Racial Healing by Sarah-Gayle Galbreath
Imagine a world where skin color didn’t matter because we were all made in the image of God. A world where we as Christians did not need to have conversations about race because we didn’t see color and because we believed all people were created equal. A world where we could stop talking about the hiccups of America’s past regarding race and focus on the love of God. Imagine a world where we didn’t need to talk about inequality because we truly believed that we were all one in Christ. Can you see this world? I believe this world is where many of my white brothers and sisters who are Christians in America live, and I’d like to walk you through another world for a moment.
Imagine a world where you believe much of what the first world believes. You believe you were created in the image of God and you are the apple of His eye. You understand that you are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus and he has hope and a future for you. You have memorized and put in your heart the fact that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and you know that the love of God and the name of Jesus is powerful and world-changing. God calls you worthy, redeemed, justified, and beautiful, yet your daily experience in the world you live in says something quite different all because of the color of your skin.
In this world, your skin color determines greatly what opportunities you get and how you are treated. People in power and positions of leadership and authority are mostly the same color and that color is NOT the color of your skin. On the contrary, most of the people that make up the prison population are people that share the same color of skin that you have. In this world, people with your skin color were not seen as fully human in the past and as a result, were stolen as hostages, trafficked, abused, and raped for centuries by American presidents, leaders, families, church attenders, and the like. So much that this practice of trafficking was legally acceptable and a way of life for many. Can you see this world too?
This second world describes the world of our black brothers and sisters in America along with other people of color. There is a gap in what God says and how the world operates and as Christians, we are called to fight for the oppressed and marginalized, just like Jesus did. But even before that, we are uniquely positioned to hear their cries.
When we are talking about racial healing,there is not a one size fits all, unfortunately, but there is always hope. As followers of Jesus we know that He can do the impossible. We know that no relationship is beyond His reach to heal and restore and He knows more about reconciliation than anyone. After all, His blood reconciled us to His father. Following and seeking Jesus throughout our pursuit of racial healing is vital and I will even say what is required for true and lasting healing to occur. Without Jesus, our flesh, our offenses, and our pride are too strong and the plank in our eye too big.
I have found that there are a couple of steps that can be extremely helpful to take when one is seeking to be a bridge when it comes to racial healing. Step one would be slowing down to HEAR the cries. If we are not aware that there is even a problem then we will not look to help bring a solution. If we do not hear the cries of black people right now, then we cannot fathom their pain, so our engagement will be minimal. The cries alert us to the pain and the pain alerts us to the problem. I’d like to pause here. The cries of hurting people are not always convenient for us to hear or agreeable to our ears. Let me say that again, the cries of hurting people are not always convenient for us to hear or agreeable to our ears. Yet as followers of Jesus, mandated to love God and love our neighbor, we must listen.
Step two is education. If we don’t know anything about the second world, how do we know what would even be helpful? Some of this education will happen through relationships and conversations we have with people who look different from us. When we take the time to have conversations with people that are hurting with the goal to listen, learn, and support, we are loving them in action and it means more than we can ever realize. Check-in with your friends and families of color.
Additional education will come from our own treasure hunt if you will. History has been erased when it comes to most African American accomplishments as well as how African Americans were abused and strategically oppressed. The climate and systems of today continue to build on what was created in the past. If we don’t know what was created in the past we won’t have the context we need to bring a solution or even learn what part we can play in helping in a relevant way today. Some terms/concepts to get us started so that we can gain some context for what is happening today are black codes, Jim Crow laws, separate but equal, and redlining.
The more we research the more we will uncover when it comes to unjust laws, discarded lives, and abuse beyond imagination. Not only will we find things that we were NEVER taught in school but much of what we find will seem impossible to believe due
to the horror and tortuous dehumanization of black people. America’s past and remnants of the past that continue in the present, highlight more than anything why we need a Savior. The capacity of the human heart to harbor tremendous hate and do evil is unbearable but God saw and sees, so sent Jesus.
America has hidden and softened much of the history that does not make it look good, just like many of us hide the things in our own lives that don’t make us look good, but how is that working for you? Darkness eventually comes into the light and what is hidden destroys what hides it. Faulty foundations will eventually come crashing down and that is where we are today in America. Praise God, our God is bigger than America. The more we learn, the more our hearts will break and that is when we know we are that much closer to being a vessel for racial healing. May God’s spirit of truth and hope guide you on this journey.
The instinct for many of us as we stretch ourselves and embark on uncharted waters when it comes to race, is to spiritualize it and go back to the first world that was described. The first world does not see color and is a bit less confrontational and a bit more comfortable. I want to challenge us to lean in and learn/do what it takes to love those who don’t look like us. It’s not good enough for us as followers of Christ to be at odds with our brother or sister or to wash our hands of an image-bearer. God wants more for His children and invites us to live out scripture rather than just quote it.
“Our faith without works is dead.” - James 2:26
Following Jesus requires us to be uncomfortable more often than not. Sometimes it puts us on the wrong side of popularity and even our families. Loving people is not always easy and is not always acceptable in society. But we must lean on Jesus not only for his words but for the power of the Holy Spirit to help us to live out the kind of love He poured out onto us. The love that cost Him His life. Yes, love can demand action, and in the case of racial harmony loving our brothers and sisters demands our action. Our actions are where we unite.
“And what does the Lord require of you but to love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8
You see, in the first world, it seems that faith is used to bring peace to our hearts whereas in the second world faith is needed to bring justice to the earth. We need both of the worlds mentioned above to collide and bridge the gap that exists with racial injustice. That is why we need the entire body of Christ, red and yellow, black and white, all precious in HIS sight, to engage in the fight for racial healing. Yes, it will be a fight because after all
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” - Ephesians 6:12
The devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy and he will not back down easily when it comes to us fighting for racial justice on the earth. The very earth that he slums around in, accusing, dividing, and creating division in. So yes let’s quote our scriptures and stand on the promises of God that do not return void AND yes let’s get to work in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit that God has given us to destroy strongholds, set captives free, raise to life what was once dead and call things that are not as though they were. God has equipped us for such a time as this. Let us become protective of one another and the hope and love of Christ so much that we, as His followers, are truly known by our love.
Sarah-Gayle Galbreath has her master's in marriage and family therapy and is the co-founder of Hoperelentless. She and her husband Chad are an interracial couple that passionately share the hope and freedom of the gospel. Sarah-Gayle is a social justice activist and continues to lead a life of compassion and conviction. She is a church and community builder and is raising two dynamite world changers.