What Christians Can Do To Heal the Racial Divide

My heart is heavy. I know yours is too. Every week, it seems, another new story, another life lost, another city burning. The names of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Gardner tighten our consciousness. Ferguson, Baltimore, all evoke passions that run deep on one side or another.

 

If you thought race was an issue of the past in our country, you would be sadly mistaken.

 

The black community has legitimate grievances. Black high school students have a much lower rate of graduation than their white counterparts1. Urban communities have higher arrest rates, incarceration rates, and lower employment rates. Government programs that have promised relief for decades have failed to bring relief. While government spending at federal, state and local levels, has exceeded 16 trillion dollars in the 50 years since the beginning of the war on poverty, rates for poverty have increased.2 White privilege feels to them like an insurmountable obstacle preventing them from having the same hope for the same future as other Americans.

 

If this were the only perspective, reconciliation would be easy. But it’s not.

 

There are some in the white community who have a different perspective. Though white privilege may be an underlying and pervasive systemic structure, to every white man and woman who struggled against their own odds to survive and achieve the American dream, the charge that they are racist because of that seems, to them, unfair and largely without remedy. They point to the breakdown of the black family, the absence of fathers, out-of-wedlock birth rates, and drug abuse, as root causes of poverty within black precincts.3

 

Both sides are angry. Both sides are afraid. Both sides avoid, until they can avoid no longer. Though Jesus commanded the church to recognize and deal compassionately with poverty, the church has at times abdicated its role in the solution to government agencies and programs that have enriched a few through bureaucracy and corruption, yet have done little to help the impoverished.

 

Race has become such a fierce issue, evoking hatred and bitterness on both sides, that productive discussion seems fundamentally impossible. No one is willing to listen, yet everyone wants to be heard. There is no safe place to even begin to dialogue.

 

Politicians of every persuasion prove again and again they are marginally relevant because it would appear they profit from being part of the problem, rather than the solution. Their rhetoric does nothing to forward any hope, any help, any real healing.

 

So what can we do? How do we begin to heal the wounds that have left us so bitterly divided? What has Jesus called us to?

 

First We Must Pray

What we have tried in our self-sufficiency to heal on our own has brought us to the end of ourselves, perhaps to this place where we should have been along. Prayer. We must pray. We need to pray. Pray in our prayer closets. Pray in our homes. Pray in our churches and communities. We need to pray hourly, daily, weekly, monthly. Our churches should become havens of prayer. Prayer is the only thing that can release God’s divine power into a situation as horrific and overwhelming as this situation. We need to pray the Scripture, If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14 NIV)

 

We need to call on the only name that can heal. The name of Jesus. We need to pray that God will allow us to see our black and white brothers and sisters as children of God, created and purposed by the Creator Himself, perfectly in His image. We need to ask that God would allow us to see each other as He sees us. We need to ask God to give us His heart, His love, His compassion for others.

 

We need to pray and ask the light of truth to shine deeply in our hearts, and show us the wounded places in our souls, where we have befriended bitterness or judgment, apathy or anger. We need to repent of our sins. We need to honestly look at the things over which we own responsibility. We must acknowledge where we have fallen short or have failed to be a part of the solution.

 

We need to pray that God will come and heal our hearts. We need to pray that God would come and heal our land. This should be our call and our cry.

 

 

 

We Must Be Willing to Listen

Only when we lay down our weapons can we truly sit with each other and listen. We must be willing to listen. Each side has valid perspectives, real scars, legitimate viewpoints.

 

We’ve watched pundits scream at each other on television for so long, we think that screaming is the only way to get our point across. Politicians and pundits are working for ratings, they are not working toward a solution. We shouldn’t look to them for answers and we shouldn’t model our message after them.

 

We must begin the conversation. We must show respect. We must share our experiences and listen to other’s experiences. Lean in. Quiet ourselves. Be with. Listen to the anguish of another person’s story. See the humanity in their eyes, their experience, their journey. Extend a hand of compassion. Let grace and kindness be on our lips. Let love rule in our hearts.

 

The Change Must Start Within

While it is easy to see the change that everyone else needs to make, it is harder, more challenging to see the change that starts within ourselves.

 

Matthew 7:3 (NIV) asks “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

 

We must be willing to see the truth about ourselves. We must have the courage to expose the shadowed and shaky places in our souls. We must be willing to change.

 

Are you willing to change?

 

The solution will never come from one side alone.

 

Rhetoric will never lead to reconciliation. Condemnation will never lead to cooperation. Passivity will never lead to peace.

 

There will never be a government program or policy that binds up our broken places and bridges our divides. Each of us, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, Greek, or Jew need to realize — WE are the solution.

 

We must reach deep inside ourselves to discover where God wants to heal, grow and challenge our familiar, perhaps comfortable prejudices and perspectives. We must remove the shackles, take off our blinders so that we can be healed. If God can begin to heal the wounds of one person, He can heal a community and a nation, and He can surely heal a world!

 

We must pray. We must look within. We must be willing to change.

 

It won’t be easy. Worthwhile achievements are never easy.

 

Yet if we persist, if we persevere, in the end we might find common ground. We might find healing. We might find hope.

 

In the end, we just might find – peace.

 

 

 

1 By Lyndsey Layton, “High School Graduation Rates at a Historic High,” The Washington Post, April 28, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/high-school-graduation-rates-at-historic-high/2014/04/28/84eb0122-cee0-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html

2 Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, “The War on Poverty After Fifty Years, “ The Heritage Foundation, September 15, 2014, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/09/the-war-on-poverty-after-50-years.

3 Jesse Washington, “The Rate of African-American Unwed Mothers Soars to 72 Percent,” The Associated Press, http://www.blacknews.com/news/black_unwed_mothers101.shtml#.VUamVM6zefQ.

28 Comments

  1. Lisa, this is excellent. I wrote on this last week and it was the hardest post I had ever written. You do such a good job talking about this with both grace and exhortation. Thank you.

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 7:00 AM

      Thank you, Kaylie! I agree that this was one of the hardest posts I’ve written, too! Healing is never easy. May we all have the courage to step out in love. Blessings today!

  2. Speaking in love on the topic is an act of courage and love in and of itself. So many of us are fearful to offend or misspeak, looking uninformed. This is one of the most important messages, yet it may be one of the hardest for some to read. I wrote about Baltimore last week and the responses were mixed…some readers really had a hard time while others applauded. Unfortunately, messages of unity and peace that begin within each of us can play second fiddle to the drama played out on the television screen. Praying that more voices will join the call and that we will all be speaking the same Love over and over again. Thank you for being a leading voice!

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 7:01 AM

      Meg,
      Thank you for your words of encouragement! These topics are hard topics, there is no doubt. Yet they are topics that need to be shared and discussed if we are to move forward together toward reconciliation. Blessings to you!

  3. What a beautiful call to action in a world of too much back and white and too much I’m right and you’re not! I am currently involved in an IF:Table through Jennie Allen’s IF:Gathering and we are working through Bridges which is exactly what you are calling for. It is developing an understanding of racial diversity and how do we take the next steps from here to not only begin the conversation in love and grace but take it beyond our monthly gathering. Blessed to be your neighbor today at Testimony Tuesday. God knew I needed to engage with you and your words.

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 7:32 AM

      Mary, Thank you for your sweet words! I think we all feel bit helpless at times, not knowing what we can do to make a difference. We look to our politicians and government to solve our problems, yet we are the only ones that can step forward and begin to pray, listen, and look within to be the change. Blessings to you!

  4. Sometimes I think we take for granted the power of prayer and can be so quick to judge the actions of those mainstream media chooses to display on our TV. 🙁

    “We must pray. We must look within. We must be willing to change.”

    Amen! I am encouraged and inspired by your words today. Thank you for sharing Lisa!

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 7:34 AM

      Tina,
      We all have the tendency to judge. We are great Monday morning quarterbacks from our comfortable armchairs. That will never bring the healing this country needs. Grateful that you were encouraged here today! Blessings!

  5. Lisa, what a courageous and insightful post. Prayer, listening, internal change: these are so accessible to us! May God do a work in our hearts.

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      Thank you Michele for your encouragement. Yes, may God do a work in all of our hearts what we might see healing in our families, our communities and our country! It starts with one! Blessings.

  6. Lisa, yours is the first post I read today on the #raralinkup. AMEN to all that you said. I think we tend to forget the power of prayer in our lives, but it is really THE most important thing we can do. It’s where we always need to start. It’s also very important to listen to each other. Your words here sum it up nicely:
    “We must pray. We must look within. We must be willing to change.” Thank you for your heartfelt post today!

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Gayl,

      Thanks for stopping by! Prayer somehow is the last thing we do, though it should always be the first place we start. Blessings to you this week!

  7. Lisa…You with such grace and love on a topic that can be so controversial. Thank you for “BRAVING” the way for others to follow. May God continue to speak ever so clearly through you my dear Sister!

    I am encouraged to step up my game in prayer, looking within, and having a willingness to change…

    Blessings Girl & #RaRaLinkUp

    • lisamurray

      May 5, 2015 at 10:54 AM

      Yolanda, What an encouragement you are! Thank you for your wisdom and insight as well as your heart for serving God! We all need to step up our game in prayer – together – one heart, one mind, one voice – unto the Lord. He will heal us! Blessings sweet sister!

  8. Lisa, what a great reminder that prayer invites God’s power into the situation. As we celebrate the national day of prayer this week (Thursday), let us with one voice invite God’s peace and healing, both in our nation and in ourselves. Thank you, my friend, for shining a light and sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday on Intentionally Pursuing. : )

  9. Thank you for your thoughtful treatment of this topic, Lisa. It’s so heart-breaking. Your three points are excellent: pray, be willing to listen, be willing to change. Prayer is the best way to effect change!

    • lisamurray

      May 6, 2015 at 10:13 AM

      Betsy,
      Prayer is not only the best way, it is the only way to effect change in this situation. Thanks you for stopping by today. Blessings!

  10. I’m glad you mentioned this. I have not prayed once for this situation…and I now feel like I need to. Thank you!

    • lisamurray

      May 6, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      Emily,
      We all need to be reminded at times, to pray. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings over you this week!

  11. We are the solution. Yes- so true. Praying the church would rise to the occasion and take a lead for equality and unity. #livefree

  12. Lisa,
    This is so true. I agree with your statements that we must pray, we must look within, and we must be willing to change. So true. The pictures you worked into this post are beautiful as well and also represent these thoughts.
    Blessings to you,
    Stacey

  13. Lisa,
    So many names from your comments that I know! God is building a strong internet prayer community. We watched John Stewart on Apple last night. Not sure when it was taped. He didn’t make any jokes – he spoke from his heart about the tragic useless deaths in South Carolina. He talked about the hatred that still simmers, and boils in your country. We need to pray fervently for the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit to pour into all lives. We ask God to show all Christians that we are His. All of us!!
    If you haven’t linked to Sunday Stillness, this is the posts we need to get out there. Written well and by the Holy Spirit.
    Change we must. Keep praying!
    Blessings,
    Janis

    • lisamurray

      June 25, 2015 at 8:36 AM

      Janis,
      So glad to have you comment on such a challenging and difficult issue. I’d love to post this week on Sunday Stillness. Blessings to you today, friend!

  14. I couldn’t agree more. Especially with the last step. We must look within and we must be willing to change. We must be open and soft hearted and willing to find the common ground.

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