A True Believer’s Supernatural Response To Racism by Baffour Paapa Nkrumah Ababio
A TRUE BELIEVER’S SUPERNATURAL RESPONSE TO RACISM: VIEWS FROM A BLACK IMMIGRANT
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5: 43-48
This is a hard topic. I have wrestled with writing this also because as a Black immigrant for only 7 years in the U.S, I recognize my privilege in not having to have dealt with the evil and burden of racism and its repercussions my entire life. However, my heart continues to be burdened with the truth and I’ve been confronted with this topic several times this week and feel the weight to journal and write about what has been in my heart and on my mind, and to summarize some of the conversations I have had with others.
Here is my prayer, that these words will be brought to life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, may these words unequivocally move us to a place of humility before Christ as we seek Your love in how to interact with people who exhibit racism. Father may these words expose the parts of our hearts that are not aligned to your desire and will in dealing with others. Finally, cause us to be your feet and hands of redemption and justice on earth. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven in Jesus’ name.
During these times of racial tensions, it is amazing to see that all over the world, people are being moved to protest and demand justice for the life of George Floyd and the lives of other Black people who have lost their lives to police brutality. It is a beautiful sight to see many rallying to shout “Black Lives Matter”. Racism is real in America and we see its ugly head reared in the lives of our citizens, institutions, government, and country. Many people are fighting against racism in different ways. Like many other situations, there are extremes, there are those who are denying the existence of racism and sitting idle; indifferent to the situation. Others are promoting more divisive language, calling for enmity among Blacks and Whites.
A few weeks ago, I found myself on the side of division. I was beginning to feel enmity grow in my heart for my White friends and family and discussions with some other Black friends exposed the same feelings in them. In my conversations with some of my White friends, some had experienced a boiling unrighteous anger for their Caucasian counterparts who were complicit in racism. However, as true believers, we are called to neither extremes. In this time of unexpected unity, with all 50 states protesting for change and justice, we are being called to go about this differently. We cannot fight racism the same way the world fights racism. This is a challenge to me as much as to you to be different in this fight for justice.
1. God loves the racist. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 6-8).
The most extraordinary thing about the gospel is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (while we still despised him). He did not wait for us to show signs of change before choosing to demonstrate His love. While we were liars, thieves, murderers, masturbators, adulterers, fornicators, and perpetrators of anger and hate, sex addicts, Christ died for us. As true believers, we are well aware of this because we are grateful for the love that God showed us. The reality of the situation is that God loves the racist too, the US in that verse includes the racists, it includes us at our worst. This is a hard truth and it annoying to think that God loves Derek Chauvin who disregarded the life of George Floyd but it is the same truth and love that led Christ to die for you and me.
God also loves that individual who continues to remain silent and idle, making themselves complicit in the spread of racism. God loves both the nonbelievers and believers alike who remain indifferent and watch as the lives of their fellow humans are persecuted.
2. God calls us to a supernatural kind of love. Why should I love someone who doubts my humanity? Why should I love someone who views me as despicable? Why should I love someone who is seeking my downfall? Why should I love someone who is denying the basic rights of existence? Why should I love others who do not acknowledge my existence? So many of these why questions have filled my mind lately as I have wrestled with what the Holy Spirit has been laying on my heart and my mind. I have every reason to harbor hate in my heart for these people, I have every right to respond and lash out in unrighteous anger. I have every right to treat all white people with suspicion and enmity. But in Matthew 5: 43-48, Jesus’ words call us to react contrary to what seems like a natural response.
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5: 43-48).
In the above verses, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the social constructs of the land and the life we have been called to. Jesus says that it is common for us to love those who love us, adore us, and respect us. According to the verses we are doing nothing more than the world demands. Then Jesus goes on to call us to be perfect; as our heavenly Father is perfect. This is an unrealistic expectation of love that Jesus sets for us. Loving others as perfectly as God does? Ha!! But that’s just it, we are called to lives of ‘ridiculous’ contradiction to our carnal selves. This expectation of love is so beyond our capacity that only at the feet of Jesus can we derive the strength to love as God does. This kind of love is unnatural, and the carnal human cannot love in this way. We simply cannot love this way outside of being connected to the “true vine” (John 15).
3. Racism is the evil we are fighting. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).
As my heart began to harden against my white friends and family who I felt were remaining silent during these times, I also began to feel troubled. I needed to be reminded that the fight was not against individuals, in this case, my white friends and family. Rather, it was against the spiritual evil of racism that has manifested it physically in people, institutions, governments, and nations. Racism is a tool of the rulers of darkness of this world being used to divide us, plant hate in our midst, and harden our hearts to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in us. How do we know racism is of the devil, our spiritual enemy, and not of human beings? John 10: 10 says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy” (ESV). Racism is built on the lie that White lives are worth more than Black lives; the truth is stolen and replaced with this lie. Racism leads to the loss of lives of Black men and women because of the color of their skin. Racism leads to the collective destruction of black lives by stealing the hope of a better life. In that verse, we discover that the thief (the devil’s) primary purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. As true believers, we must remember our fight for justice is against the devil and not our fellow humans. Yes, evil is perpetrated by humans but ultimately unless the fight is fought at the source, humans will continue to be tools of racism.
4. Love is costly. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3:16, ESV). One of the most popular verses in the Bible, this verse is a good example of what love looks like. Love has a cost. For God, this love He showed us, cost Him His son.
Many times, I have felt during this time that black people have the right to seek for revenge in response to the sheer disregard of our lives here in the U.S. It feels good to release anger by answering harshly to others on social media who continue to remain obtuse about the realities concerning black people in this country. It feels good to be woke and unlovingly drown others with facts and be dismissive of them. My carnal self feels rationalized in all these actions. However, I have been reminded that in love, I have to deny myself of the satisfaction in following through with all these actions. It hurts to have to treat kindly someone who treats you with disgust and disrespect. It hurts so much, but as Christians, we are called to demonstrate costly unconditional love. We don’t have to give up nearly as much as God gave up but that doesn’t take away from the love we are called to exhibit as true believers.
5. The Letter/Law does not save. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 8:1-3 ESV).
The protests that have occurred around the U.S. and across the world are beginning to yield some results. We have seen the arrest of Officer Derek Chauvin and the three accomplices of George Floyd’s death and different policies are being proposed into police use of force. Like in Louisville, KY, city council members voted to ban no-knock warrants; the procedure that led to Breonna Taylor’s death. There are also many petitions going around asking for the use of police force tactics to be reviewed. These are all by-products of the collective power of the protests that have occurred in every single state in the U.S.
As members and citizens of the society, we recognize that we operate not only under the guidance of God but also the rules, laws, and constitutions set forth by counties, states, and the federal government. We recognize that protesting, and the use of political power through petitioning and voting have the power to change the status quo. We must continue to lend our voice to these movements because that is how the world operates and we want the country to be better for Blacks.
However, as Christians, we cannot put our trust in these petitions, laws, politicians, and rules. We know this because we understand that the evil of racism and the hatred and indifference that exists in the hearts of many, cannot be truly overcome with laws. We see this in how many people refuse to acknowledge, empathize, or change perceptions even when presented with facts that support the idea that black people are being killed at a disproportionate rate by the police. The hearts of many have been hardened by evil and hatred and only the Holy Spirit can truly change their hearts. This means that as true believers, we walk alongside nonbelievers and believers in peaceful protests, voting, signing of petitions, and donating to several causes but ultimately coming back to the feet of Jesus to intercede for the hearts that have been won over by the enemy. We do this because we recognize that only Jesus saves. Victory over racism lays in the transformation of the hearts of those overcome by evil. That is where our hope lies. It lies in the assurance of victory Jesus has over sin and the miraculous ability of the Holy Spirit to change lives.
Four practical steps:
What does all this mean for us? Although I am no expert in racial issues, these are a few tips I have practiced, other friends have practiced, or expressed in conversations that have been helpful as true believers during this time.
- Don’t respond to others in anger. When I see a post on social media that has racist undertones or have a conversation that bears racist connotations, I have begun to stop myself from responding on the spot. This is to prevent me from responding in anger. Unrighteous anger does not come from a place of love and normally does more harm than good. I allow myself a day to ponder and then I follow up with the post or with the individual in person. Most often on social media, the post will still be up so I can respond to it gracefully and if the individual is someone I know, I can follow up individually with the person.
- Practice prayer. I have been praying against the evil of racism in general, praying for the hearts of individuals who I know personally and praying that my heart will not be hardened by the realities surrounding me. I pray that I will be able to demonstrate love to those around me no matter how difficult. I also pray for forgiveness and ask that the Holy Spirit search and reveal footholds of evil in my own life because I am not perfect. In these times we also need to be praying for revival in the nations. When we pray for revival, we acknowledge that true salvation, reformation and restoration on such a large scale as we need does not happen without the move of the Holy Spirit. Our prayer acknowledges our weakness and Christ’s ultimate power to heal.
- Speak out. While remembering to speak from a place of godly reproach, we need to speak up against racism when we do encounter it. True believers who identify as White need to lament with us and ask How long Lord? As the majority population in the U.S. the voice of those who identify as White can lead to policy change. As true believers, the power of unity in our collective voices will further harken God’s ears to our cries. As true believers we all need to engage the issue; black or white.
- Don’t allow the burden of racial justice to steal your joy and hope in Christ. I try to spend time talking to friends about what is happening with my mental space. I make time to talk about issues unrelated to race. I try to do some things that bring me joy such as worship and hanging out with friends enjoying a meal together. What helps you feel close to God? Hiking; go for a hike. Dancing; blast some music and dance. Whatever it is go ahead and do it. Additionally, I have also taken time away from social media several times to guard my mental health and not allow despair to take a foothold in my mind. Remember that the enemy comes to steal. He will have succeeded if he steals our joy and hope.
- Approach conversations with humility. In the age of woke culture, it can be easy for conversations on race to become contests of who is more woke. This is however a time to remember that our wokeness is not what will solve the issue of racism. In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul says, “Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (New International Version). Paul reminds us here that knowledge has the tendency to build pride. We need to remember that we are God’s instruments for use in His mission of reconciliation, redemption, and justice. As we educate ourselves, let us approach conversations with the vulnerability to accept we are wrong and a mind open to more learning and listening. Healing conversations only happen in a place of vulnerability and humility.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
John Newton (Amazing Grace)