Racism + Repentance.

11/8
((from Megan))

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19

“Hands that shed innocent blood.” Hands that shed innocent blood. Well mercy me, I don’t personally know a soul who has done such a thing. We’ll just skim that little section and move on with our Bible reading.

My ignorant and self-deceived brain worked this way until so recently that I cringe. Unwilling to probe, too busy to ask. Jesus has warned me of this danger. Like the Pharisee and the tax collector (society’s bottom-dwellers of the day) that Christ describes in Luke 18, will I read these kinds of passages and believe, “God, I thank you that I am not like THAT”? Or will I bow the knee of my heart in humility, lift my eyes to God Almighty, and beg, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”?

God sees to the far corners of my heart and I had better hear the Holy Spirit’s probing instead of my fleshly eyes that would estimate myself as more innocent than I really am.

“Cruelty and blood-thirstiness. The devil was, from the beginning, a liar and a murderer, and therefore, as a lying tongue, so hands that shed innocent blood are hateful to God, because they have in them the devil’s image and do him service,” says commentator Matthew Henry of the phrase “hands that shed innocent blood” found in our Proverbs passage (¹).

The heart of this is that Yahweh hates the defamation of people who are made in His image (hint: that’s all of humanity). Murder kills an image bearer. His heart is so against the shedding of blood that Jesus blows the category wide open saying that even whoever holds anger in his heart against another person is liable to judgment (Matthew 5).

Another way my mind’s category had it’s top blown off was hearing  D.A. Carson share the concept of collective community repentance; so engrained is my American individualistic mindset, that up until then I had sincerely only believed that I was responsible to confess and repent for my personal sins. Yes, I certainly do want to stand before God in honest estimation of my need for His mercy, but throughout history and in many places in the world, people are far more community-oriented than we Americans are. As Americans we oft pursue being kings of our own lives and domains, and we should be aware that throughout scripture, there are examples of communal reward or communal curse for communal obedience and communal righteousness. Israel stood before God collectively, the prophet Jeremiah repented and wept for the sins of His people as though they were his own, though he himself was a righteous prophet who walked closely with God.

Dr. Carson shared one specific area where the church today collectively needs to repent: residual racism. God hates the defamation of people who bear His image. We aren’t as far removed from this reality as I would like to think. I am not vindicated from racism by my own best appraisal, and racism defames people who bear His image.

Our family is enmeshed in relationships with people from all over the world. We have lived as the racial minority for some years. We have friends of many skin colors and stories. My husband is surrounded by students from around the globe. But God is laying plain before my eyes how embedded in our culture (still today in 2017) racism lies. It’s institutional and systemic largely unseen by people like myself who blindly benefit from white privilege, something I would rather deny to escape guilt. Yet the reality remains, if I benefit from systems in place that are not available to all people, even if I didn’t put these systems in motion, even if I was totally ignorant and in many degrees still am, an injustice is done and image-bearers are defamed.
God hates the defamation of image bearers.

John’s voice almost startled me as he answered, ‘Only ignorance! only ignorance! How can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?—and which does the most mischief heaven only knows,” -Black Beauty, Anna Sewell.

Be it national news of riots in cities where lives are tragically lost in Ferguson and Baltimore, or the 1995 death of teenager Cynthia Wiggins in Buffalo, New York getting hit by a bus while crossing the street to get to her job at a predominantly white shopping mall, blood is shed for racial reasons. I didn’t know about Cynthia until recently and how her death is traced back through systems of city development, public transportation, and job opportunity segregation (²). How many thousands of stories am I blind to?
God hates the defamation of image bearers.

I cannot begin to unpack the realities of how to repent for hundreds of years of innocent blood shed that still impacts the daily lives of our black neighbors and others. But before God I can say this: that collective and communal hands have shed innocent blood, and racism is still alive, and Oh God! Help us see with open eyes and with honest and humble questions, how does this intersect with my life? Let our hearts grieve the reality of racial divide and long for reconciliation, let us be slow to speak and quick to listen, purposed in our hearts to listen to the stories of our black brothers and sisters, weep with those who weep without minimizing, silencing, policing their pain. Let me repent of how tragically late to the conversation I am.

Praise God for taking all of my sin, individual and corporate, known and ignorant, onto the cross of Christ for our forgiveness. My sin is deeper than I ever feared, so the cross of Christ is grander and more glorious than I could ever have hoped (Tim Keller said something like that). But let me not make light of the suffering of Jesus by continuing in the patterns of hands that shed innocent blood.

“Crying is what all humans do, but Christian lament is different. Christian lament feels and expresses the sorrow of the brokenness of our humanity, but it does so because it understands what lies underneath our pain, and it knows what is the solution. Christian lament grieves the curse that causes pain, and it longs for the day when the blessings of Christ will flow as far as the curse is found…

So let us lament the scourge of racism that has been a part of our nation’s history. Let us lament that it wasn’t that long ago that buses and schools and restaurants and bathrooms were segregated. Let us lament hurtful words, oppressive behavior, and community rejection. Let us lament the distorted view of who is really valuable. Let us lament the pain that still lies beneath the surface. Let us lament the walls of separation, the misunderstandings, and the guardedness that we still feel. And let us lament cultural forces, economic realities, and institutionalized bias that exists in reality and in perception. Let us long for day when with one voice we will glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (³)

 

  1. Matthew Henry.
  2. Debby Irving, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.
  3. Mark Vroegop. “Lament for Our Land: The Sorrow of Devaluing the Image of God.” January 17, 2016.© College Park Church – Indianapolis, Indiana. www.yourchurch.com

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