We all react with disgust when we see a video of evil brutality or images of an inner-city burning in protest. The problem comes when we fail to realize the deeper issues in play that brought these images into view. Being willing to move past our initial emotional response and engage the underlying issues is where healthy personal and cultural change begins to take place. We must all be willing to address what we missed in our initial reaction, or we will continue to see more sick videos and destructive riots on the computer screens of our future.
Jesus had a solution for strained race relations. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His commandment to love others as we would want to be loved applies to every relationship we have – friendships, marriage, government policy, family, and many others. Every single relationship we have must come under the scrutiny of this love, or it will be highjacked by our preference or bias and leave us entrenched in broken relationships with people who look and believe differently from us. The concept of loving our neighbor can appear like just another simplistic saccharin-infused concept if no change has taken place in the way we think. When we demand the other opinion to be the ones who must always change, we are actually part of the problem.
When Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment, He first mentioned loving God with our entire being – heart, soul, and mind. He then said our love of God is manifested in real life by loving our neighbors. Loving our neighbor is not a separate issue from loving God. It is the measurable byproduct of our love for God.
One of the areas that love wants to change is how we think. In our minds is where uncomfortable and unfamiliar conversations are waiting to take place. Love helps us push aside our bias, our preferred worldview, and any resulting prejudice we might have and simply listen to those who are expressing a sorrow we know nothing about. The process of listening can be painful – painful when we discover what we thought we knew but did not understand.
I linked below a resource a friend of mine shared on his social media account. It is a grace-filled first step of personal preparation to help us engage in conversations about race. Race relations is a complex and challenging subject. It will not be solved in a day but we can begin to move forward toward a more healthy place of dialogue if we are willing to simply listen and learn.