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Sarah Sutherland is an educator at Milwaukee College Prep and member of City of Light church.
For too long, the white church has failed our black and brown brothers and sisters across this nation. We have failed ourselves, and we ultimately have failed Christ and the gospel to which we are called. We are long overdue for righteous anger. We are long overdue for change.
It’s time to turn our failure into faith. It’s time to turn apathy into action. It’s time to turn silence into solidarity. It’s time we step up and speak out. Lord, light us on fire.
Say their names . . . Do we even know their names?
Say their names . . . Do we know the lives that were lived in faith, family and harmony with those around them?
Say their names . . . Do we know the lives that were lost to the racism, stereotyping and hate that permeates our country?
Why do we not know their names?
Rather than pursuing racial equity, the white church has remained largely silent for centuries. Our silence reflects our apathy. We have stood by as innocent black and brown people have been murdered at the hands of white police officers. The very people who have been tasked to protect and defend are the very ones our black and brown children need to be protected and defended from.
People of color have been mourning and grieving the loss of lives to police brutality and racial injustice since the inception of this nation. We, as white Christians, are not asked to carry that burden alongside our brothers and sisters — we are commanded to. This is not an option. This is not political.
This is a command to the Body of Christ. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Romans 12:9 tells us, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Being devoted isn’t a Facebook post when another murder happens. It is not a call or message of sympathy to a black friend. It is not a conversation around your dinner table to discuss recent events with your family. By definition, to devote means to: give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause). So I ask you, white Christian, are you devoted to your black brothers and sisters? Are you devoted to equality and safety for all? Are you devoted to systematic reform? Are you devoted to anti-racism and justice?
When we are devoted to one another in love, what once seemed to be separate worlds merge as we become one within the Body of Christ. We are able to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15). When we see the death of yet another black life on the television, we may experience a range of emotions and feel sympathy.
However, when we see that face, that body on the concrete, we don’t see ourselves or our brothers, fathers, mothers or sisters. We don’t lay awake at night praying until our sons and husbands return safely home. We don’t live in fear when a family member decides to go on a run. Our hearts don’t race, and our palms don’t sweat when we hear the sirens and see the flashing lights. We don’t wonder if we should call the police when we are in danger — we assume they will help us. We have to move beyond sympathy, shaking heads and dinner table discussions. We are commanded to mourn alongside the families and communities of color who are grieving and be moved to action.
As white people in America, we have inherent privilege that comes with great responsibility. As Christians, we have an even higher calling to become one with other believers in the body of Christ. In John 17:22-23, Jesus prays this prayer for all believers, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” When we become one, we are able to empathize and mourn with each other. When we become one, we show God’s love to the world.
As white Christians, we need to respond to the gross injustice and murder that is happening across our country. We can no longer deem this a “political issue” and sit back to allow others to create change. We must educate ourselves on the past, the present and take action to create a just future.
As white Christians we need to feel pain and mourn the loss of black and brown lives. That pain should keep us up at night, as we ponder how and when this will all end. We need to be relentless in our pursuit of justice and ceaselessly use our voices until change happens. We need to live out the Gospel we proclaim and walk in the footsteps of the God we follow.
Lord, light us on fire.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6)