A version of this article originally appeared at trillianewbell.com. Reused with permission.
Many of us desire to grow in having healthy conversations about race. We want to actively engage in some way to respond to the injustices we see playing out in America and to our own pains.
In conversations with my white sisters and brothers, these engagements have been difficult but oh so fruitful and worth it! Words like listen, learn, and love may sound simplistic, but I think they go a long way in empathizing with the burdened.
Listen. Ask your friends how they are doing in the midst of our racially charged society then be quick to listen (James 1:19). Hear their hearts. You are likely to hear stories of mistreatment, racial slurs, microaggressions, fears for themselves and their children. Don’t offer explanations or solutions. Just listen. How can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t listen to what those burdens are?
Learn. Spend some time learning about the history and plight of African Americans year round, not just during Black History Month. Even many African Americans have had to learn about their history on their own. I was introduced to black history and culture in college. Learning about the broad accomplishments of Africans and African Americans opened my eyes and world in ways that have only benefited me over the years. Prior to that, my exposure to my own history came from a few family stories about their experiences during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era, watching ROOTS as a child, and a few minutes in a class or two where we heard about Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do a little research and learn the history that gives context for much of what we deal with today regarding race relations in America.
Love. Love one another deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22). As you listen and as you learn, love your brother or sister as yourself. Grieve with them. Hope together. Pray for them. Speak and pray words of encouragement to them. Let your love move you to action. Participate in a local peace forum or demonstration with your friend. Lock arms with them against injustice. Actively, vocally oppose injustice whenever and wherever you see it. “Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) In love, encourage your white family members and friends to listen, learn, and love along with you.
Some of you are fearful of speaking up on behalf of your black sisters and brothers who are hurting. You don’t want to be misunderstood. You don’t want to say something inadvertently
insensitive. You don’t want backlash from family and friends and coworkers.
You’re tired. You’re hurting as well. You don’t know what to say, so you say nothing. I get it. You feel vulnerable. It saddens me, too, that often the white voices we hear most and loudest are those that are least empathetic and gracious. I believe there are more of you who have words of grace and encouragement and love and hope for your black brothers and sisters. I believe there are more of you who have gracious words of correction and perspective that you can offer to your harsher white brothers and sisters. We need to hear from you.
May I encourage you to trust the Lord with your words? This is something the Lord has been teaching me for a number of years. Too often when I’m prompted by the Lord to speak, I think He’s gonna leave me once I open my mouth, and that my words are mine alone. But the One who gave me my mouth is with me and will give me the words He wants me to speak. This is true for you as well. You can trust Him. “The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected” (Proverbs 29:25). Fear of man can either torment us or tempt us. Torment comes in agonizing over all the “what ifs” and playing back the worst-case scenario in our minds, stifling our voices. Or, in our fear of man, we may be tempted to sin in the form of disobedience or refusing to identify with Christ’s suffering when He graciously grants that stewardship to us through the words He prompts us to speak. But remember that there is safety in trusting the Lord. You never have to be ashamed of trusting Him. He will keep you. He is your confidence and will bless those who have ears to hear by your words that are prompted by His Spirit.
And remember that there is hope! We are exiles, living in temporary dwelling until our Deliverer comes to take us home to glory. We hope for this. We long for this. It seems far off, but we know neither the day nor the hour when our Savior will appear. So, we ask the Lord to come quickly. We work to make disciples by sharing the good news of the gospel. Even now, we can hope for a better society for ourselves and the next generation. Our hope is not an effortless endeavor. We must work toward the good of our land, and we must pray. We work for the betterment of our society as we participate in our political process, serve in our neighborhoods, and take an active role in caring for the neglected. No, our world is not perfect. But we must acknowledge the progress that has been made and ask the Lord for more. Our hope fizzles when we forget God’s active grace in our lives. He has been and always will be faithful. He has been faithful to keep us and to bring us this far. We can trust Him to continue to pour out His grace to us. As the gospel hymn writer stated, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy Word. He’s never failed me yet.”
Our hope is fueled and inflamed by prayer. We must pray for those who are in authority over us. We must pray for their salvation. Pray for their leadership to be honorable and full of integrity. Pray for laws and leaders who work for the safety of all. Pray for justice. We do this so that we all might be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in a godly and dignified way (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
“Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” (Jeremiah 29:7 CSB)
Kristie Anyabwile is a pastor’s wife, mom, Bible teacher and editor of His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, which will be released in September. She works with the Charles Simeon Trust as the Associate Director of Women’s Workshops, helping to equip Bible teachers. She disciples and teaches women in her church, and joyfully supports her husband of 27 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC. They have 3 children.