• Topic > Ethical Issues > Racism >

    First Forgive

    We called ourselves “sisters in Christ.” But my white friend and I had begun to act like enemies. Over a café breakfast one morning, we argued unkindly over our differing racial views. Then we parted, with me vowing not to see her again. One year later, however, we were hired by the same ministry—working in the same department, unable not to reconnect. Awkwardly at first, we talked over conflicts. Then, over time, God helped us to apologize to each other and to heal, but also give the ministry our best.

    God also healed the bitter division between Esau and his twin brother…

    Prejudice and Forgiveness

    After hearing a message about correcting injustice, a church member approached the pastor weeping, asking for forgiveness and confessing that he hadn’t voted in favor of calling the black minister to be pastor of their church because of his own prejudice. “I really need you to forgive me. I don’t want the junk of prejudice and racism spilling over into my kids’ lives. I didn’t vote for you, and I was wrong.” His tears and confession were met with the tears and forgiveness of the minister. A week later, the entire church rejoiced upon hearing the man’s testimony of how…

    A Wise Builder

    Sojourner Truth, whose birth name was Isabella Baumfree, was born a slave in 1797 in Esopus, New York. Though nearly all of her children were sold as slaves, she escaped to freedom in 1826 with one daughter and lived with a family who paid the money for her freedom. Instead of allowing an unjust system to keep her family apart, she took legal action to regain her small son Peter—an amazing feat for an African-American woman in that day. Knowing she couldn’t raise her children without God’s help, she became a believer in Christ and later changed her name to…

    Jesus’ Unpopular Ideas

    For fifteen years, Mike Burden held hate-filled meetings in the memorabilia shop he ran in his small town. But in 2012 when his wife began to question his involvement, his heart softened. He realized how wrong his racist views were and didn’t want to be that person any longer. The militant group retaliated by kicking his family out of the apartment they’d been renting from a member.

    Where did he turn for help? Surprisingly, he went to a local black pastor, with whom he’d clashed. The pastor and his church provided housing and groceries for Mike’s family for some time. When…

    God at Work

    “God is crying.” Those were the words whispered by Bill Haley’s ten-year-old daughter as she stood in the rain with a group of multiethnic believers in Jesus. They had come to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to seek God and make sense of the legacy of racial discord in America. As they stood on the grounds where former slaves were buried, they joined hands in prayer. Then suddenly the wind began to blow, and it started to rain. As the leader called out for racial healing, the rain began to fall even harder. Those gathered believed that God was at work to…

    A Mighty Stream

    Among the many exhibits and artifacts exploring the harsh reality of slavery and its aftermath in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, I was grateful to discover the Contemplative Court. This tranquil room features translucent walls of bronze glass, and water appears to rain down from the ceiling into a pool.

    As I sat in that peaceful space, a quote on the wall from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. caught my eye: “We are determined . . . to work and fight until justice rains down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” These…

    A Legacy of Acceptance

    In his book Breaking Down Walls, Glen Kehrein writes about climbing to the roof of his college dorm in Chicago after the assassination of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. “The sound of gunfire bounced eerily back and forth off the large buildings, and soon my rooftop perch provided a near panoramic, yet horrific, view. . . . How in the world did I get from a Wisconsin cornfield to a war zone in the inner city of Chicago in less than two years?” Compelled by his love for Jesus and people whose backgrounds were different from…

    Our Compassionate God

    The winter night was cold when someone threw a large stone through a Jewish child’s bedroom window. A star of David had been displayed in the window, along with a menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the child’s town of Billings, Montana, thousands of people—many of them believers in Jesus—responded to the hateful act with compassion. Choosing to identify with the hurt and fear of their Jewish neighbors, they pasted pictures of menorahs in their own windows.

    As believers in Jesus, we too receive great compassion. Our Savior humbled Himself to live among us (John 1:14), identifying…

    I Will Fear No Evil

    In 1957, Melba Pattillo Beals was selected to be one of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of nine African American students who first integrated the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In her 2018 memoir, I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith under Fire, Beals gives a heartbreaking account of the injustices and harassment she struggled to face courageously every day as a fifteen-year-old student.

    But she also wrote about her deep faith in God. In her darkest moments, when fear almost overwhelmed her, Beals repeated the familiar Bible verses she had learned at…

    Shackled but Not Silent

    In the summer of 1963, after an all-night bus ride, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and six other black passengers stopped to eat at a diner in Winona, Mississippi. After law enforcement officers forced them to leave, they were arrested and jailed. But humiliation wouldn’t end with unlawful arrest. All received severe beatings, but Fannie’s was the worst. After a brutal attack that left her near death she burst out in song: “Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.” And she didn’t sing alone. Other prisoners, restrained in body but not in soul, soon joined…

    Our Welcoming God

    Our church meets in an old elementary school, one that closed in 1958 rather than obey a court order to integrate (the act of having African-American students attend schools previously attended by only Caucasian students). The following year, the school reopened and Elva, now a member of our church, was one of those black students who were thrust into a white world. “I was taken out of my safe community, with teachers who were part of our life,” Elva recalls, “and placed in a scary environment in a class with only one other black student.” Elva suffered because she was…

    Building Bridges

    In our neighborhood, high concrete walls surround our homes. Many of these walls are enhanced with electric barbed wires lining the top. The purpose? To ward off robbers.

    Frequent power outages are also a problem in our neighborhood. These outages render the front gate-bell useless. Because of the wall, a visitor may be kept out in the scorching sun or torrential rain during these outages. Yet even when the gate-bell works, to admit the visitor might depend on who they are. Our fence-walls serve a good purpose, but they can become walls of discrimination—even when the visitor is obviously not an…

    A Prayer of Forgiveness

    In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate an all-white public elementary school in the American South. Every day for months, federal marshals escorted Ruby past a mob of angry parents shouting curses, threats and insults at her. Safely inside, she sat in a classroom alone with Barbara Henry, the only teacher willing to instruct her while parents kept their children from attending school with Ruby.

    Noted child psychologist Robert Coles met with Ruby for several months to help her cope with the fear and stress she experienced. He was amazed by the prayer Ruby said every…

    A Prayer of Forgiveness

    In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate an all-white public elementary school in the American South. Every day for months, federal marshals escorted Ruby past a mob of angry parents shouting curses, threats and insults at her. Safely inside, she sat in a classroom alone with Barbara Henry, the only teacher willing to instruct her while parents kept their children from attending school with Ruby.

    Noted child psychologist Robert Coles met with Ruby for several months to help her cope with the fear and stress she experienced. He was amazed by the prayer Ruby said every…

    Pursuing Unity

    Growing up during the 1950s, I never questioned racism and the segregation practices that permeated daily life in the city where we lived. In schools, restaurants, public transportation, and neighborhoods, people with different shades of skin color were separated.

    My attitude changed in 1968 when I entered US Army Basic Training. Our company included young men from many different cultural groups. We soon learned that we needed to understand and accept each other, work together, and accomplish our mission.

    When Paul wrote to the first-century church at Colossae, he was well aware of the diversity of its members. He reminded them, “Here…

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