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Racism: A Lament and Call to Repent

Friday, May 8, would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday. On Sunday, February 23, Ahmaud, a 25-year-old African American male, was jogging through Satilla Shores, Georgia. After seeing him, Gregory McMichael, a former law enforcement investigator, alerted his son Travis McMichael. The two men, both white, set off to confront Arbery and then shot and killed him.

It is reported that after the shooting, Gregory McMichael told police that there were “several break-ins” in the neighborhood and that he had seen the “suspect.” Bottom line, Ahmaud was simply jogging and was hunted down and killed by three shotgun blasts. Following that, the case saw the recusals of two district attorneys–one of whom dubbed the McMichaels’ actions “perfectly legal.”

When I first heard the news about this horrific slaying, my heart dropped, and I was speechless and in shock.

After I began to recover from the shock, honestly, my first thought was about God’s justice. My second thought was about Ahmaud’s mother and the agony his family must be going through.

Then it hit me: my husband and son are black males and have often walked or jogged in our neighborhood and this could have been them. Angel (our Lead Pastor) and Ramon (my daughter’s boyfriend), who are like sons to me, have been preparing to run in a marathon and have been practicing running through neighborhoods just like Satilla Shores. Horror swept over me as I realized they could have been Ahmaud.

Then I realized, they are Ahmaud. We are Ahmaud. Unfortunately, before I could get this article written, George Floyd became another life lost to incomprehensible violence.

The Cruelty of the Sin of Racism

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil” (Psalm 97:10).

It is way past time that we as a nation of believers face the fact that we still have a big problem. Maybe Ahmaud Arbery’s death is a bitter reminder that COVID-19 is not the only disease that is spreading and killing people right now.

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the CDC, black Americans make up a disproportionate amount of hospitalizations and deaths. This is because of systematic problems throughout the country that lead to black Americans having higher rates of underlying conditions and less access to care. This is a devastating circumstance that has resulted in profound suffering, loss, and grief in the black community.

However, can we be honest and face the fact that the vicious sin of racism has been at the root of atrocities committed against people of color for centuries?

Candidly, just as researchers in our country are now diligently working to discover a drug that helps doctors treat the virus, shouldn’t we, a country of believers be praying and working even harder to live in a way that defeats a much bigger problem that has been plaguing Americans for a much longer time?

A Cry, A Lament Over Racism

“The youth and the old man lie on the ground in the streets” (Lamentations 2:21 ERV).

The book of Lamentations is all about the expression of grief over the fall of Jerusalem because of her sin. Kathleen O’Connor states that “In its complaint, anger, and grief, lamentation protests conditions that prevent human thriving, and this resistance may finally prepare the way for healing.”[1]

Both adults and children are witnessing these horrific injustices that evoke anger, fear, hopelessness. I do not claim to have all the answers, but it seems to me, God’s people should be setting the example in nonviolently protesting these conditions that stifle humankind.

But are far too many believers and disciples afraid to stand up and name that which is wrong?

Are we afraid to seem too emotional or opinionated? Are we hesitant to become involved in “civilian affairs?” Do we get concerned about being politically correct or alienating other disciples, friends, and coworkers of another race? Are people of color concerned about not wanting to come across like that “angry black person”? If you are white, is it easy to stay silent because of guilty feelings or because you don’t want to come across as too political?

Most likely, most of us want to do something, but we feel like we do not know what to do besides pray, which we also must do.

A Call to Repentance

“So, humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor” (James 4:7-10 NLT).

The good news is we can all do our part to make sure we stop this insidious disease of racism from spreading to our hearts and homes.

Personally, all of us can choose to keep humbling ourselves to seek God’s heart on this matter. We can invite God in to show us if we have contracted this disease of racism and to convict us if we are spreading it. Let us start with repentance in our own hearts and homes.

Those of us who are influencers have the responsibility to encourage change among our own race (who will probably listen better to us), call out this sickness, take a stand to stop the spread, and implore people to get well.

Finally, in our churches we have got to be willing to go there with this very messy and most times uncomfortable topic. Our churches need to give people the space to mourn together. We all need the space and a place where it is safe to speak of our suffering.

The Cure

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Thank God He gave us the cure for this dreadful disease 2000 years ago. Those of us who are truly in Christ and striving to walk like Him can have hope. In Him we embrace the fact that this is not a black problem or a white problem; this is a sin problem.

We are all in this together and it will take all of us getting on the frontlines–standing up, speaking out, and laying our lives down to bring lasting change.

I  am so grateful for organizations like the And Campaign whose vision is to improve how Christians engage politics and culture by asserting the compassion and conviction of Jesus Christ, and I look forward to seeing how I can get involved. I urge you to connect to other likeminded organizations and do what you can to end radicalized violence and partake in the process of healing our land.

[1] Kathleen O’Connor, “Lamentations” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Vol. 6, pp. 1011-76).

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