One of the greatest needs of the human heart is for safety.
An unsafe relationship can never be a loving relationship – because we cannot bring our authentic selves to it.
So, we must be a safe place for each other in Christ where we can be fully known and loved.
Unfortunately, the world we live in is becoming so politically charged, mutually antagonistic, and hopelessly polarized that we are increasingly carrying some of that worldly baggage into our sacred relationships in Christ.
It seems that everyone feels unsafe these days…
Our brothers and sisters of color are grieving with the immense pain of having to relive their trauma every time another black person is unjustly treated, and it feels like an open wound that keeps getting reaggravated and just won’t heal. They carry the daily burden of past and present misunderstanding and mistreatment – and they rightly want to be heard, understood, and valued.
Meanwhile, our white brothers and sisters are feeling overwhelmed with the immense weight of criticism they are receiving, and then told by some that they cannot disagree with any of it or they are simply being defensive and confirming their guilt. Thus, they are trapped in a no-win situation, held hostage by the paralyzing fear of saying or doing anything that could be misconstrued as racism.
One group is very sensitive and needing to vent, and the other group is walking on eggshells and feeling like their walking through a minefield.
Both feel very unsafe and misunderstood right now – even though both are trying!
It’s an extremely difficult landscape to traverse, with peril everywhere.
But we can do something about that. We, in the church, can rise above the antagonism of the world and follow the timeless truths of God’s Word to be a safe place for each other – even as we “go there” on emotionally charged issues.
Binary thinking leads us to think we must either vomit our true emotions on each other and expect that person to thank us for it, or hold our true emotions in and pretend everything’s okay, when it’s not. This is the great danger of binary thinking (see my blog post on this topic here: https://www.anchorpointtampa.org/post/beware-the-trap-of-binary-thinking)
There is a third option: “speak the truth in love” to each other (Ephesians 4:15). Which, in this context, means: be honest and gentle; be real and considerate; be yourself and like Christ. Yes, that can and must be done by all true followers of Jesus Christ.
Remember: the cross of Jesus Christ reconciles all races to God and each other by making one new humanity out of the two (Ephesians 2:14-18). This is the basis of our unique unity in Christ. But we must “forge” that unity in the church – one uncomfortable conversation at a time – if we are to be truly unified.
So, here’s a few biblical guidelines that will help our conversations be productive:
To my white (and non-black) brothers and sisters in Christ:
1) Start by caring
1 Corinthians 12:24b-26a = “…But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it...”
Don’t ignore this time of deep pain for one part of our body. The pain is real – and if our love is real, then we must suffer with them.
2) Seek to understand before being understood
James 1:19-20 = “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Proverbs 18:13 = “He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.”
Proverbs 18:2 = “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions.”
3) Don’t be defensive; look for ways you can learn, grow and change
Proverbs 15:31 (NLT) = “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.”
Proverbs 25:12 (NLT) = “To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.”
To my brothers and sisters of color in Christ:
1) It’s okay to be angry, but “in your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26)
Proverbs 29:11 = “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
Proverbs 14:16 = “A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.
2) Don’t be rude, abusive or hurtful
Proverbs 11:12 = “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.”
Proverbs 12:18 = “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
3) Be willing to listen; relationships that are not mutual are not relationships at all
Luke 6:31 = “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Matthew 7:1-2 = “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Remember you’re talking to a person – not a group. Don’t generalize, assume and label. Isn’t that the treatment that’s causes you so much pain? Don’t buy in to the rhetoric of the world – retaliation is not the solution – and will only make things worse.
It’s time for all of us to grow.
And we do that best in a safe environment.
Let’s not take our cues from the world. Let’s cue the world – and show them how it’s done.