Listen. Value. Love. – Thoughts on the Racial Divide

Recently, an African American man named George Floyd was murdered by a Police Officer in front of other police officers and citizens. The Police Officer was responding to a call about forged bills. While detaining Mr. Floyd, he applied an excessive and aggressive technique (which was never approved in training) by placing his knee on the side of Mr. Floyd’s neck for a period of time. The Officer’s weight crushed Mr. Floyd’s airway as he cried out for help. “I can’t breathe!”

Since then, peaceful protests, riots and looters have been consistently in the news as cries of injustice and racism are shouted out loud in person or on social media. So how are we to respond to the racial divide? What are we to say and do? I won’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I will provide a few thoughts…

On numerous occasions, Micah 6:8 has come to my mind: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
” This passage continues to come to my mind with this situation. How would the arrest have been different if this verse were considered and applied that day by the officers? We know the police’s role is to stand for justice, but could mercy also have played a role? The answer is a RESOUNDING YES! Would walking humbly with God also have played a role in a different outcome? The answer is again, a RESOUNDING YES! When justice (or what we think is just) is applied without mercy, pride reigns as humility is silenced.

But its not that simple, is it? Is this just about the application of the Word in this situation, or is it so much more? The anger and sadness that is felt by the black community by how they are viewed and treated by the white community and authorities has had a long and troubling history. While there have been improvements in many areas, their struggle is very real.

As a white male, I will never know the discrimination felt by so many in the black community. I will never have the fear of being arrested or questioned by police simply by walking or driving down a road. I will never have the fear of being treated less than because of the color of my skin. I will not fear situations like these simply because I am white (which is nothing to be ashamed or proud of – we are born this way). Sadness and anger are appropriate feelings for the black community. While many would agree that injustice does not give permission to riot and loot, such emotions cannot be ignored, but only sought to be understood to the best of our abilities.

One of the social cries of many in the black community is “Black Lives Matter.” Which is true because they do. Many (in the white community) respond to correct them, by saying, “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” (referring to Police). Many good people in the white community do not like the emphasis on one race over another, and simply want to state that we are all equal. While it is true that “All Lives Matter,” the righteous correction from “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter” misses the point that is trying to be made. It’s not about being more right, it’s about being valued. And being valued is about being heard.

As a marriage counselor, I see the issue of being valued for who one is (as opposed to for what they do or don’t do) as an issue that comes up frequently in broken marriages. One person does not feel their thoughts, opinions, or even personhood is valued by the other. The spouse often sees their own opinions and desires as being more right or important in their own eyes, and therefore does not truly listen or try to understand the hurt or the heart of the other person. Therefore they are unwilling to make changes. This, I believe to some extent, is occurring with the “Black Lives Matter” vs. the “All Lives Matter” conversation. Many in the black community are appealing to the white community to listen to and value them – not at the expense of other lives mattering, but a plea to share their pain as well as an invitation for others to join them, in hopes that there might be change. To righteously correct someone who says “Black Lives Matter” is to say I am unwilling to listen or enter your pain, to grieve with those who grieve (Rom 12:15).

Jesus left His throne in heaven to enter into this broken world. While He stood in truth, He also acted in love – all the time. When Lazarus died (Jn 11), Jesus went to Mary and Martha and entered their pain and grief, even though he knew Lazarus would be raised moments later. He did not have to enter their pain. He chose to. He could have minimized their pain, told them to stop crying, and just raised Lazarus from the dead. But instead of minimizing their pain or correcting their emotions, he entered their pain, loved them, and showed mercy to them.

Returning to the marriage analogy, I will make one final point. While an important emotion to understand, anger can play a large role in either helping or dividing a marriage. Anger can help a marriage when it is against sin, stands for injustices, and is covered in love for the other person (I am angry with you and I want what is best for you). Yet when anger is used to gain control, force one’s will upon another, or to enact revenge on others, this is considered sin. Why do people yell? Because they want to be heard. Why do people throw things, call names, or physically hurt others? Because they want to get control of a situation or hurt those who hurt them. Sadly, the rioting, looting and violence are sinful responses people feel they are justified to do. But is stealing, committing violent acts or damage to another’s property really justifiable? Sadly, some will think so. Such anger will most likely lead to further division.

Friends, in Christ, all of us are created in the image of God. There is no one who is better. No one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). We each will stand before God as sinful beings deserving of His wrath. Yet for those who place their faith in Christ, we will stand before God equally, as declared righteous before Him. In the spirit of this familiar passage: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28)”, I will also argue there is neither black nor white. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

So, what are we to do? Here are some thoughts…

  1. Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19) – Don’t be quick to correct people or try to be understood by getting your points across, but seek to understand (Prayer of St. Francis) first. Offer a listening ear to another without the need to get your opinion heard.
  2. Consider Micah 6:8
    1. Act Justly: We are a people that must act justly and speak up against all injustice – God hates oppression (Isa 1:17) and is for justice (Jer 22:3). Speaking up means to refuse to remain silent.
    2. Love Mercy: Ask for it from God. Show mercy to all. Do not give to people what you think they deserve, because God was merciful to you (Ps 51:1).
    3. Walk Humbly with God: Humility is the mindset that is needed to show others we value them (Php 2:3-4). A humble posture is one where we are willing to listen, love, and serve others. Walking humbly with God requires continuous heart monitoring, as our pride likes to take center stage.
  3. Pray for the victims of injustice. Pray for their families. Pray for the ones who caused injustice, that they may repent, turn from their ways and find Jesus. Pray for their families as well.
  4. Financially support causes that deal with injustice. Yes, it could be racial injustice. It could also be to support ministries against sex slavery/trafficking, abortion, abuse, or persecution.
  5. What else would you suggest? Mention them in the comments…

Listen. Value. Love.