Two events that have taken place over the past several days have disturbed me a lot.
1. An African-American woman of 65, from Alpharetta, Georgia, subjected to treatment by law enforcement personnel which the police department has said was wrong.
2. An African-American graduate student at Yale University was the subject of a call to Yale police. Her wrongdoing? She had fallen asleep in a commons area. To their credit, Yale police said it was not a police matter.
In both matters, two women were minding their own business but were deemed suspicious because they are black.
As to the first situation, I will be turning 65 later this year. I identify with the woman and so, find the treatment to which she was subjected deeply disturbing.
As to the second matter: Personally, when I was a student at Ohio State who commuted daily from my home on the west side of Columbus to campus, I often dozed off in the student union between classes. Nobody ever filed a complaint about me. Of course, among the other reasons why this was probably the case is that I am white.
The Yale case is disturbing in that the truly guilty party, the student who called the police, clearly acted out of racial fear. Another term for racial fear would be racism. This sin exists among us and within us to an extent that we white folks find hard to admit. But cases like these two are rooted in racism and no amount of denial can change that fact.
Racism is a sin and its existence has a continuing horrible effect in America on those who are its victims, as well as a devastating eternal impact on those who act upon it, refusing to repent or change. When we yield to racism, when we excuse it, we put our immortal souls at risk.
We must all change. This fatal disease of racism must be exorcised from each of us.
This is especially urgent for those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We follow a Savior, God-enfleshed, Jesus, who saves us from sin and death, not because of our virtue, but in spite of our sin. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. And, all my neighbors, whatever the tones of their skin, are, like me, made in the image of God. So, those of us who trust in Christ are particularly called to turn from the sin of racism and to call our sisters and brothers in Christ to do the same.
God tells us: “... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I don’t know about you, but I pray for healing in this land. And I know it starts with me repenting, trusting in Christ, and then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, loving all my neighbors, fighting for justice for each.
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]