“I know this will be hard for you, but because you are black my parents don’t want us to be friends anymore. Please don’t take it personal; they do this with all my black friends. I’m so sorry.”
I remember reading these words in high school with a certain numb disbelief that the sweetness of a burgeoning friendship could be hewed so suddenly. The blow was swift and efficient—the friendship was over but in this case nothing more was said. There were no white sheets and no crosses were burned. It was the violence of private opinion. Her parents decided that the world was not ready for the mixing of the races. My friend wrote that I should not take her words personally but it was personal. I received the letter with stoic composure. I did not cry, shout, nor for that matter—speak. What was there to say?
Her parents might be excused as ignorant, and ignorant they were, but racism is more than simply ignorance. It must be called what it is—sin. It is not ignorance alone that separates friends. It is not ignorance alone that promote racial purity. And it is not the ignorant alone who wear white sheets or conclude that the world is not ready for the mixing of the races. This disease infects intelligent people, prominent people, and—saddest of all things—Christians.
If we who were once separated cannot be joined in Christ, if we who were once far away cannot be brought near in Christ, then sin has triumphed. For if the races cannot be reconciled in Christ there is no reconciliation for the races. If there is no peace and unity through the blood of Christ I despair at ever seeing a day when “all people will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (MLK). Still, I am not without hope.
Some in the world are not ready for oneness in Christ, not ready for reconciliation, unity, or a new humanity—not ready for the mixing of all races. But some years ago another friend was willing to defy her parent’s orders because she believed their racist opinions to be sin. In her case our friendship was not dissolved. Instead she honored her parents by rising above the sinfulness they encouraged and became the daughter God called her to be. Her parents were not ready for a mixing of the races but she believed God was.
The world is not ready for a mixing of the races but we are not of the World. We who have been forgiven and brought into fellowship with God in Christ have new loyalties. We “recognize no man according to the flesh” 2Cor. 5:16. Racism is a sin and a stain on the purity of the church. It is an affront to the New Family Christ die to form. It is crippling to the body of Christ, the Church Christ died to build. Those who support it with their silence, with the acquiescence, cast doubt on the promises of Christ, cast doubt on the power of the Spirit to overcome sin.
Whether the world knows it or not, in Christ, “There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4). If we are not one in Christ it is because we have given in to cowardice and faithlessness rather than boldness and faithfulness. If we believe that the way things are is more important than the way things SHOULD be then the power of the Gospel has been compromised. I am convinced that a hero is not the one who believes right but the one who acts on that right belief even if it costs—maybe especially if it costs. We show our faith by our works.
When I finished my friend’s letter I felt no bitterness towards her. I was angry towards her parents but mostly I pitied them because their lives were anemic. They existed and were preserved through their thinly constructed, carefully guarded ideas of how things were and should be. The richness of Christian diversity had no place in their lives. People like them may read the same Bible and mouth the same words of oneness but their words are hollow. There is a cavernous loneliness to their so-called unity. They see me and others like me according to the flesh but we are more than flesh. We are all in Christ and in Christ none of us is better while all are equal. Racism, in its hopelessness, in its selfishness and pride, denies this very truth—denies Christ.
John 1:12, Gal. 6:10, Eph. 1:5, Eph. 2:12-21, Heb. 2:11, James 2:18
Copyright(C)2007 Hudson Russell Davis
This is timely, as my daughter today was sharing that she heard some people discussing the “not-rightness” of seeing a mixed-race couple. How distressing. How absurd. What… an abomination to Spirit.
Wonderful writing, my friend, from a deeply painful experience (and I doubt the only one)…