For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Cure for Racism (or at least in our family)

I would never suggest that my wife and I are perfect parents, that our children are perfect people, or that our efforts are the perfect example.  But please read to the end before making any judgments on what I'm saying here.  Because I have to say that my children have demonstrated more than once that gospel centered living, a biblical understanding of personhood, and Christ like love is the answer for racism.

I've been hearing so much lately about how the only way we can reconcile all the racial tension is for “white” people to apologize for every wrong ever done to “black” people.  This is so flawed because it is in itself a “racist” idea.  The very concept divides us into categories.  It assumes that because I'm white, my family history is full of racists; and because someone else is black, they are the children of slaves and victims.  That's racist.

It could be that my family heritage is full of Christ centered opponents of slavery and racism.  It could be that this person is the descendant of tribal royalty only recently emigrated to this country.  Probably not.  But to automatically infer that my skin color defines my heart and the heart of my family is racist.  To demand for me to apologize for something I didn't do simply based on skin color, is in fact racist.  And it's no more helpful than asking those of darker color to have to apologize for inter-tribal atrocities done in their own history.  Furthermore, it just reinforces our differences, instead of focusing on the truth we are all just People.  

I dealt with this while living on a Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  My response to people who brought up the past “outrages” done by one side or the other, was simply “that wasn't me, and it wasn't you.  We live in the here and now, and I love you with the love of the Lord.”  I know that sounds simplistic.  But here's where my kids come in.

Our oldest daughter was only a toddler when we moved to that Reservation.  When we moved back to Missouri several years later, she heard some folks talking about “Indians” in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  And she came home and asked us, “Do we know any Indians?” We chuckled and started naming some of our friends from North Dakota.  And her innocent response was shock.  “They were Indians?!”  It never dawned on her that those folks were anything other than People.  Friends.  Church members.  Children of God.  People, period.

Again, we aren't perfect parents.  But we've tried to always live with a biblical attitude that says there is only one race: the human race.  And there are only two kinds of people: those who know Christ, and those who need to know Christ.  And, thankfully, our children picked up on that.

Example number two.  Fast forward almost 20 years.  Our little later-in-life-surprise is now 13 years old.  We've tried to raise him like the other, older three, with the same ideas of personhood.  And it seems to have paid off. 

We brought home the DVD of The Greatest Showman, which he hadn't seen yet.  For any others who haven't seen it, one of the main sub plots is the budding romance between two people of different skin colors.  And they are the focus of much scorn and derision by other characters in the movie.  

After the movie was over, I asked our son:  “Do you know why the relationship between Carlyle and Anne was such a big deal?  Why people were so offended and upset by it?”  And his answer was a confused, “Uh, not really?”  My heart just exploded with joy.  He is so oblivious to the very idea that people would be upset by an “inter-racial” relationship, that it blew right by him. 

When I explained that in the time this movie was set, folks were bothered by that sort of thing, he just said, “Ohh.  I didn't think of that.  Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”  Just didn't even seem like an issue for him

I know I'm probably just being a little naive here.  But if we just spent more time seeing people's hearts changed by the gospel, living lives according to biblical ideals, seeing people as people instead of doing a million other things to highlight our differences, we just might be a little better off.

In the end, I realize that we will never “end racism”, because racism is sin and we will never be free from sin in this world.  Only when Christ returns and establishes His kingdom will we finally live together in the harmony God desires.  But we can at least work toward that end.  We can look at people as people, not as a skin color.  And we can teach our children to do the same, not teach them to feel guilty for the sins of generations ago.  Instead let's help them look to the present and future with the hope of Christ.  And maybe that will bring us just a little closer to that elusive “end.” 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Don't Be Anxious About Your Anxiety

I can be a real mess.  I mentioned in the last post about anxiety being the prompt for the whole thing.  And I've confessed here, and to our church, on many occasions this ongoing struggle. But what really gets me is the circular pattern I can get into.

I start to feel anxious about something.  And then knowing that I am commanded in Scripture not to feel anxious, I get upset about being anxious.  And then my anxiety increases as I become more anxious, and more anxious about being anxious, and... well, you get the point.  Told you I was a mess.

As I got to thinking about this, I realized that while it is still wrong for me to be anxious, it may be even worse to be anxious about being anxious.  Because God knew I would struggle with this. That's why He has to tell me in His Word, over and over, not to fear; not to be anxious.  I don't think He would have felt the need to repeat this so many times had He not known what a real, ongoing temptation this was going to be. 

And not just for me. I'm not arrogant to think that God wrote all those things just for my particular case.  He must have known that His people in general would struggle here. 

Now, before I go any further, let's put this one little thing to rest.  I have heard, read, been told that God says “Do not fear” exactly 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year.  Isn't that amazing??  Of course, a few problems here:
    1) The Jewish calendar only has 354 days.  The 365 day calendar is a much more modern invention, so to say that God put that number in the Bible just for us today ignores the multitudes who came before us.  Pretty arrogant, don't you think?
    2) A survey of the Biblical text shows that combining all references to not being afraid, all commands, all variations of words, etc., doesn't total anywhere near that number.  I've done my own counting, read several others, and while we all had different numbers (based on translations, what we included, etc) the most anyone came up with was about 250.
    3) Does God really need to say it once a day to get the point across.  I've read this like it makes it a special command because of the 365.  God only needs to say it once for it to be true.

So, forget that little piece of fake trivia.  And yet, the truth is that though God doesn't need to repeat a command, this happens to be one that He does repeat.  Not 365 times, but frequently.  Which says to me that He knows this will be an issue. We need to hear it. I can't imagine Him bothering to repeat a command that folks aren't even going to struggle with.

So don't be anxious about being anxious.  God knows it's a struggle.  I'm not excusing the lack of faith and maturity that often leads to that anxiety in the first place.  After all, God does indeed command me to “be anxious for nothing.”  I need to obey that.  Not excuse it.  But I also don't need to continue to beat myself up over the struggle when obviously God knew that struggle would be real.

Instead of focusing on the fear, or on the sin of fear, put your eyes where they are supposed to be.  On Christ.  C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will guide you into the haven of peace.”  I'll just put an “amen” here.