I’m not sure who coined the term black fatigue, but I have it. What I mean by that term is this – I am tired of the minimization, apathy or outright dismissal of present and historical racism toward blacks by whites. I am tired of trying to lovingly have conversations with my white friends with the hope that they’ll get it. I am tired of having to explain why we collectively suffer when we see another black man, woman or child treated cruelly, and even in a sub-human manner whether guilty of a crime or the suspicion of a crime. I am tired of trying to explain the injustice experienced by blacks everyday in many ways. I’m just tired. I am tired of the way the church is slow to address this issue inside and outside the church. But I also am a Christian and that is hugely significant.
In late February, I was asked to be part of a ethnic reconciliation panel at a church in my city. I’ve had the privilege of preaching at this church a couple of years ago, so there was some familiarity. However, upon the invitation, my immediate thought was, “No. I’m tired of this conversation because nothing is happening.” I’ve poured out my heart too many times on social media, taken part in a panel at my own church, written articles, read others’ articles, read books, had many conversations with my white brothers and sisters (some fruitful, others more problematic) and I have vented to my wife too many times to count and it just seemed pointless. Frankly, I was just done with the conversation. I resigned myself to just pray and do the work myself organically with those closest to me at my church. But part of me still wanted people to get it and empathize with this sinful narrative. So after I told my wife about the invitation and about my thoughts, she understood my perspective, but she encouraged me to do it. I was still against the idea, but the LORD overcame my resistance and changed my heart about it. My wife had the right idea and perspective.
As I spoke to the pastor who invited me (he pastors a predominantly white Southern Baptist church), he told me that he had been affected by all of the shootings of blacks last summer (2016) and he became more concerned that the church ought to be doing something about it. Down the street, literally 300 yards, from his church is an African American Missionary Baptist church with whom they have almost no relationship. I was told that there had been attempts by the African American church to establish a relationship with this predominantly white church, but there was no reciprocation by the previous pastor. In fact, I was told that this was the first time that his church (the predominantly white church), to their shame, has ever addressed racism in the church’s history and he wasn’t sure how things would go. I was encouraged by his genuineness to address this topic, which could have easily caused an uproar in his church, and by his transparency about the church’s failure in the past. This was a historical event for his church.
By God’s grace, the panel event turned out very well. It was well attended by members of both churches. An assistant pastor moderated the event, each of the pastors gave a 20 minute talk about their experiences concerning racism, and there was a 45 minute panel discussion where the three of us answered questions from the congregation. Several of my white brothers and sisters approached me afterward and told me how helpful and encouraging I was to them. Praise the LORD! Some of the things that I desired for my brothers and sisters to know and understand were:
- The doctrine of the imago dei (image of God) must shape how we view people. Seeing people as image bearers of God is one of the foundational truths that needs to shape us.
- Racism is both individual and systemic.
- Racism is a sin issue and is only remedied by the gospel (Ephesians 2).
- African-American people, like all people, are not monolithic. Therefore, generalizations and stereotypes need to be avoided.
- Seek to understand the perspective of blacks and how we corporately suffer when we’re victimized by racism.
- Weep with those who weep.
- Be educated on the history of black-white relations in America (e.g. slavery, civil war, reconstruction, the black codes, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement).
- Talk to African-Americans about these issues. Do not be afraid.
- Befriend African-American brothers and sisters. Have them over for dinner, etc.
- To fellow African-Americans, let the gospel shape how you see whites.
As a first step toward visibly demonstrating the power of the gospel across ethnic lines, I pray more fruit abounds between these two churches as time goes by. This, I believe, will be one of the strongest arguments for the Lordship of Christ and the credibility of the church. Jesus told his disciples in John 13, “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Yet, by this same measure of love, our profession of faith is validated or invalidated. The Apostle John said this in 1 John:
- By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
- If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)
For me, I must persevere in fighting racism like I do any other sin. The LORD knows I’m tired! However, if I truly believe the gospel, and I do, I must strive, by the power of the Spirit, to walk worthy of the gospel, do good to all, especially the household of faith, and not grow weary in well-doing.