I long for racial harmony but a I see a big, huge roadblock in the way: our human nature. Mankind does not naturally pursue unity. Instead, we quite naturally divide.
Take my predominantly white church that I grew up in. The youth group wasn’t exactly a group. We were a culmination of groups. We had those kids that went to the church school who would naturally hang out together. We had the kids that went to another large private school in the area that tended to cluster together. And, then we had the few others that homeschooled or went to public school who didn’t quite makeup a group due to their small number. Did we naturally all just bond in our common youth group? No. We naturally divided into our comfort zones.
But, perhaps that is just the human nature of kids.
Unfortunately, adults struggle with being naturally divisive as well.
Let’s look at my current church. A number of people homeschool. That’s great for me. I feel like I have lots of support. However, a lady I know struggled with feeling accepted at our church. She was a working mom who had her kids in public school. I don’t know that we ever outright looked down on her, but for various reasons, she just didn’t feel included or accepted for her choices. It was hard for her to go to the church. She left.
Was my church unwelcoming to her? I sure hope not. But, if we are not intentionally making people feel included, the natural tendency of human nature is to keep cruising in the comfort lane of our own friends and people that are similar to us and in the process make invisible lines of division between us and those not like us. At our church a lot of people feel quite comfortable talking about homeschooling. We don’t mean to exclude those who don’t homeschool…but are we intentionally including them???
Still not convinced that human nature is a roadblock to pursuing racial harmony?
Not that long ago I was at a women’s retreat with my church. What did I notice? Human nature at work again. We naturally gravitated to our existing friends. I am all about developing deep friendships and investing in them. But, the interesting thing I noticed at this retreat was how many of us sat by that one close friend. We naturally went right for our comfort zone.
Now, back to the issue of racial harmony. My desire is to see whites and African Americans across America interacting on a personal level, being friends, and truly loving each other. I want to see us pursue one another in friendship. I want to see us love God and love one another.
But, I am convinced that whites and blacks will not naturally be friends due to the roadblock of our human nature. For one thing, we weren’t allowed to be friends for centuries in this country. So, now as some of us desire racial harmony we must recognize that it will require us to leave our comfort zones.
Just recently I left my comfort zone in an attempt to better understand the black perspective. You might think I’m crazy if I tell you this story, but I’ll risk it. Like I’ve said before I grew up in a very white world and still live in a very white world. However, I’m convinced that I need to talk to African Americans directly and hear their perspective. Soooo…an African American guy often helps put my groceries in my car at the Walmart pickup every week. We’ve built a good rapport, so I figured he’d be a great person to have over for a meal and listen to his life story and perspective on how it has been growing up as an African American especially in the south. Well…it took quite a bit of courage to actually invite him to my house, but I did it, praise God. However, the next week I found out his answer was a no. No real reason given. Just, no. And, it felt like an awkward conversation in the process. Maybe he still sees me as a stranger and isn’t comfortable coming into my home. But I am sad. It feels like I lost the open door that I thought had been there. The road to racial harmony will have disappointment at times and perhaps some awkwardness as well. On a positive note, I have seen this same guy again from a distance while in Walmart and we exchanged a smile. Maybe the door hasn’t been completely shut between us. Maybe I’ll learn a little over time during our brief Walmart pickup conversations. And, maybe eventually, he’ll even come to see my family as people he’d be willing to sit down with for a meal and share his story.
Today in church a line from a song we sang caught my attention: “pray for peace.”
I haven’t prayed for peace between whites and African Americans. That is changing today. Nothing is impossible for God.
Human nature is a roadblock to racial harmony. Praying for peace and then actively pursuing peace between the races will knock that roadblock down.
Will it happen overnight? Probably not. But, one relationship at a time, one conversation at a time, I’m seeking to bring peace where division has reigned for far too long. I ask you to join me in this effort. Let’s get out of our comfort zone. Let’s make new friends that have different skin tones from our own. Let’s talk to those that do have our same skin tone and gently challenge them when they make divisive comments. Let’s learn about the perspective of those from different ethnic backgrounds than our own. Let’s not follow our naturally divisive human nature. Let’s pray for peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9