Freed From Racism
The day my father turned from racism he was getting his tires changed. The announcement I’d left behind before flying home to Florida, left him awake at night, permeated his thoughts, and hunched his shoulders. I announced I was going to marry a black man, one he didn’t know I’d been dating. Previously, he’d met with the pastor and tried to convince him bi-racial marriage was a sin, but instead his pastor asked if his bigotry was worth losing his daughter. My father felt defeated that day. He glanced up from the floor and saw Mr. Goodman had entered, a black man my father had known for years in their small southern town of Virginia. Don’t let Mr. Goodman’s name slip through unnoticed, because ya can’t make this stuff up, but God can.
After Dad greeted him, he prayed, “Lord, please teach me to love this man.” It was the simplest prayer, but one that God honors…Change me…Teach me…Show me…Lord.
He will admit it wasn’t an instant transformation, but God went to work erasing bigotry from his heart. So much so, a mere eight months later, Daddy walked me down the aisle and gave me away to a black man he hardly knew.
In my family as with many, racism didn’t start with my father, it started with his slave-owning ancestors, and like any generational sin, it slithered down our family tree choking its branches like a poisonous weed.
If you were raised in a racist family as I was, consider this, racism cripples keeping one from understanding another culture, from identifying the suffering of others, and it forces one to live encapsulated within their own point of view; therefore, racism is a product of ignorance.
Jesus recognized it is human nature to be a bigot. When He walked this earth, He noticed the Israelites had become haughty and looked down upon the Samaritans. He told the story of the “Good Samaritan”. The Samaritans were a despised group of people because of their ethnicity and their religious practices. The parable illustrates a man walking the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell upon group of robbers. They stripped and beat him, leaving him half dead on the roadside. Later, a priest came upon the wounded man and crossed over to the other side, passing him by. Then a Levite came upon him and chose to do the same thing. Last, a Samaritan rides up on his donkey. He tends to the man’s wounds, loads him on his ride, and takes him to an inn. There, he pays the inn keeper two day’s wages to care for the man and promises reimbursement for any further charges due to his care.
After telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36, English Standard Version)
I imagine the pangs the lawyer felt when he admitted the Samaritan was the good neighbor, probably the same pangs my father felt when he read my letter.
Being born in Nazareth, Jesus was not immune to bigotry. Nazareth was a small village composed of mostly farmers, shepherds, and laborers. They were a poor class of people. When Jesus calls Phillip to follow Him, Phillip finds Nathaniel and tells him He’s found the One whom Moses stated would come, Jesus from Nazareth.
Nathanael responds, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46b ESV)
Nathanael’s ignorance was recognized when he came in contact with something great from Nazareth.
I just returned from a family vacation to Belize. On my first day there a Belizean driver indicated the Belizean are not like the people of my country.
“We all get along, no matter what race we are. There’s no racism here,” he said. “We have to depend on each other for goods and services.”
His criticism stung. I wanted to be defensive, but how could I? I was entangled in racism and by God’s grace alone, cut free. On the airplane on the way home from Belize, I was thinking about this very article when a blonde woman and her husband entered the plane. She found she was not seated in first class but one row behind. Returning to the front, she argued with the flight attendants about the mix up. Meanwhile, a black Belizean woman came to their row. She pointed to the window seat and stated to the husband that she was supposed to sit there.
“No you’re not, this seat is reserved for my wife,” he said.
“Oh, okay, I’ll take the aisle seat,” she said before sliding into her seat.
The blonde woman returned still fuming about the mix up, and during the flight became rude to the black woman. So rude she stated loudly.
“This is my country, why don’t you get out of it!”
The truth was, we weren’t in the United States yet, but flying over Central America, but before I could turn around and point that out…
“What’s your problem lady? Is it a black thing? You have a problem sitting next to a black woman?” The Belizean woman said. “I gave you my seat. You should have purchased your ticket early if that’s the case so you could sit in first class! I don’t want to sit beside you anyway!”
When she finished, I glanced back at the black woman and saw tears in her eyes. I knew her angry response came from hurt. My eyes met hers. I whispered, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about her.” She smiled back.
I want to believe we have moved beyond racism in our country, but our media continues to spew the rancid extremes of it across the airwaves, fanning the flames of hatred. The signs, the marches, the vandalism, the hoods, prove racism slithers through the forest around the trunks of every classification. As believers we are called to be the change… to make the difference. We are commanded to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It takes spilled blood to cleanse us of prejudice, the perfect blood of Jesus Christ, and through His grace we become sisters. The color of skin, our status, our physical disabilities will never have the power to disqualify us from the family of Christ. The only One who can free our hearts from bigotry is our Father. If you choose to cling to the weed of prejudice, your calling in Christ Jesus will be suffocated. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, ESV)
I challenge you to ask God to examine your heart and cleanse it of any prejudice, so you’ll be able to sit across from your own Goodman whether black, white, or anything in between, and be the neighbor God intended you to be.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.