My favorite Bible has red letters that emphasize Jesus’ words; I grew up in the generation of kids who wore bracelets that read “WWJD?,” so whenever I’m confused or am not sure how to act or what to think in any given situation, the red letters are where I go first. I have to see What Would Jesus Do?
Over the past 5 years, racial tension has been heating up across our country and this fall my very own beloved city found itself embroiled in unrest. As sad as I was to see people in my city hurting and marching for justice, I was relieved knowing that my family was safe and comfortable and had no need to be concerned for our own safety.
And then . . . well, that’s when it got uncomfortable.
I have a beautiful friend – we’ll call her S – we met when our husbands were in law school together. She’s a devoted wife, an incredible mother, a talented designer, an incredible writer, and she loves the Lord and has a passion for helping others see God’s love.
One morning I was having coffee (you know, feeling relaxed), and my whole day was disrupted by the brick of truth that hit me right in the face. I realized that there were serious concerns that my friends of color had that I would never, ever have to worry about. I don’t worry about my husband’s safety when he’s out and about, and I don’t worry about my girls being mistreated because of their skin color. Simply because we are all white.
And in true Audrey fashion, I got mad. Like, serious raging inferno inside mad. Why? Because even though MY husband and MY family was safe, I realized that my friend S carried the weight of worry for her husband’s safety every single day. And how many more of my friends felt like this?
My husband doesn’t have to worry about someone thinking he’s making a quick getaway when he’s really just going for a run at night. He also doesn’t have to worry about wearing a hoodie with his hood up, in case someone thinks he’s armed and dangerous. He doesn’t have to worry about maintaining his composure, keeping both hands on the wheel, and speaking carefully if he’s ever pulled over by police. He isn’t subject to condescending comments or suspicious glances when shopping in a high-end store. He doesn’t have to work 10 times harder than everyone else so that no one will assume he’s there to fill a certain quota. He doesn’t have to worry that his passion about a particular issue might be interpreted as anger. He isn’t subjected to stinging comments like “You’re really intelligent for a black person,” or “You’re black, but you act white.”
That’s that funny thing called white privilege.
In an effort to calm the volcano I had bubbling inside, I went to the red letters in my Bible and found this in Mark 28-31 (NIV):
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
I think Jesus is pretty clear – Love your neighbor as yourself. He doesn’t say love your neighbor if he looks like you, or if he acts like you, or if he believes like you, or if his skin is the same color as yours. He says love your neighbor. There is no greater commandment than these: Love God, love others as yourself. I think the most frustrating thing with all of this is that Christians forget. I guess I can understand if someone who has never read the Bible is hateful – they don’t know. But y’all, we as Christians know. Jesus tells us in bright red letters what to do and how to treat each other.
I Corinthians 12 talks about the body of Christ and how all the pieces and parts each have different gifts and they are all equally important. But verses 25-26 (NIV) speak just to this:
There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Acknowledging the struggle so many of my friends have experienced isn’t enough. I can’t truly understand because I haven’t walked in my friends’ shoes. Acknowledging the gift of being white will never be enough. We know white privilege exists, and we can use it for good as a platform to stand for our brothers and sisters of color.
If I want change, I personally have to take action. I must be willing to stand arm-in-arm with people of color and say:
“if you suffer then I do too. And I love you like I love myself because you’re my neighbor and that’s what Jesus said in bright red letters. I’m standing with you and you’re not alone in this fight. I refuse to be silent as you have been forced to be, and I will not allow your children to grow up in an environment where they fear for their safety because of their skin color. Your life matters to me and your children’s lives matter to me because we are of the same body and you are my neighbor.”
Y’all. There should be no division within the body. We should love our neighbor as ourselves.
That’s the place Satan gets us and sin sneaks in, right in the spot that Jesus himself said is one of the most important commandments. It’s no wonder there’s so much division in our world; if Jesus said it’s super important, that’s right where we’re going to battle the most. Satan sees how we look at people who are different than us as “other” – he highlights those differences and fear takes hold. It’s this fear of unknown or fear of different or fear of the other that causes us to purposefully divide the body and leave our neighbor cold and hungry and suffering because they don’t look like us. Or worship like we do. Or wear the same clothes. Or speak like we do. Or their skin is a different color than ours.
This is heavy stuff, I know. And probably not what you were expecting if you were looking for a “light Monday morning read.” This is real life. This is what God calls us to do, and our assignment is pretty clear.
Love God above all else.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Don’t divide the body.
If one of us suffers, we all suffer, and if one of us celebrates, we all celebrate.