugs and alcohol ruin my life so bad that I’d be homeless.” My condescending sinful nature allowed me to look past their humanness and see only their mistakes. But, you changed that. You challenged me to look in their eyes and see the same Jesus that looked into mine.
The phrase you kept repeating-that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, that could be me-has been stuck in my head. It has changed the way I deal with co-workers. It has changed the way I view my students at my school. It has changed the way I parent, and the way that I respond to my husband. And I just wanted to say thank you.
I also wanted to share with you a story that happened the very next weekend after you spoke this past summer. I had taken my three month old baby to Alabama to meet some family, and on the ride home, I stopped for supper in (what I didn’t know at the time) was a shady area of town. I don’t like to travel alone and I was already a little on edge because I was in an unfamiliar city with a newborn.
I pulled into Chick-fil-A (thinking that that’s where the good Christian white people would be) and walked around the car to get my baby out of his seat. When I turned around to close the car door and go inside, there was a man standing a little to close for comfort. I had my purse, keys, cell phone, diaper bag, and baby all in my arms. My immediate response was to be afraid. But, your sermon came flooding into my mind. So, I prayed for peace and I simply said, “Hello.” He quickly began a much practiced spiel of “Did I have any money, could I please spare $5, he was so hungry, he’s desperate” etc, etc. My typical response of, “I’m so sorry I don’t carry cash” was stuck in my throat because I knew full well my husband gave me emergency cash for my trip. I didn’t know what to do. I had never given money to a stranger before. I was terrified to put my baby down on the ground and get out my wallet. A million scenarios flashed through my mind of me being caught unaware, looking down, digging through my purse, being mugged, or my baby kidnapped (new mom hormones are vicious). But, somewhere inside, I had that peace that passes understanding, and I did just that. I set my baby’s car seat down. I put the diaper bag back in my car. I began to dig through my purse and found my wallet. I didn’t know what was appropriate to give him, but all I had were $20s. So, I handed him one. He said, “No, this is too much! Are you sure?” To which I replied, “Yes, I’m sure.” And he started to walk away. I started to sort through all my emotions and tried to calm my pounding heart. Right when I had gathered up all of my things again, he came back asking to use my cell phone. I kindly said no, because to be honest, I was terrified he’d run away with it and I’d be stuck in a different state traveling with a baby without my phone.
I really hope that you can understand what a spiritual victory this was for me. I know that it seems trivial, and typing it out right now, I am almost ashamed at being so proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone by giving a stranger a crisp $20. (especially in light of who I’m writing to and all that you do for others) Looking back, I see now that there are so many other things I could have said or done that would have shown him the love of Jesus. I didn’t pray for him, I didn’t invite him to sit with me. I didn’t talk to him, I didn’t buy him supper. He came inside and used my money to buy supper. He asked to use the CFA phone, and they let him. He sat alone while I sat alone. However, it was a step in the right direction. I feel a little more like the Samaritan and a little less like the priest.
I want to thank you for coming to LPWC that day to bring the Word in such a way that changed my life. Thank you for being bold to preach the gospel. Thank you for calling out my white judgmental privilege. Thank you for challenging me to be more like Jesus. Thank you for smacking me in the face with the truth that I am not so unlike that man I encountered. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow my Spirit-filled life. Thank you for inspiring me to see those who are different from me as someone to be seen and not overlooked.
Now, I have an envelope in my glove compartment with a couple of $20s. It stays there. It’s been prayed over, dedicated to accomplish God’s work. I’ve asked that the Lord would give me confidence to give as the Spirit leads when the occasion arises. Because I’ve learned that if it weren’t for the grace of God on my life, the people who come asking for it could be me. I know I have a long way to go, but I just wanted you to know that you had a part in changing my story for the better.
Many thanks,

 

I am honored that God would use me in such a way. She of course has a way to go and will be challenged in more ways than she can imagine, but she took a step! I would of course encourage her to be wise in her generosity. What would this world be if more people made this kind of shift? The problem is, too often pastors are either in agreement with these ungodly perspectives, are quiet about social issues of race and culture, or are too afraid to offend people to deal with this gospel centric problem. I have simply decided to continue to be a voice for what is right. 

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