An inconvenient conversation

The events of the recent past highlighting Black victims of injustice and the escalated responses we’ve seen in a number of U.S. cities and beyond have challenged us as the church to revisit important conversations regarding race, division, violence and injustice. These conversations are not easy or comfortable, but they are necessary.

We have problems assuming responsibility for what has happened, is happening, and bound to continue to happen if we keep ignoring the underlying issues and refuse or choose not to address them. What can we as Christians do to bring the power and grace of God into these situations to affect enduring change, if not transformation?

Our first response is prayer. Prayer keeps us in a posture of humility. Nothing of significance in the Bible started, prospered or bore lasting fruit without prayer. We need God as our ally and source of power to deal effectively with the problems that confront us. Effective prayers mean we pray according to God’s will, and when He graciously answers, our response is always obedience even when His answers direct us to do things that are not convenient for us.

Historically, a vibrant minority from the American church has fought slavery on every front and paid the price to stand for, and with, oppressed people regardless of race or ethnicity. The historic actions of that minority should challenge the silent majority in the church today to revisit how we interpret what the Lord requires of us: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NKJV). This prayer of our hearts is in accordance with His will.

I want to challenge us to three levels of action. These are for all the church, not exclusively for pastors, prophets and preachers, but for everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.

Examine our prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions

Let us take an honest look at what prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions we may be holding onto. We all have faulty lenses that have been shaped by our culture and experiences, things we’ve been taught, or assumptions we’ve made based on our interpretations, which aren’t always accurate.

Everyone has a platform, and God can use any one of us to be a voice of truth, to stand with those who are oppressed and speak out against injustice.

How do these things square with our firsthand knowledge and personal experience of Black people and individuals (as well as other ethnic groups)? If you are not Black, ask yourself: What perceptions do I have about Black people in general? How much are my opinions, suppositions and judgments based on the color of another’s skin? What images come to my mind when a Black name that I do not know or cannot spell is mentioned, and is there anything in me that would suggest a sense of superiority? What kinds of feelings are evoked in me when I see people of other ethnicities being treated differently because of the color of their skin?

Dare to be a voice for the oppressed and voiceless 

King Solomon, the wisest man in human history, had this to say in Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy” (NIV). Everyone has a platform, and God can use any one of us to be a voice of truth, to stand with those who are oppressed and speak out against injustice. 

Dare to a be watchman/watchwoman as the Bible commands

We are called to be watchmen and watchwomen for our society. That means not only are we to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, but also keepers of society. God told Ezekiel that He had established him as a watchman: “If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel” (Ezek. 33:6-7).

Jesus repeatedly warned that it would be better for places known for their wickedness like Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, or Nineveh than for the generations (this includes us) who do not repent of their evil ways (Luke 10:13-14). Their collective fates would be no better than all the doomed cities in the Old Testament. This is quite a statement, and we should heed its warning. This means we will bear a responsibility for the wrongs in our society if we keep quiet, acquiesce or are indifferent in the face of human wickedness and oppression of our fellow humans.

The disciples were not spectators watching idolatry, immorality and societal decadence from the sidelines. They preached, exhorted, rebuked, admonished and undertook necessary action to address injustices they observed and experienced in their culture. It was costly for them to do this, just as it is for us today. We will pay a price in speaking out against injustice and in defending those who cannot speak for themselves, or whose voices are discounted or unheard, but it is a price worth paying.

Church, have we counted the cost, and are we willing to pay? Seek partnership with the God of the Bible as we desire to see His kingdom come in every destructive conflict and problem that threatens to divide and consume us.

This article is adapted by permission from Olushola Isinkaiye’s article titled “An Inconvenient Conversation.” Read the original in its entirety by downloading the PDF.

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is an ordained Foursquare minister who currently serves as a U.S. Navy reserve chaplain. He lives with his wife, Jumy, in Vista, Calif.