As we look for ways to respond to the issue of racial inequality, Dwell Pastor Josh Benadum offers these suggestions for our conversations and relationships:
1. Encourage people to listen to one another (James 1:19). Not everyone emotionally identifies with the rage and fear that many are expressing right now. But this is an important opportunity for people to learn to empathize with and seek to understand those with different backgrounds experiences (Romans 12:15).
2. Actively initiate this conversation with others. Many are angry, but won't talk about it. Or the anger comes out in strange ways and at unpredictable times. Be proactive rather than reactive. We need to show initiating love, rather than passively waiting for others to bring it up (1 John 4:19). Ideally, these conversations would be better in a one-on-one setting, so a hurting person can open up. Ask questions like, "I have been saddened by the recent news... How has it affected you? From your perspective, what did you think when you saw that footage? What kind of thoughts have you been having about it? What do you think God would have to say about all of this?"
3. Resist the urge to be a "fixer" (Proverbs 18:30). We are not going to solve systemic racism in a conversation and shouldn’t try. But we can bond through these times, grow in understanding, and achieve deeper intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ. Resist the urge to jump quickly to solutions. Listening and empathy are so vital, and many yearn to be understood. There's a biblical precedent for lamentation, and we shouldn't try to expedite or extinguish this process (Lamentations 1-3). Be ready for rawness, much like when a person is grieving the death of a friend or family member.
4. Help people get their emotions before God (Habakkuk 1:2). God is more saddened and angered by injustice than any of us, and we will find comforting truth and wise direction when we turn to him (James 1:5).
5. Take this opportunity to boldly teach what the Bible says on justice and equality (Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8). As Christians we have a stronger foundation from which to condemn and fight racism and hate than our culture’s shifting moral consensus (Genesis 1:27).
6. Preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:1-2). We have a message that frees people from the cycles of bitterness and sin that perpetuate hate and division (Ephesians 2:14). The gospel accomplishes transformation and reconciliation for both oppressors and those who have been oppressed (Acts 10:34-43). People on every side of what is happening need the freedom that comes through knowing Jesus Christ.
7. Ask people to act according to their consciences. There is a wide range of political actions available in our democratic society to influence the laws that govern society. People should research and consider their civic responsibility during this time (Proverbs 13:16).
8. Aim for sustained service (Ephesians 5:2, 1 Corinthians 16:14). Emotional arousal on its own won’t be sufficient for building a life of committed service to those in need. Faith is what leads to long term loving effort (1 Thessalonians 1:3). There are many ways our church is already working hard to address the major disparities in our city that underlie injustice. People who aren’t already should take advantage of opportunities to get involved in supporting or volunteering with organizations like Youth for Christ, Gracehaven, Harambe, Akilli, or the life coaching program.
9. Encourage creativity (Hebrews 10:24). God may send some of our members to drive new initiatives that will both make a real difference in the city and adorn the gospel message. Dwell and UC staffer Brandon Grant for instance has been researching an organization called Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers that works to start Bible studies in police precincts. They lead officers to faith and minister to the unique problems in their lives, helping them begin to see their work through the lens of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sounds like a great idea, but there currently is no chapter in Columbus. Consider prayerfully what other opportunities may be out there.