Grace Church
Racial Injustice

We live in a fallen world, and racial injustice is a significant problem in our culture. As followers of Christ, we must strive to model Jesus' empathy for the oppressed; we should live in a way that is compelling to the world by using our strength to lift up the marginalized.

Teaching

Study Questions

As believers in Jesus, we need to ground ourselves in Scripture in the midst of a broken, often turbulent world. How can we respond with wisdom and compassion to the complex issue of racial injustice in our country?

Application

1

Honest
Reflection

Take some time for honest reflection. How do you need to grow in awareness around the topic of racial oppression and white privilege? Do you have blind spots that you were previously unaware of?

2

Responsibility
to Address

As believers, how are we responsible to address the sin and corruption around us?

3

Our
Empathy

Consider how Jesus’ empathy is evident in the gospel. How should his example influence our empathy towards those who are different from us?

4

Racial
Reconciliation

What are some practical next steps that you as a believer can take towards racial reconciliation?

Key Points

1

The pain of racial injustice and oppression has been running beneath the surface of our culture for generations. As the tragic events of the past weeks have unfolded, that pain has been brought to the surface. We need to bring the weight of this pain to God and ask for wisdom, clarity, and direction.

2

As believers, we need to develop a voice of empathy and action. We must be willing to acknowledge that the reality for people of color is radically different from white Americans. Understanding the past is key in developing our awareness.

3

The Scripture is clear that the world is corrupt. This is why Jesus will return with a sword. We can’t control the culture, but what we can do is this–we can live justice in a way that is compelling to the world. We can lift up the marginalized and broken.

4

In Ephesians 2:14-16, Paul addresses how Jews and Gentiles worshiped God separately. However, Christ reconciled both groups to God as a new people. The hostility between them was put to death by the power of the gospel.

5

Although verbalizing truth is good and powerful, it is not enough to enact change. We must reinforce our words with actions. It is not wrong to be a voice on social media, but that does not absolve us from taking real steps in real life towards racial reconciliation.

6

Remember that our identity is not as Americans; we are citizens of the kingdom of God. Until he returns, we do our best to subvert the power of sin and corruption.

What We Believe

We live in a broken world, and the events of the past few weeks have brought that truth to the forefront. As Grace Church, we want to develop empathy and minister in proximity to our African American community.

First, we must acknowledge the deeply rooted, pivotal role that racism has played in our nation. For generations, African Americans have been oppressed, abused, and exploited for the benefit of the white majority. This wound continues to have repercussions. Although our present is better in many ways than the past, racial equality has certainly not been reached. Our nation’s infrastructure of education, employment, imprisonment, and housing still contains systemic racial inequities.

It’s easy to dismiss racism when it does not touch our daily lives. As a majority white culture, we want to grow in awareness of our own privilege and the lack thereof for people of color. This awareness will help develop empathy in our hearts so we can better love and support our African American brothers and sisters.

As with all brokenness, we bring this to God and Scripture to ground us, provide wisdom, and move us forward. In Ephesians 2:16, Paul speaks to the division between Greek and Jewish believers: "Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death." Here, we see that unity can be found in Christ.

Indeed, the gospel provides us with the greatest empathizer, includer, and uplifter of the oppressed in Christ. Jesus came down from a high place; he put himself in immediate proximity to humanity. In fact, Jesus embraced us to such a degree that he became flesh. John 1:14 states, "So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son." Jesus came to us in our brokenness and shared our pain. Hebrews 4:15 says, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." As followers of Christ, we strive to model Jesus’ empathy for the oppressed. Although the church neither has the power nor the responsibility for changing the culture, we can live in a way that is compelling to the world by using our strength to lift up the marginalized.

Empathy should always give rise to both voice and deeds. Verbalizing truth is good and powerful; however, it is not enough to bring lasting change. We must reinforce our words with actions. It is not wrong to be a voice on social media, but that does not absolve us from taking real steps in real life towards racial reconciliation. Posting about racial injustice may help alleviate the tension we feel, but our goal should be to step into that tension with actions in a vulnerable way.

As a body of believers, we have been working with the African American community through a variety of channels. There are always areas where we can learn and grow, and we want to embrace a posture of humility, empathy, and action. Currently, we are focusing energy and resources in a few key areas: 1) Working with community leaders to provide affordable housing to the African American community and other underserved populations 2) Providing financial support and individual mentorship through Jumpstart prison ministry 3) Supporting parents and children through our foster and adopt ministry 4) Developing community leadership in Allendale County.

We encourage our members to support our efforts with their resources: time, energy, and finances. Furthermore, we hope each of you will take steps in your personal life. Don’t settle for verbal agreement or acknowledgment. Move towards our African American brothers and sisters and seek to exemplify the empathy of Christ.

Verses

Micah 6:8

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

John 2:11

But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

Phillippians 2:3-4

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Romans 10:12-13

Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."

James 2:8-9

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself." But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

Ephesians 6:12

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Ezer Equipped

This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. Subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter.

I don’t know about you, but I have felt a range of emotions recently, and I have not known what to do. This weekend, I attended one of the protests. As I stood there, I was keenly aware of a young white man who "looked" menacing. After some time, he began arguing with an older white man, and I was concerned it was about to escalate. I stepped between them and said to the younger man, "Their voices need to be heard and if you cause chaos, their voices won’t be heard." As I was talking, a young, masked black man stepped up to me and said, "We need a voice. You said they. But it’s we."

And I remembered what we say all the time at Grace Church: "There is no they; there is only we." He, a young black man, didn’t see me as separate from him; he included me and my voice in his fight to be heard. This was such a humbling moment for me. He was wiser, more humble, more inclusive, more gracious, more equitable, and united than I. I learned that I still see myself as separate, as other. But there is no "they;" there is only "we."

The first step to recovery begins with admitting you have a problem. I think most would agree that something is wrong. But we could diverge over what the problem is. So for the purpose of this newsletter, we are going to ask you to draw a circle around yourself and deal only with what is inside the circle—you. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what sin you harbor in your own heart where this issue is concerned, to confess it, to lament it, and to repent of it. I am asking you to:

  1. Courageously confront the ungodly thoughts, words, and actions of racism in your own life.
  2. Educate yourself on the plight of men and women of color.
  3. Choose one or two steps you can take to become a strong ally.

I've been examining my underlying assumptions, thoughts, words and actions. Where have I been negligent, dismissive, or silent? How have I made assumptions about a person’s character or actions based on how the police interacted with him or her? How have I judged a person’s character or value based on the color of their skin? How have I failed to see and understand the legitimate pain, fear, and anger of the black community? How can I not be quick to move beyond when the tension subsides, while they continue to face the daily challenges of systemic racism and have conversations with their children that many of us will never have to navigate?

It’s time for change. Many of us need to educate ourselves on the suffering and injustice our friends and neighbors have faced generation after generation. We need to confront our ignorance and denial, allow ourselves to be discomforted, and walk with them toward equity and justice. It is time for us to use our voices to advocate for change. You cannot single-handedly fix the systemic issue of racism. But you can do something!

Remember, we didn’t get here overnight. This issue runs deep in American history through generation after generation. Some of us are just beginning to awaken to the reality of what our neighbors have suffered. But all of us need to realize that this will require a lifelong process of listening, learning, and laboring.

You cannot have empathy for someone without education; you cannot have empathy until you understand what someone is going through. But the burden of education has to be on us. This month, we have provided a robust resource to help you educate yourself and give you concrete ways to use your voice, your resources, and your strength to be a strong ally for our neighbors. We encourage you to work through this slowly and intentionally. We have work to do.

Because there is no "they;" there is only "we."

Chrystie Cole
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor

Get the Resources & Related Material for This Article

The African American Experience

How We Got Here

The first step to learning how to address any situation is understanding how you got there. Race has always been a big issue in America, and especially in the South. As part of our ongoing effort to equip our members to live biblically in our community, we hosted a class in Feb 2019 on the African American experience in America and in the Upstate. This time of information helped lay the groundwork for an ongoing conversation about how Grace Church can respond to this issue in the months and years to come.

Resources

The African American Experience - How We Got Here

Resource

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