A few weeks ago, as my daughter drove home from her job in St. Paul, I heard real fear in her voice — the violence from the protesting had made it within a block of her employment. The injustice and travesty of what happened to George Floyd came home to me in a deeper way than it had before. As she and I conversed, she spoke of my having “white privilege” and how that was preventing me from a deeper understanding of the situation.
What she said got me thinking. I know I often take for granted the privileges I have, but is my privilege more than another person’s, especially someone of a different race or ethnicity? White people have a head start in life. We haven’t arrived there through any actions of our own — we were “born into them.” Certainly, many have worked hard to get where they are, and that goes for many people, of every race and ethnicity. But in many areas of the country, whites have an edge, and I wasn’t aware of it until recently.
In a letter to the Romans, Paul wrote (in Romans 12:9): “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” How do we do that?
First, we need to build relationships. We need to make friends with people who are different from ourselves — a different class, faith or ethnicity. When we get to know someone new, we start to understand our similarities and differences in a new and better way, and we can appreciate them.
Jesus is our example. He loved all people. Most of us tend to have friends who look and talk like us. We need to work to have more relationships outside of that “comfort area.” The second half of that verse says hate what is wrong; the NIV Bible says hate what is evil. It’s not enough to love others if we're going to close our eyes to injustice and pain that they or others in their communities may be going through. Paul used strong words: Hate what is wrong — hate it enough to do something about it.
As we hate what is evil, there’s a reminder tagged on to that verse: Hold on to what is good. There is so much we can learn from one another. When we have relationships with people of color, we all benefit. In God’s eyes, we are all equal, and all uniquely created. He created all of us in his image (Genesis 1:27). He is inclusive in providing the way of salvation: “For God so loved the world” that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes will have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
God is a reconciling God. The Gospel is, at its core, a message of reconciliation. Jesus came to bring unity to all humankind. The church is to be the place of inclusion of all races, backgrounds and ethnicities. God has reconciled us to himself, and he can do it through us as we build bridges between ourselves and our neighbors. We must put feet to our faith. As we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves, it’s time to build relationships.
Where do we start?
- Prayer. Confess any sins of injustice that you are guilty of. Pray for your community, your church, your family, and for our state and nation. Pray for peace, love and reconciliation.
- Build a new relationship. Break out of your circle of friends and include someone new, who looks or speaks differently than the rest of your friends. Work to gain a deeper understanding of our brothers and sisters of color.
It begins right here. It begins right now. It begins with me.
The Rev. Colleen Hoeft is the pastor of South Troy Wesleyan Church in Zumbro Falls. "From the Pulpit" runs on the Saturday faith pages and features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, contact Life Editor Meredith Williams at 507-281-7488 or email@example.com.