It is easy to see the division in the town I live in. As I go to pick up my kids from school I cross the highway which separates one side of the city from the other. One side of the city is primarily white folks; the other side is African American. Our town is home to two separate communities which share the same Walmart, school system, and Dollar Tree but not church. Sunday morning is still a segregated hour in our community.
I love my church. The folks at FBCV would gladly welcome any person, no matter their race, economic status, or cultural background. I can attest to my folks’ desire to see healing when it comes to race. We just don’t know how. Our city needs reconciliation. Two communities living together in one town is not ideal.
God has placed it on my heart that the church is called to help heal the wounds which have formed over centuries of division. Reconciliation needs to come from the people of God.
Over the past few months, I have begun studying. I have read books which chronicle the history and racial divides of the region I live in. I am purposely reading books written by African American Southern Baptist leaders to see the world from a point of view that I cannot see on my own.
One of the major ideas I have gleaned from my study is that our (mostly Anglo) churches struggle to bear the burdens of our African American brothers. We don’t walk a mile in their shoes. Whenever the cultural storm arises, we all tend to retreat into our predetermined responses.
I know the rebuttal. Wes, you’re talking social justice. We need to be busy with the Great Commission.
In my town, I cannot reach my neighbor, my children’s friends, and the very folks who live in my community if I am not willing to sit, listen, understand, and empathize with my African American neighbors.
If we are honest, in most communities across the South, racial tensions still exist. Most communities are held together by an uneasy ceasefire where we all stay in our own lanes. As believers, we have a Great Commission responsibility to build relationships outside of our comfort zone, political party, and race. For the sake of the gospel we have a responsibility to heal the brokenness that racism has borne in our communities.
How does this happen? I am learning every day. What I do know is that gospel healing cannot happen in our communities if believers are not willing to invest in relationships with people they do not know. We have a responsibility to build relationships which look like the throne room of heaven where God is magnified by the variant cultures and peoples around the throne.
As a pastor, it starts with me.