You have probably followed the national news media coverage of the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina State House grounds this month. What broke the stalemate? What could possibly overcome the racial tension and enmity produced by this flag? The answer is grace.
On Wednesday evening, June 17, at the historic Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, a young man methodically murdered nine people. The nation was in shock and we were poised for the expected riots in anger and protest for the injustice of it all. But grace came to call instead. Just one and a half days after the murders, the family members faced the murderer of their loved ones and amazed the world by offering forgiveness and mercy. Grace was offered to a young man who had reportedly killed nine fine Christian people simply because of the color of their skin.
But grace and mercy had not finished their work. Instead of riots and looting, prayer rallies and courageous conversations about racial prejudice swept across the region. Grace prevailed over prejudice and hatred.
It’s time for Christians to have courageous conversations about racial prejudice. Only three generations ago slavery was legal in our country. Two generations ago racial segregation was national law. Yet today’s generations too often assume that racial prejudice is a thing of the past. In his book Courageous Conversations About Race, Dr. Glenn E. Singleton asks us all to consider these (among others) racial issues in daily life:
• Can someone do well in a challenging situation without being called “a credit to their race”?
• Can you identify a person without first referring to their race?
• Can a person be hired without being suspected by co-workers that they got the job due to their race?
• Can all Americans go shopping in any store without being monitored by a salesperson or a security video due to their race?
We might also add: “Can a person of any race be comfortable and welcomed to worship in any one of our Christian churches?” We think so, hope so, pray so. But I’ve heard it said numerous times that the most segregated hour of the week in America is still Sunday morning in our churches.
Only one thing can move us toward racial inclusion: courageous grace and mercy. Once we all truly admit that we still have work to do, we can move quickly to initiate courageous conversations about race…listening with the heart of God to the heart cry of others around us.
I challenge you as a worship leader to invite two other worship leaders ethnically different from you to form a Discipleship TRIO for interactive prayer and Bible study. (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free TRIO guidebook.) In his book Let’s Get to Know Each Other, Dr Tony Evans says: “Christology that only leads to political, social, and economic reform is insufficient. Human liberation must always be predicated on spiritual salvation.” We here in South Carolina have seen it work. It’s called grace.
For another perspective on this issue, read Randall Bradley’s article Crossing the Racial Divide.
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