Loving My Black Neighbor As Myself

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

I’ve been learning so much about our nation, American history, slavery, Jim Crow, racism, culture, etc. Ever since the heartbreaking deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the protests, I’ve decided to diligently learn, try to understand the issues and even be a part of solutions. The reason I’m doing this is NOT political, or because these are causes I’ve been passionate about for a long time. In fact I painfully regret to say that the prevalence of racism and its current impact on the black community in particular, was barely on my radar before all this. I’ve always deeply believed that racism is one of the most evil and demonic assaults on God, the gospel and all the people of the earth because all of us are created in His own image. I just didn’t think it was a big issue in our country anymore so I didn’t focus on it much.

The reason why I care much more now is because of my relationships with spiritual family members -specifically those who are black. They care deeply about these issues. Not only do they care but some are deeply troubled, angry, scared, and discouraged. Plus many of my black brothers and sisters, who walk with God, whom I highly respect, hold unique perspectives on these issues. So, because they are my family, if they are troubled, I am troubled. Since I value my family members, if they have a different view, I want to try and see things from their perspective. This is how family works, does it not?

If I got home from work and saw my wife, sibling or child crying, angry, or discouraged I would, with genuine concern say, “What’s the matter?” Because they are part of my family and I love them, I would let them express their frustration and grief and explain to me what they’re going through. I would fight my propensity to try and quick-solve their problem or generalize or assume I know the answers. I would ask questions, try to understand their point of view. I would empathize and I would mourn with them. I would then ask how I could help. And I’d help. This is what family does – both physical and spiritual.

So I’ve been on this quest – seeking to understand, learn, ask questions, mourn with, love, encourage and help in the cause of my brothers and sisters of color. And God has done a wonderful work in my heart. Through these real conversations, reading and studying, I’ve come to understand that although there has been progress in America with regards to racism, there is still much work to be done, and I want to be a part of helping bring about more progress. By God’s grace I’m committed to growing and doing better.

Again, what brought me to this point wasn’t social media, politics, or theories. It was simply choosing to love my neighbor, my friends, my spiritual family as myself. And in that journey to love and care for others, God has shown me what He wants me to do.

I say all this because I believe that many of you reading this have felt caught between two sides, either politically or relationally. You are confused and maybe paralyzed because of conflicting messages about what’s going on or pressure from certain people in your life to say and do what they say and do.

Here’s the good news. As believers, we need not think in this way, or feel this kind of pressure. We are Christ-followers. And our priority is to think about issues from His perspective and say and do what He wants. When we do this, it gets much clearer.

For example: We are called to weep with those who weep. There is no debate about that. (Notice the Scripture doesn’t differentiate between what the weeping is for or whether they are in your same political sphere.) We are also called to be compassionate. There’s no debate about being compassionate. There’s no debate about being loving. (look at what it means in 1 Cor 13). Caring for the broken and humbly trying to understand someone’s point of view is an act of Christ-like love according to that passage. This isn’t following the left or the right– this is following Christ.

I understand that because racism has been so politicized, there is a concern in many Christians that if they say something or show compassion toward the black community, other people will automatically associate them with many of the other agendas, theories, politics and organizations that they don’t agree with. I can understand this concern.

Here’s what God showed me about this though. Ready? It’s a tough one. He told me that “If you let the fear of man keep you from walking in love and compassion then man is your god and not Jesus.” Ouch. He also said, “If your politics keep you from walking in love and compassion then politics are your god and not Jesus.” Double ouch.

He also lovingly showed me how acts of love and compassion will sometimes be misunderstood by people no matter what we do. Jesus is the perfect example. Jesus loved and ministered to everyone. But when he ministered to groups that were marginalized by larger society, he got labeled a drunkard, a sinner, and demon worshiper and His intentions got misconstrued. Yet He didn’t let the criticism and societal pressure keep him from loving and showing compassion. Why? Because love for people was His motivation.

He identified with ALL people even though the public pressure of the day was to despise or ignore SOME of them. What I concluded is this: If I follow Jesus in showing love to my friends and family of color, and I get criticized and mislabeled, or my motives get called into question, it means I’m in really good company. And I can live with that.

I want to encourage you my friends to come on this journey with me. Show love and care for your friends, neighbors and co-workers of color who are going through so much during this time. Put politics, organizations, and theories aside. Just care. Start with compassion. Start with the golden rule.

Take time to make that phone call or text to your black friend or neighbor. Ask them how they’re doing and tell them you care about them. Invite them over for dinner and ask them to share their experiences with you. Ask how you can help them personally. Ask how you can be a part of furthering progress.

Then seek to understand. Study. Read the Scriptures about these issues. Read good books and learn (if you need resources let me know). Join our online book club at Catalyst where we will go through a couple books and have real conversations on these important issues. Then see where God takes you. You may be surprised what He does in your heart as I was.

Lastly, pray. Ask God how He would walk in love and compassion during this time if He were you and let Him guide you. I believe that as you do this you will feel the peace and grace of God on your life. He will use you to touch hearts and demonstrate His love and compassion towards others.

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