While a Civil War waged during the 1860s purported to end slavery, and a civil rights war during the 1960s purported to end racial discrimination, issues persist. Decades of protest marches, court battles, school busing, legislative actions, and discussion panels, while helpful, have failed to bring lasting racial harmony. We must conclude, therefore, that the ultimate resolution of this issue does not reside with the politicians or professors. The answer, I submit, resides with the pastors.
The challenge to the white community is this: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). We ought to ask God to reveal any racist thoughts within us, or racist actions committed by us. If we have searched our hearts, and asked God to search our hearts, and confessed and repented of any known sins, we can have a clear conscience. 1 John 3:21 says, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we can have confidence before God.”
The challenge for the black community is this: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). We ought to forgive the perpetrators of injustices committed against our ancestors in America over the past 400 years, and any injustices perpetrated against us personally, if we expect God to forgive us for things we’ve done wrong. We can’t always control what other people do to us, but we can always control what we do to them. If we fail to forgive, we allow the perpetrators to enslave our minds and hearts and retain their power over us.
It may be that both challenges apply to each of us, but it’s foolish to think neither do. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
The church must lead in the area of racial healing and not allow itself to be marginalized any longer. Isn’t that what Dr. King would have wanted?
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