In my last blog,“What I hope my black children learn from #Ferguson,” I shared seven things I want my black children, adopted from Ethiopia, to learn from the recent events in Ferguson, MO. The last few days as I’ve been reading blogs and comments from others I realized that it’s not just my black children whom I hope learn some valuable lessons from all of this but my white children, too. A lot of what I have been reading on the internet seems to suggest that if you are white your opinion shouldn’t count, or you should be ashamed to share it (this view is most often, in my experience perpetuated by other white people who think it more righteous to carry “white guilt” on themselves while heaping it upon others – more on that below). I believe this is a false-humility which only serves to exacerbate race problems. It sends the message that your race is a problem, and you should be embarrassed of it rather than liberated from it. Yes, liberated from it. I don’t want my kids – black or white – growing up to believe they are slaves of the color or culture or context they inhabit but instead celebrate all that they are in Christ and the freedom they have knowing that it is in Christ (and not their race) that they live and more and have their being (Acts 17:28). So with that said, here are 7 truths I want my white children to know.
You are beautiful. You are beautiful because you are a child of God, created to be the object of God’s eternal joy and affection. Your beauty has nothing to do with the amount of or lack of melanin in your skin. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God in your mother’s womb. God doesn’t make junk, and you are one of the treasures for which he died to save.
Family. Your true brothers and sisters are your spiritual ones of all colors, stripes and histories. The moment you place your faith in Jesus you were adopted into a family far bigger than the one mom and dad provide, or even our color or nation. Your brothers and sisters are Arab, Jewish, Chinese, German, Cuban, Hispanic, even Southern and Yankee and everything in between so long as they have faith in Christ. And those who don’t? They are your neighbor, potential brothers and sisters whom you are called to love and pray for and bless as often as you have the means to do so.
White Guilt. You don’t have to be embarrassed that you are white. There are plenty of well-intentioned albeit misguided Christians who will try to tell you that because you are white you should forever carry with you a sense of guilt and shame over what our ancestors have done to blacks. But you are no more responsible for the sins of your ancestors as Michael Brown is responsible for the sins of his. The beauty of the gospel message is this: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ! This is true of every one who places their faith in Christ and it’s a glorious truth! Do not allow white guilt to silence you which thereby sends the message that there is no real freedom to be found from our past sin and that personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions mean less than the color of your skin.
Privilege. Your greatest privilege is that you are an heir of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have been bought with a price, therefore, bring glory to God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20). Any privilege that others lavish upon you is because we live in a fallen world that loves to make idols out of many things, including race. Instead, have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was God did not count equality with God as something to cling to, but instead humbled himself, choosing to be born a slave, a servant of all, even to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:1-11).
Speak up and out. It’s your duty as a Christian to speak up and out against injustice wherever it is found, whether among those who cannot speak for themselves or among those who can. Seek the truth in all things and do not be persuaded by the talking heads in the media or the opinions of every human with internet access. Remember the Apostle Paul, who though in chains asked for prayer not that he would be set free but that he would speak boldly the Good News which is available to every person alive irrespective of race or parentage (Eph. 6). Point people everywhere and in all seasons to the sinfulness within each of our own hearts and our great need for a Savior. Do not be sidetracked by agendas and issues which seek to make this world the utopia for which only Christ’s return can and will establish. Be the voice calling out in the wilderness, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Love without agenda. Outdo others in showing them honor (Rom. 12:10) not because they are black or white or any other color but for this simple and profound truth: God commands you to do so to everyone. So love the person in front of you today. Love the neighbor whom you meet today. Consider the needs of others before your own and in this way you will be like Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. When you seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first, all other things will be added to you.
It’s all about Jesus. When we first adopted your brother and sister from Ethiopia we thought it was our duty to make everyone else look like us – integrated. The problem with this is not so much the goal (integration is a good thing) but the motive behind it. We were more concerned with the church and society looking like our family than we were with ourselves and our neighbors looking more like Jesus. The truth is, you can surround yourself with all sorts of different people and get absorbed in any number of good causes while your heart is still far from God. If you will focus all your energy on becoming more and more like Jesus, and encouraging others to do the same, you will discover that the agendas and issues and causes which are important to God will become natural by-products of the life you are living. In this you will find great joy and peace, and the hurting world that doesn’t know Jesus will be attracted to you because you look like Jesus, not because of the color of your skin.
It would be a mistake to think that I teach this well, or even model it well, all the time. But I pray that by God’s grace I will grow in each of these truths myself, and my kids would follow suit. As a Christian, I am convinced that given the option between feeling sorry for my kids (and thereby allowing them to feel sorry for themselves) or pointing them towards the Gospel (even with crooked fingers), the latter is far better, and far more hopeful and empowering. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.