To be a Christian means to be humble, first, foremost and always. To be a Christian means you understand every part of you is fallen by nature. You understand your fallen mind is going to be wrong a lot, your fallen heart is going to be prideful and fearful a lot, and your fallen hands are going to do the wrong thing a lot.
One might presume, knowing our tendencies, that Christians would be humble a lot. However, blindness is also a natural characteristic of our fallen state. That’s why it is so important to lead with humility. “Maybe I’m wrong,” should be our watchword. And yet, I can hear some among you now saying, “Christians should stand especially firm in their beliefs, because those beliefs are based on the word of God. We are called to contend for the faith.”
I hope you noticed the key phrases in that declaration. “Based on the word of God.” “Contend for the faith.” If we are discussing the most basic tenets of Christianity, John 3:16, Acts 4:12 or Romans 6:23, we can be fairly sure our defense is warranted and inspired by the Holy Spirit. But most issues in life are rarely so clear cut, so firmly based in Scripture, so pertinent to our faith. We must lead with humility in these gray areas, where believing Christians disagree, where Scriptures can be found for both sides of an issue (or neither side). We must listen, wait, pray, search the Scriptures and be open to the possibility that we might be wrong.
Blind to our own blindness
I am writing this to remind myself to lead with grace and humility, because I have been wrong. Specifically, I have wronged my brothers and sisters in Christ who are people of color. For years, in various ways, I have been challenged to consider that their lives are harder than mine, their opportunities fewer, their dangers greater. For years I have disbelieved them – really, never even considered whether to believe them. Why? Because everything has been fine in my world. I realize now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the self-centered nature of a fallen heart is blind to its own blindness.
The rhetoric which says all the laws have been changed so racism isn’t a problem convinced me. Americans judge people individually; we don’t prejudge people as a group. I thought the solution to every problem was salvation and that being interested in social issues made you a liberal. I was convinced, because that’s how it was in my white world.
For no reason except the grace of God, I began reading biographies of black Christians about four years ago, and God finally gave me eyes to see. I was wrong, blind and self-centered. But the point is, it surprised me. I was surprised I had never really questioned myself on an issue where I had been challenged to question myself multiple times. How had I missed the fact that I might be wrong?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8)
As Christians, we hope to become as much like Jesus Christ as possible, the One who humbled Himself more than we could ever possibly be humbled, deliberately moving into our world so that our pain became His. When challenged to see from someone else’s perspective, I want my first response to be, “Yes. Help me understand your world because that’s what Jesus did for me.” I want to lead with humility and be willing to take on someone else’s pain.
Because racism exists in America. It is wrong. And so was I.
- Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins (book)
- Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo (book)
- My Friend, The Enemy by William Pannell (book)
- Tom Skinner, Urbana 1970 (video)
- A White Guy’s Perspective by Tim Keller (video)
- The Gospel, The Church and Racial Injustice by Paul Tripp (video)
- Racism by the Numbers (video)
- How Race Was Made by John Biewan, NPR (podcast)