To (White) Christians Who Are Asking, “What Can I Do?”

Like you, I have seen so many posts on social media about race in recent days.
I have seen posts from black friends who say that silence is consent and we must speak up.
And I have seen posts from other black friends who have said that they don’t want to hear from the white folk on this matter. They don’t want more words, they want action.

I have seen posts calling for violence.
And I have seen posts decrying it.
I have seen posts that express the helpless frustration so many feel in the face of the horrors of racism.
So many people grasping for words. Trying to comfort. Trying to express empathy. Or sympathy. Or sorrow.

But often, among my white friends, I have seen this sentiment: What can I do? How can I help?

In many ways, I am unqualified to write about that.
I am a white girl, raised in suburbia in the United States.
In so many ways, I cannot say, “I understand.”

But in other ways, I have had just a taste of what my loved ones have experienced.
I have lived as a minority in two different cultures, first in Japan and now here in Guatemala.
And I have also been with my black friends when they have been treated differently than I have been treated.

But my biggest qualification in writing this piece today is that I am not going to give you my thoughts on what you should do.
My thoughts are not worth very much at all.
Instead, I am going to go to the source, the place where every answer we need can be found.
God’s Word holds the keys for ALL of life.
It is up to us if we apply them.
If you are not a Christ-follower, you will not have the power to do any of these things. Nor will you find God’s Word to be the best guide.
But if you claim the name of Christ, here is what the Bible has to say about all of this and what YOU can do to help:

  1. Repent. That literally means to turn and walk in a different direction. We have ALL sinned. We are ALL prejudiced in some way. We have ALL looked at someone else and made a snap judgement about who they are based on our past experiences, how we have been raised, the media and our own fears. To say that you hold no animosity in your heart to someone who is different than you is to lie. That difference that triggers sin in you may not be black/white. It may fall into some other category completely. But we ALL have seeds of racism in our hearts. Because we are sinners. Because we do not love as Jesus loved. Because there are people we fear, denigrate and avoid.

Beyond your own heart, beyond MY own heart, there is a need for national repentance. We need to confess that our ancestors have blown it. Big time. And not just the slave owners. But every white church that has made a person who is different than them feel unwelcome has blown it. Every Christian who has divided the world into camps of “us” and “them” has blown it. We, as a nation, have blown it. And it is biblical for us to get down on our faces and confess the sins of others! Even if you feel completely sinless in this, you need to repent on behalf of our nation. Daniel did it for Israel. So did Moses. Two godly men who fell on their faces before the Lord, not for their own sin but for the sin of their people.

  1. Apply what Andy Stanley calls “The Platinum Rule”. The “Golden Rule” says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Platinum Rule says, “Do unto others as GOD has done for you.” So what has God done for you? He have given you life. He has spoken over you with words of life, words of rejoicing, words of comfort and love. He has forgiven you time and time and time again. He has not treated you as you deserve or as you have treated Him. Instead, He has lavished grace, mercy, and love on you, even while you were being ugly in every way. What in the world would our world look like if we lived that rule? First at home. But then at work. And in the shopping centers. Everywhere our feet take us. And especially on social media.
  2. Listen. Do what James says and “Be QUICK to listen, SLOW to speak and SLOW to become angry.” Have the conversations. Say, “I don’t understand but I want to. Can you help me?” Hear with your heart. And don’t apply rhetoric when you do. Don’t be quick to say, “Well, that wasn’t my fault.” Instead, hear the heart of the person talking. And then ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say. It might be “I’m sorry for your pain.” It might be “I’ll pray for you.” It might be “What can I do to put feet to my prayers?” And it might be, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Let God tell you what you need to say. AFTER you have listened with your whole heart.
  3. Teach. Please, please, please teach. Teach by words. But more than that, teach by example. Deuteronomy 6 says that we are to teach the children God’s Word and His ways from the time we rise to the time we go to bed. And yes, some of that will be words. But they will learn what you DO far more than what you SAY. Do you actually love your neighbor as yourself? What do you say about people of other races – or any other difference – in front of them? What do you say about other genders? People who are different than you? Even people who are walking in known sin? Do your children hear condemnation? Or do they hear grace? Do they hear that prayer changes hearts and people need love? Or do they hear scorn, derision and hatred? It is true that children rarely allow differences to stop them. They will play with anyone. They will talk to anyone. They will love anyone. We are the ones who teach them – by our actions far more than our words – that certain people are bad and that we are superior to them. What are you teaching your kids? And if you don’t have your own children, what are you teaching the children in your life who are still watching you, whether you birthed them or not?
  4. See. Don’t be “color blind”. Be color celebratory! We have so much that we can learn from each other. So much that is good that can be shared between cultures. Between races. Between people. Don’t say, “I don’t see you as a black person.” Say, “I celebrate who you are as a black person! Teach me, show me, help me to understand.” Just like you want to be known, so does everyone else. We all want to be accepted for who we are, as we are. God has gifted us with all sorts of differences so that we together can make a beautiful tapestry of grace and love. A monochrome tapestry would be very, very boring. But one filled with diverse experiences, languages, cultures, and ideas, all woven together by a skilled Hand – that is a glorious sight! We will get to live that sight in the future. John saw it in his vision and recorded it in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
  5. Choose to not be offended. According to I Corinthians 13, love is not easily offended and keeps no record of wrongs. So, when a person who is different from you has trouble trusting you, don’t be offended. Remember the pain they have experienced and love them enough to let go of your own pride. Do you deserve their distrust? Maybe not. But love means putting their needs and interests ahead of your own. Love means forgiving hurts and slights, even unintentional ones. Love means seeking to understand. And love means you choose for it to be very, very difficult to offend you.

Let me end this with a story, a confession of sorts, a truth:
You don’t know what lives in your own heart.
But God does.
And He will show you. So that you can deal with it.

I lived in Japan for three years back in my mid-twenties.
During that time, I was molested on the train by Japanese men.
I was spit on by a Japanese man.
I had a Japanese man openly compare me to the pornography in his hand.
And I had both men and women cross to the other side of the street to avoid me.

I thought I had dealt with all of that.
I thought I had forgiven.
Because, after all, I know and love a lot of Japanese men, women and children.
And I know in my head that it is wrong to hate.
Wrong to hold on to those pains.
That fear.
Those experiences.

I thought all that was in my past.
But then, in 2015, 20 years after I first moved to Japan, I flew to Papua New Guinea to visit my friends there.
And I had to fly through Singapore.
When I got to the airport, it was late and I had 19-hour layover.
So I needed to find a safe place to rest. Thankfully, there was a hotel in the airport. But the entrance from the airport was on a lower level, down a dimly lit corridor, with very little around it.
As I walked towards it, I realized there was an Asian man following me. Just him and me in this dark, unfamiliar place.
I have no idea where in Asia he was from.
And I have no idea what his intent was.
But I was suddenly filled with fear. Panic. And a deep, deep loathing.

It startled me.
And I was horrified at the depths of depravity in my own heart.
That man was not the one who had molested me or spit on me or treated me like an object.
But the sin, the unforgiveness, and the scars in my own heart drove my thoughts all over the place.
Yes, the prejudice I carried, based on past experiences, caused me to judge that man and find him guilty of something he did not do.

It happens to all of us.

But thankfully, as a believer in Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
And He gives me the power to live differently.
The power to love.
To forgive.
To repent.
To recognize my own depravity and ask God to change my heart.
To do all the things the Bible says I am supposed to do if I claim the name of Christ.
All things we are supposed to do in light of the deep divides in our country.

Impossible humanly speaking.
But with God, all things are possible.

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