Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Racism: Is "understanding" what it's about?

The inter-racial strife we're seeing in the United States is bringing pleas for greater understanding. White people, the thinking goes, have to make a greater effort to understand black people and they're "experience", as a way of reducing racial tension.

That seems like a good idea, but is that a Biblical approach? What did Jesus tell us to do?

Was the "new commandment" He gave us in John 13:34 that we understand one another?

No: He calls us to love one another.

Understanding others is an unrealistic concept. How can I "understand" an entire race made up of individuals with individual experiences? Indeed, who says you can apply any one set of "understandable" attributes to a particular race?

Doesn't that lead to stereotyping, of a condescending, rather than hostile, kind? How do I "understand" someone, anyway? Do I Google "understand black people"? Do I plunge into a study of the history of everybody who Isn't Like Me and not emerge until I've got it down-pat?

What if I find I can't understand someone? What if I can't fathom abject poverty or persecution? Do I give up on the idea of racial harmony?

And how can I deal with the here-and-now if my nose is buried in history?

But love picks things up in the here-and-now and moves forward; it levels the playing field, which is exactly what Jesus wanats of us. It allows us to move past skin color and ethnic background to see people as the children of God that we are. We come to the revelation that, as Kenneth Copeland once said, there are only two races in God's eyes: those who know Him and those who don't.

Striving to understand another perspective only lasts as long as our energy and determination to keep learning. For some, that determination might do a fast fade as soon as someone in the group we're trying to understand says, "how can you ever understand what I've gone through?" On the other hand, love -- submitting ourselves to everyone else -- lasts forever and cannot fade.

Most importantly, love brings God's will onto a situation. We've tried to "understand" people and to legislate equality and niceness, both of which are man-made devices to address a situation that, deep down, we know is beyond our control. But God is standing by, waiting for us to call Him in, and the way to do that is to fall back on Jesus' New Commandment.

One more thing: Jesus warned us there'd be days like these. He told us, "because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." [Matt. 24:12] We're seeing both happening now. The encouragement to draw from this is that seeing the predictions of 2,000 years ago and more coming to pass should be proof that God is alive and we should look to His word to find out what else is happening. For those of us who do know what else is going on because we've read the book, we know how to focus our efforts and attention -- and it's not on the things of this world.

But to my main point, ask yourself this:

Would you rather be loved or understood?

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