On Wednesday, October 26th, Mercy Hill held its “Living Room Conversations: A Gospel-centered Conversation on Race” between a panel of pastors, staff, and church members of varied backgrounds. This post is a part of our Continuing the Conversation blog series that seeks to keep Mercy Hill thinking and talking about issues of race.
A friend once asked me what I would do if I found myself as a minority in a predominantly black, gospel-centered church. My immediate inclination was to claim with pride that, of course, I would stay there. After all, if Christ crucified and resurrected is the song of my heart, then that being preached would be enough for me. I so longed for this to be my answer. I wanted it to be true so badly that I almost lied to myself.
First of all, the only qualification I have for writing this post is the sin that made reconciliation necessary. Especially for me, this is pride. I allowed myself to believe that I was so sophisticated that I could somehow remove myself from my own biases, that I could rise above my social context and view race relations as a totally unbiased source.
I am a twenty-one-year-old, white female from a small rural town in southeastern North Carolina. I view everything I see and encounter through this lens. We cannot deny who we are and where we come from as we view the world. On our own, we can’t see past our biases. We are unchallenged by our own thoughts. However, if we are to truly see and engage other cultures, we must lay ourselves down before the Lord and in community.
Humility Before the Lord
When the Lord commands us to die to our own flesh and take up our cross, we get it. We are so sinful and filthy before a spotless and holy God. However, part of dying to my own flesh means not only dying to my sin but also the literal flesh on my body, my whiteness and the societally created privilege that it brings. I do not crucify my whiteness for the sake of sympathy or denial. I rejoice as one who believes in the risen Jesus, as one who knows it is written that EVERY tribe, tongue, and nation will be represented on the throne. I crucify my whiteness because it makes me more like Jesus.
This does not mean that I question the way the Lord has created me; it means my life resounds that I am no worthier of the cross of Christ or the privileges of society because I am white. It means I accept that the color of my skin makes me no better a judge of sin or society than anyone else. It means that when God sees me what He first sees is Jesus in the place of a sinful twenty-one-year-old, white female. It means that I am not colorblind, for this passes over the fact that there are ways I benefit from our society that my sweet sisters of other colors do not. Above anything else, it means that my sin alone would have been enough to drive the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross. My mocking voice alone would have shouted, “Crucify him!” But He saw us—you, me, and those who look different than you. He sent Jesus as the ransom for our sins and as the only way to be restored to Him, and now He sees Jesus when He looks at us who have believed in him.
Humility in Community
Back to my friend that I told you about in the beginning. I certainly could have biblically and theologically justified saying all that mattered to me was the gospel being proclaimed and preached every week. I would have been lying to her. Instead, I said that I still clung to comfort more than the very word of the Lord. I would certainly attend a church where I was the minority, but I likely wouldn’t stay. It would be easy for me to find gospel-centered worship in a place that was more comfortable. If I was honest, that is what I would choose. This response only happened because the Spirit of the Lord revealed sin in my heart. I had to first be humble before the Lord before I could ever be humble in community. We must allow the Lord to show us that we aren’t right, that we haven’t gotten it all figured out, and that we do not hold the world in our hands. Then, he continues to reveal this very truth to us through Christian community.
I’ve sat through dozens of uncomfortable conversations with this same friend where we have both been challenged by the other person’s perspectives. I know this relationship has made me more like Jesus, more discerning of the culture around me, and more skeptical of my own biases. In order to see racial reconciliation continue in our church and in our city, we must engage one another and learn from one another. As we do, we will begin to see His Kingdom come now as it is in heaven.
O, to see the way the Lord sees.
-Greta Griswold (Mercy Hill Member)