by Pastor Tim Burt
If this Covid world wasn’t enough to rattle everyone’s cage, we experienced the injustice of George Floyd’s death and the rage it triggered in our country. Social justice and social equality have progressed far too slowly over the years for black people. To those of us who are white people, we may have held the belief that progress had been made, and that this progress was good. But what we’ve failed to understand, because we’ve never experienced it is this. When you are on the receiving side of repeated acts of inequality and injustice, it doesn’t feel like any meaningful or lasting progress has been at all. Why? Because you still have to deal with so many injustices that simply aren’t right, and thus the outrage we’ve been seeing.
Trust me, I know this is a complex conversation tangled with centuries of injustices, misguided opinions, incredibly difficult hurts, politics, and so much more. I could never tackle that in a devotion here. But what I want to do is offer a suggestion inspired by the love of God.
Jesus instructed us to “love one another as He has loved us!”
Stephen Covey shared this wisdom, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
God’s word shares this wisdom from James 1:19 (NIV) “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
These are all things to take to heart when contemplating all that is going on. Beyond that, I’d like to offer a practical starting point of how a white person can do better in reaching out in a healing, loving way, to a black person in their neighborhood, in their church, in their workplace…who is struggling in these difficult times. As I say this, please note that this is just one tiny suggestion in a world of thoughts, suggestions, and wisdom that so many others have given. But with all my heart, I know this one suggestion will help.
Before I share it with you, let me share this thought, an analogy I heard from Pastor Jimmy Rollins in a sermon. Since the beginning of mankind’s existence on earth, men have heard about the pain and difficulty of giving birth. They may have even watched their children be born. But they have never experienced the actual pain of giving birth, and they never will experience it. NEVER! So, all they can do is listen, have empathy and be supportive.
And likewise, if you are a white person, you have never experienced the racism that a black person has felt in this country. You may have suffered other things, but as a white person, you’ve never been a black person experiencing racism. In saying that, you can’t say or pretend to know how they feel and the pain they’ve experienced. You may know other suffering and pain, but you do not know their pain and suffering. So, understanding this, let me offer my one suggestion.
My one tiny suggestion in a sea of wisdom and other suggestions is this: simply walk up to a black person when it’s appropriate. It could be your neighbor or a stranger in the grocery store. Start a conversation, simply telling them that you’re sorry for the injustice that not only George Floyd experienced, but all black people have had to face over all the years. Make it sincere and ask them how they’re doing. And then be silent, kind, and let them talk. Let them educate you on what they’ve personally experienced in their own lives. Don’t act like you can relate to their experience, because you can’t! Remember that you will never experience the pains they have. Don’t be defensive, or shift the conversation to things you’ve experienced in your life. Just sincerely listen and have empathy. They want you to know their stories. It’s their stories that will help us understand the plight they’ve experienced in America. And then offer empathy, love, and again, express that you are sorry and that you are praying for this evil to change. Even if you believe that personally you don’t have a racist bone in your body, don’t say that. This isn’t about you. It’s a moment to let it be about them and in hearing their story, it can help you change any wrong perceptions, attitudes or biases you may not even know you had.
What many people and Christians forget is that emotional healing most often happens incrementally. You being one small part of that can truly help healing continue. My wife and I usually walk a few miles every day and have frequently practiced this with strangers we run into. Almost without exception, people have opened up and shared a story.
My neighbor next door is a black man about my age. He is one of the most precious neighbors I’ve ever had, and I can truly say I love this man. He was out in his yard the other night, and I reached out to Him. I told him how sincerely sorry I was for the events that had been happening and the injustice of it all. I asked him if he was all right and how he was doing. And then I stopped talking. He began to tell me his story of growing up in a very large family, the son of a sharecropper. He proceeded to tell me that he had experienced racism all his life and watched his dad and family suffer at the hands of it. He opened up and told me stories. It hurt to hear of the injustices they had experienced. When he was done sharing, I thanked him for sharing with me. I felt honored. He thanked me for caring. It made me hunger to learn more, and we are having him over for dinner soon to hear more.
When we said goodnight and I was walking back to my house, the Lord spoke to my heart and said, That brought healing to him. It brought understanding to me. I will never know, no matter how much I’m told, what it felt like to be him. But in giving place to telling his stories, it helped him because black people have to tell their stories. They want us to understand so healing can happen and change can finally come. I hope you’ll take this step and listen. As James says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
Isaiah 50:4 (NLT2) “The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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