Our family is not surprised by stories of racism in America. We have a lengthy list of experiences we can contribute that include both overt and subtle situations. However, for many others, the horrors that have become public have finally been enough to uncover ears and remove blinders from eyes. For that I am thankful. For my friends and family who have taken brave steps to listen, learn, look for ways to act, and speak the truth about racism, thank you.
It has not escaped my attention that this shift in the conversation has had consequences from those who remain egocentric. I hope you have felt supported by me as I’ve tried to cheer you on by sharing resources and attempting to stop those who are trying to bully you into silence. When we’re afraid, wounded, exhausted, or angry it’s challenging to think about anyone but ourselves. Psychologists call this egocentrism.
Egocentric and self-centered behaviors include:
- Focus on own perception and opinion
- Lack of empathy
- Inability to recognize the needs of others
- Excessive thoughts of how others might view them
- Decision-making around the needs of self
One example of this is the disqualifying assumption. When someone says Black Lives Matter you can choose to say “Yes they do!” or you can choose to say “What about me? I matter!” This defensiveness often causes people to attempt to silence the voice that is attempting to remove them from the center of the story. The voice that shows compassion to someone else is somehow offensive.
Since decisions for egocentric people are only about fulfilling personal needs it’s easy to look contradictory to an outside observer. When the only consistent choice is to do what is best for SELF we may find ourselves compromising on our previously stated convictions. For example, the prolife Republican who demands his mistress gets an abortion and pays for his silence.
Egocentric People Will Continue to Divide
For years every time my husband has voiced an opinion he’s been told to shut his mouth. This week as he responded to George Floyd’s death on his social media account he was told to leave the country. I was told my multiple personal experiences while with my husband experiencing overt racism don’t “count” because they are not facts.
Not only are these statements egocentric, but they also are not aligned with the teachings of Jesus. We barely have to turn a page in the first four books of the New Testament without noting the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus said repeatedly all are welcome and yet even today those who call themselves followers of Christ refuse to invite the voices of their minority brothers and sisters to the table as equal.
Jesus Spoke Against Racism
One of the most distinctive stories Jesus uses to call out the Pharisees is found in Luke 10. The Parable of the Good Samaritan begins with a question from a lawmaker in Luke 10:25. “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?'” The lawmaker was concerned about himself. He wanted to live forever.
Luke 10:26-29 says, “‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
It’s at this point that Jesus sets the standard for what it looks like to love our neighbor. Our neighbor isn’t ONLY the people who live in proximity to us. Our neighbors aren’t JUST the people in our small groups or the people we work with or the people we like.
Our neighbors include people who by the world’s standards we are supposed to despise. Our neighbors are those that we have different views from when it comes to religion, politics, lifestyle choice, and habits. Our neighbors are those who cannot speak for themselves.
Please take time to read the entire story. But for now, let’s focus on Luke 10:33-37:
“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”
The Samaritan sees the injured Jewish man on the road and unlike the previous two men who ignored their fellow Jew, the Samaritan man has compassion for him.
The Samaritan Goes Further than Feeling Compassionate
Here is the most important point about loving your neighbor in this parable. The Samaritan doesn’t simply notice the Jewish man and acknowledge his wounds with a First Century AD version of thoughts and prayers. The Samaritan ACTS on behalf of the wounded man. He bandaged the injuries using his oil and wine. He continues to care for the Samaritan and then when he needs to move on with his journey he leaves financial resources with the innkeeper so the Jewish man can continue to heal.
All of these actions are choices to “speak out for the rights of the voiceless” (Proverbs 31:8). The Jewish man’s wounds took days of recovery and were expensive to care for but the Samaritan didn’t expect that he would pay for or arrange his own care. He stepped in and took care of things FOR the wounded man. Every choice was made in contrast to an egocentric life. This was a life that reflected the same sacrifice Jesus makes for us.
Jesus asks the expert in the law which of the three examples is the one that was a neighbor and the lawman says “The one who had mercy on him.” This response is followed by a simple command. “Go and do likewise.”
Let’s be clear here. Showing compassion is not agreement. The Samaritan didn’t pause to weigh whether helping the Jewish man would taint his business in some way or consider asking why he had been wounded. He simply helped him. This doesn’t mean he agreed with the actions that led up the man’s injuries. Perhaps this man was an alcoholic who beat his wife and children. Helping him does not condone the actions, but showing him compassion models the behavior he SHOULD extend his family.
Moving Forward Requires Lasting Action
Micah 6:8 (NIV) says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We see the Samaritan model this and Jesus affirms this is how we live out The Greatest Command. This can feel intimidating, especially when you have strong, egocentric personalities to contend with, however you aren’t alone.
Today on the Church calendar is Pentecost Sunday. Acts 2:1-4 says “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Pentecost is the day God sent the Holy Spirit to help the Apostles tell the truth of Jesus’s resurrection in multiple languages at the same time so all could hear the truth in their language. God helped those who needed to speak the truth to do so clearly.
It’s time for Body of Christ to step up and be the voice for the voiceless. It’s time for the Body of Christ to stop asking the wounded to stay silent. It’s time for the Body of Christ to start reflecting Jesus to EVERYONE.-Beth Walker
I know the temptation is to lean on your brothers and sisters of color in these moments. The follow behind them and even justify this as your duty as you learn. I’m going to ask you to stop leaning on them for now unless they are speaking. There are thousands of resources wise minority leaders have already developed. They stepped out in faith as God led them in the hopes that someone would listen. Many have, and many more are ready now. THANK YOU.
It’s Time to Be the Voice for the Voiceless
Learning is an act of love. But then it’s time to lead. Our church says “Kingdom leaders bring Kingdom perspectives” and right now that is what’s desperately needed.
Trust that just because your friends stop posting about racism that does not mean the issue has been resolved. It simply means they understand their voices will only reach so far and they are tired of sounding like an echo chamber.
Pick up the message and move it to your extended circles of influence. More than that, do NOT LET RACISTS WIN. Don’t let the bullies shift the conversation and shut down truth. The goal is to divide. The goal is to let evil continue to reign.
Again, thank you to everyone who has reached out publicly and privately this week. Your support of our family has meant the world to us. Now it’s time to let you be the voice for the voiceless. In serving you this week there has been very little time to fully process nor serve my family. It’s time to protect the home team.
Resources for You to Consider
We Have the Power (The Glorious Table)