I am a missionary. My mission statement is, “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.” –David Livingston
Well, I live and minister in the middle of nowhere. I usually refer to it as, “my ends of the earth.” For a long time, we were the only black family in town. Now, there is two other black families, I think. I find absolutely nothing wrong with that. We love everyone equally and expect the same.
Besides the occasional stares, we love it here,. We are on a mission. We love our church as well, it is the most loving church in the world. We are proud to be their pastors. There is no other group of people I’d rather spend my time doing life with.
Haven said that, when my youngest daughter was about 6, a kid in her class looked at her and said, “why are you so black?” Well, to that my daughter replied, “I am not black, I am brown, dummy!” Oh well! It was rather a, doh! But you get the drift.
Two years ago, a young girl from my older daughter’s school start calling our house. her calls were about her desire to beat my daughter up. The last three phone calls we received from her dripped with the stereotypical jokes of Kool Aid and Watermelon. Kool Aid we don’t drink, but Watermelon, we do eat – all summer long babe!
About two months ago, I had a very ugly experience right in front of our home. At about 8:30 PM that fateful spring evening, I stepped outside my home for my usually stroll. In the distance, I saw a car turn unto my street, full beam, coming toward me. I recognized the car and the driver, she’s our city mayor. As she approached, I realized that she was driving awfully too close to the curb, forcing me to step out of the way. Well, she drove by without waving or saying a thing.
When she hit the corner of the next block, she turned around and started heading back toward me. At this time, I too had turned around walking back toward my house. She approached slowly, looked at me in a scrutinizing way. At this time I am hoping she would stop, roll down her windshield and say something. Well, she didn’t. She turned away and drove off into the dark night. I was confused, I didn’t know what to make of it.
The next day, I called a member of our church who happens to be on the city council and explained what had happened. I needed answers. By the end of the day, this church member got back to me and said that the city Mayor said that she did not recognize me. I was infuriated, flabbergasted – “she didn’t see me, nor recognized me?”
I live two blocks away from the City Hall, apparently, that very night from what I gathered, there was a robbery in progress at the city hall, and the cops told the Mayor that the robber was on foot in the area.
She recognized me alright. She knows I live right on that street. But since I was walking toward the city hall, she assumed that I was the robber, hence she turned around and drove behind me, pulling up closed to me, looking me right in the eyes.
Think about it, “Mayor caught the pastor of a small town robbing the city hall.” When I heard this, I was even more furious. I burned with anger. But that’s when a sweet, still and small voice hit me like a piecing crescendo in an A Capella song.
Too often this sweet, still and small voice is crowded out by the noise of hate, revenge and justice. As important as justice is, we too often “exalt our rights over the one who makes us righteous.”Ron Kenoly
What am I supposed to do as a black man when I find myself dealing with injustice, racial profiling and discrimination? What do I do when I see another black man being choked to death? How should I respond when my son dies in police custody from a Spinner-cord injury? What should I say, when I watch my brother being gun down in the middle of a public park on the six o’clock news?
What do I do when the Mayor of my town thinks the Pastor of the only church in town is a thief, drives by twice, looks him in the eye, neglects to give him the heads up, drives away, all the while knowing there is an armed robber walking his streets?
Well, I confess, I have no easy answers. But a close examination of the scriptures, which is the embodiment of Jesus Christ, can shed some light:
Seek the welfare of the city and pray for its peace
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf,for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7
God has called everyone of us to seek the welfare of the city. The word seek calls for deliberate and positive action. God has also called us to pray for the city. The word invites us to seek God’s plans and desires for the city. His plans are for good, for peace, and for prosperity. This is our full-time job. We ought to be at, in season and out of season.
Pursue the ministry of reconciliation
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18
I think, for race relations to work, we must all be proactive instead of reactive. We must build bridges between each other so that when we feel disenfranchised we will already have a relational system in place to seek and bring about justice.
Love your enemy and do good
“Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him.” Booker T. Washington
Whether you believe the bible or not, the truth stands. God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” It is the same God who calls us to love those who feel they are better than us. I understand that this is a difficult call, but like Martin Luther King once said, “we must meet hate with creative love… and if the streets must flow with blood let it flow with our blood in the spirit of Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Step back, accept the fact that not every incident is racially charged
In all fairness, my situation with the city mayor in my small town, could be a simple misunderstanding. It was dark, she may or may not have recognized me. She may or may not have assumed that I was the thief on foot in the neighborhood. The thought, “here is a black man walking the streets this late at night, maybe he is the robber,”may or may not have even crossed her mind. We need to be okay with the fact that not every incident is racially charged.
God back to the plan
A few days after the incident with my city mayor, I gave her a call and asked if I could meet with her to talk about the situation. She turned down my request to meet and offered a lukewarm explanation about her behavior. I thanked her for at least answering my call, politely hung up with a resolve to forgive her and continue praying for her.
When justice is denied and there is no closure or apology, continue in love and the pursuit of peace. After you’ve done everything and vindication doesn’t come, entrust yourself to the Lord and expose your soul to Him for inner healing. Go back to the plan:
Seek the welfare of the city
Pray for the peace of the city
Pursue the ministry of reconciliation
Love your enemies
Every thing will be alright!