When I was in college, 28 years ago, the LA riots took place over the use of excessive force by police on Rodney King. I look at that riots today and ask myself, “What has changed in 28 years?”
I believe a lot has changed. But not because of riots and protests and trendy social media posts and YouTube videos.
We are better off 28 years later because of the initiative that all peoples are created with value. It was an initiative that was started by Jesus over 2,000 years ago. It is called the Church. And Jesus told the church it had one job – to love. To love God and to love others. Jesus further explained that a best expression of love is to make disciples (learners, mentees) so others will love God and love others. While it is always with actions, sometimes it is saying the truth.
The truth is we are all messed up. We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So God, by His love and grace, provided a way. A path which gets us back to Jesus, back to love.
Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
God, fortunately, has allowed imperfect people, a people redeemed by His love, to lead the greatest initiative to promote love, equality, justice, peace.
Is the Church perfect? By no means. But I am confident that the Church has made more progress for equality than marches, protests, trendy social media post and videos.
For example, we have a close relationship with a church that was once an all-white church, Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC). It is now one of the most diverse churches in America. The diversity of those at the church matter to them because it matters to Jesus. And they follow Jesus. CIBC is not alone. I know of many inter-racial churches that are clear expressions that different races can and do love one another.
The riots 28 years later look the same to me. The Church 28 years later does not. The church continues to evolve into what it was intended to be.
It is because the solution is not merely in the expressions of concerns or cries for justice, the solution is embedded in relationship. It is embedded in the very thing Jesus taught us – love God, love others. The difference is in relationship.
Yes, relationship is messy. But I wonder how many reactionaries on each side have a friend of the opposite race? How many have actually spent quality time with, and learned from, their friends of another race? How many just simply love them for who they are? How many have engaged in the mess of relationship? It is much easier to hold a sign, point a finger, post a slogan, throw a rock through a window.
Please, if you are prone to question the integrity of the leaders of the Church and the people in the Church on doing their job to love, which is rampant, first question the integrity of the leaders in particular movements not associated with the church. How well are they really loving the opposite race? Are they promoting love between all races? The evidence is in relationship.
Before you question the integrity of any person, get to know them. I look and talk like a conservative evangelical white man. I love America. I live in the South. I have been accused of doing my ministry out of white guilt. Since I have lived and worked in multi-racial communities most of my life, I have heard "that's racist" more times than I can remember from people who confuse the difference between racism and bigotry / prejudice and being insensitive and immature. Not every conflict between people of different races should be labeled racism.
If you got to know me, you would know this white man grew up in an inter-racial world. I was raised by a single mom until I was 16. We were poor. I have had interracial friends from the time I was a boy. We played together. We went to school together. The middle school I went to was over 50% black. Interracial relationship is all I have ever known.
But you will not see me in a protest march or posting a trendy social media post. You will see me trying to love God and love others, sometimes failing miserably, sometimes getting it right…as a member of the Church. And my failures in relationship are because of the very things that Jesus is still redeeming in my heart. As God is doing with all of us.
In all fairness, I know the church has done much harm in race relations. A big reason we look to Jesus as our example, not each other. But there has been considerable progress towards what we were intended to be. We are getting it more right as time passes. I imagine that 28 years from now I will still see a race motivated riot or hear hate speech by those who have not experienced God’s love and learned to express God’s love. I hope not. But I am confident that I will continue to see greater progress of the Church in loving God and loving others.