Last Easter we began circulating a survey asking if you could ask God anything, what would you ask? If we were to teach some topics out of the Bible, what would you want to hear about?
After thousands of responses, Eastside has compiled a list of the top ten questions asked by those in our community that we will cover throughout this series.
This is often how Jesus taught. People would approach him with a question, and He would answer.
Why do we struggle with racism, and why are Christians so judgmental?
Deep-seated divides and judgmental-ism exist because of one thing: sin. It is our sinful nature, our self-centered, corrupted, prideful hearts that look at someone else and judge them because they are different than us or because the sin that they struggle with is different than the sin that we struggle with.
One key to combatting division is to appreciate difference. What is one thing you’ve seen in a culture or subculture not your own that you appreciate?
Have a volunteer read Galatians 3:28.
Here the Apostle Paul, the man who founded many of the earliest churches, explains that in God’s kingdom, the traditional societal divisions of race, gender, and class do not exist, that no one is better or worse than anyone else in the eyes of God.
In spite of this, the Reverend Martin Luther King stated that 11 AM on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. This is, unfortunately, hardly less true today than it was fifty years ago. Churches rarely reflect the diversity of their communities.
Why do you think that churches are still so racially segregated?
What can we as followers of Jesus do to break down the divides that exist in the Church?
Have a volunteer read Matthew 8:1-4.
Have a volunteer read Matthew 9:9-13.
These were shocking stories to their original readers. We read them and hear, “Ok, cool, Jesus healed a guy and had dinner with an IRS employee.”
But Jesus did far more: he crossed deep-seated social divides.
Lepers were outcasts. Having leprosy was like having AIDS in the 1980s. You never touched a leper. The man Jesus touched never got a hug from his family. He never shook hands with a friend. But Jesus didn’t care about the risk of disease or the social stigma. He reached out to heal not only a man’s physical illness but to touch his soul by giving him the human contact he so desperately needed.
Tax collectors were the scum of Jewish society. The Roman Empire occupied Israel, and the only thing worse than a Roman occupier was a Jew who supported the Romans. The Jewish tax collectors did that and more. Not only were they agents of Rome, they typically used their position to collect even more money than Rome required. Tax collectors were like the mob running a protection scheme, the IRS, and Benedict Arnold rolled into one.
So when Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, not only had dinner with Matthew but called Matthew to be one of His followers, one of His disciples, it would have offended every Jewish sensibility there was.
Where have you intentionally or unintentionally isolated yourself from those who are different? Are all of your friends of the same race? Socio-economic status? Faith? Age? Political persuasion? Sexual orientation?
How can we build bridges with people that our culture and our community say we’re not supposed to associate with?
Have a volunteer read Galatians 6:2.
The duty to “bear one another’s burdens” takes on added meaning in an interracial fellowship. When a white brother comes to the community, he’s bringing all his superiority and all his guilt that society has put on him. I must be able and willing to absorb that if we are to be reconciled.
And my white brother in the community must also recognize that I bring my history of being treated inferior, of being told that I am a nobody…. He must understand that I am trying to claim my worth as a person created in God’s image. So he must bear the burden of all my bitterness and anger that grows out of my past.
To be reconciled to each other, then, we must bear the burdens created by each other’s pasts. And to be reconcilers in the world, to bring others together, we must bear the burdens of both the parties we seek to reconcile.
–Dr. John Perkins
Every single one of us has blind spots. We don’t know what we don’t know.
I’m a thirty-something white guy from a family that struggled both financially and relationally.
I have no idea what it’s like to be harassed by the police for the color of my skin.
I have no idea what it feels like to strap on a bullet-proof vest every night and go patrol a neighborhood where people distrust me because I wear blue.
I have no idea what it would have meant for my current economic situation if my parents had been unable to get a home loan because of their skin color.
I have no idea what it’s like to grow up in a family that doesn’t worry about money.
I have no idea how my life would be different if my parents had a healthy marriage.
What are some of the things in your upbringing that have caused you to become the person that you are?
What practical steps can we take to get past our blind spots and see things from the perspective of others who have had a different life experience?
Bridge-building begins simply by building relationships, by pushing past the category that someone is in: black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, immigrant, and getting to know the individual. There’s something powerful that happens when you move from having a perspective on “Those ______ people” to having a friend named Chuck who is one of those people.
This week, intentionally seek out someone who is different than you, and get to know that person a little bit better. Your goal here isn’t to get answers to questions. You’re not trying to find out why they think a certain way. You’re just building a relationship.
If you’re a police officer or a privileged white person, sit down with an African-American friend or acquaintance. If you’re a part of Black Lives Matter, find a police officer you can have coffee with. If you’re straight, go to lunch with someone who is gay. If you were born in America, have an immigrant over for dinner. If you’re an immigrant, invite an American into your home. If you’re a Trump supporter, get to know someone who loves Hillary.
When you do this, please be sensitive. People aren’t projects. They’re not our objects of study. They’re people. Just be a friend.
And remember that simply because someone belongs to a particular group, it doesn’t mean he or she speaks for that whole group. Not every African American feels the same way about police officers. Not every white person feels the same way about immigrants.
Honestly, until you know someone a bit better, it’s probably best not to bring up sensitive topics, but if they do come up, do more listening than talking. And don’t ask loaded or leading questions. Don’t try to change the person’s mind. Just listen.