I haven’t written lately. Partly this is because I had nothing I felt compelled to say, and partly it’s because, as you are quite aware if you follow the news and/or social media, I worried that anything I did say could and would be used against me. After all, business leaders and other public figures are stepping down or being fired at an alarming rate for even the most minor “transgressions.”* Then, this morning I finally realized that I do have something to contribute to the conversation—something worth the possible repercussions. It’s time to post my two cents’ worth.
Like most of us, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time lately reading the news and perusing the commentary on social media. The constant stream of articles about the pandemic has now been replaced by stories about the riots, demonstrations, and exposing the alarming extent that injustice pervades our nation (even if some of the “facts” are turning out to be baseless).
God’s position is clear—racism and injustice are egregious sins that need to be eradicated. Simply look up “oppressed” in a Biblical concordance to discover how much God cares about social justice. As His children, we are to do likewise. This isn’t a new commandment—God has always turned His face toward the poor and powerless.
But now, according to the current social narrative, I’m either a perpetrator of systemic oppression or I’m a victim. Since I am a white woman, and therefore by definition one of the oppressors, the only acceptable action I can take is to publicly apologize and repent.
At this point, I have to ask—what, specifically, am I repenting of? For God making me white and female? For some racist transgressions of which I’m unaware? So much of what I see, both on Facebook and in the media, seems intended to make me feel guilty. Whatever I’m doing to alleviate social injustice, it isn’t enough. We’re all part of the problem. We all need to condemn ourselves and grovel.
In response to this pervasive message, many of my friends, along with countless celebrities, are posting statements apologizing for their failure to stand against racial injustice and for the oppressed. Yet, as far as I know, not one of these friends is racist in the first place. Some are minorities themselves. Others happily coexist in multi-ethnic communities. So what are they apologizing for?
Are they responding to a prompting from the Holy Spirit—or are they feeling guilty because the media says they are? And if it’s only the media accusing us, how should we respond?
The Bible tells us what to do. Before we accept blame, we need to search our own hearts. Are we part of the problem? Are we a complacent member of a “privileged” class, ignoring the oppressed?
We quickly reach the point, however, where looking inward isn’t enough. After all, “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9), and we can easily be fooled into thinking we’re doing fine when in fact we’re failing. That’s when we have to ask the Holy Spirit to do a spiritual housecleaning for us.
Psalm 19:12 reads, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” And Psalm 139:1, 23-34 adds, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. … Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
One role of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin (John 16:8). That’s why Paul is able to write, “ I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Over many years, I can confidently testify that God has no problem pointing out sin in my life. I may try to ignore Him, but I can’t claim I didn’t hear Him. While He typically speaks in a quiet, still voice, when He intends to convict me of something, He shouts!
As a fallen human being, God will never run out of issues I need convicting about. Thankfully, He doesn’t tackle them all at once, or I’d be destroyed. Rather, He choose one or two at a time and focuses on those. Perhaps He’ll focus on racism. Perhaps He considers another problem more pressing. Our role is to respond to His prompting, confess to the sin He exposes, and move forward in obedience.
We need to let God do the convicting, not the media.
* The most mind-numbing was when D.C. Mayor Anthony A Williams’ aide was asked to resign because he used the word “niggardly” to describe a budget—in spite of the fact that the word means “not generous; stingy; miserly” and is in no way a racist epithet. Thankfully, after teaching the mayor a brief lesson in English, the aide was rehired. (See the article in the Washington Post.)