This post is the second in a two-part series. I suggest you read the first part before continuing with the post below.
One reason I feel so inadequate in addressing this topic is because my kind has kind of been the problem. The real problem, however, is sin. Sin kills. Sin divides. Sin is no fun to discuss and we are often tempted to avoid the concept all together. If only it were that easy.
The issue with avoiding sin is when we don’t own our sin, our sin will own us. When I allow my sin to motivate my thoughts and behavior, everyone loses. If you prefer, we can use the language of selfish human nature in place of sin. They are not interchangeable, but close enough for this conversation.
The church, of all the organized institutions, must be the one to stand and say this is not acceptable. In order for our prejudices to no longer control our thoughts and behaviors, we have to change our clothes. Using the Apostle Paul’s metaphor from his letter to a gathered group of people in Colossae that we read in the New Testament of the Bible, we have to take off our old nature and put on a new nature. We must take off the nature of anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. We must put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. This is most difficult (I would say impossible on my own accord and in my own strength) when in the presence of those who believe differently than I do and who may even choose to slander me.
For most of us, and this is where I will lose some of you if I have not done so already, this means we also must take off what daddy and grandaddy taught us. We must take off the goggles we inherited from those who have gone before us through which we see the world. Without this challenging and often painful separation from certain hereditary ways of thinking, the prejudices we inherit deter and delay putting on a new nature.
God is working to redeem and reconcile all of creation back to Himself. That’s you and me. At the same time, the ways we divide and segregate ourselves is bigger than us as individuals. I think what all means is…all. All includes everything. Therefore, we have to address the issue from a perspective of society and culture as a whole. Prejudice is an issue within the individual. Societies are comprised of individuals and we bring our individualism with us. Therefore, division among people according to skin color, economic status, and belief is also a societal issue.
We cannot simply jump to reconciliation to resolve these complex issues. There must be means of repair. If the real issue is sin, then we will likely never experience full restoration in our lifetime, but we can choose to put on the new nature and take off all that hinders us from loving people despite our differences.
I have participated in several diversity trainings over the years and they are certainly helpful to gain perspective. I will be participating in another diversity and bias education experience later this month. I highly recommend you do the same, but healing will ultimately be realized through relationship. It is in close relationship with those who are other that our own prejudices are proven to be misinformed.
What steps are you taking to develop relationships that will peel back the layers of your prejudice and aid in putting on a new nature? The church must be the place and the people who show the world how this is done well.