Are You Afraid?


dsc_0096There’s a lot of fear pushing us around lately.

It’s the enemy’s way of controlling us. Keeping our focus off God and his greatness. Making us believe that God doesn’t mean what he says when he tells us he loves us and has good plans for our future. God doesn’t intend to harm us.

I believe that.

But what about people meaning harm? Vigilantes ravage cities stoking the fires of fear. News media headlines scream that this virus is out of control and coming for us next unless we stop singing in church and wear oxygen depriving masks everywhere while they neglect news about the decreasing death count. And everyone has opinions. A lot of them are political.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This is about unity. Forgiveness. Love one another.

You see, recently someone asked if people are afraid to talk about race. And that made me think.

Am I?

I’m not afraid of Covid or the brain sucking amoeba in Florida’s warm waters. (Sorry if you haven’t heard and now that’s given you one more thing to worry about–don’t worry. They say it’s not really a threat. At least not the same threat as the not-yet-a-threat of the new swine flu in China.)

But I AM afraid of not loving one another.

I’m afraid of talking about race because maybe I’ll offend without meaning to.

I’m afraid I’ll be unknowingly insensitive because I don’t have the same experiences.

I’m afraid that because I grew up in a wealthy, “white” neighborhood (I don’t even get why we call neighborhoods “white” or “black”), I’ll be seen as racist even though that is not my heart.

I honestly want to know what my black friends have experienced and how they feel about it, but I’m afraid to ask because I don’t know if they will feel like I”m prying or overstepping into a sacred world of their pain.

I see us all as people loved by God, so if I ask about race am I not now making a point of someone being black or some other ethnicity or culture rather than a person with uniquely good or painful experiences?

I want us all to live in unity, listening, understanding, having compassion for each other’s hurts without discriminating or judging.

And while I believe that through Jesus, that is possible, I’m afraid people are more interested in being offended or proving their point than they are about loving their neighbor.

God says that perfect love casts out fear. His love is the only love that’s perfect. I don’t fear him. I’m grateful for his love. If I let him love me, can I love others enough to make them not afraid? Can I stop being afraid and instead be quick to listen and slow to share my opinion? Can I speak truth in love with grace and patience, willing to put myself in someone else’s shoes so I can show compassion?

Can we look for the why behind someone’s opinions, thoughts, feelings, and fears?

Maybe we can stop being afraid long enough to love one another.

What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.