A Raw Reflection On Race And Mortality….

As I write this I must begin with a confession…. This post is less formal and more a reflection. As a matter of fact I really don’t have a direction yet. To give some context I am thinking about race in America and my own blindness to the undercurrent of racial tension that exist. This reflection will feel like a bunch of rabbit trails but I do hope they connect.

As a kid I would have said that I don’t see color. I played football and grew up in a pretty diverse area. I was definitely an underprivileged kid growing up in a broken home with exposure to drugs and physical abuse. My college roommates were black, Mexican, bi-racial, and latino respectively. Therefore, most of my life was filled with exposure to other cultures and races. I just didn’t see it in the moment.

I think the thing I am starting to realize is that saying, “I don’t see color” robs us of the unique design of God. Honestly, color is amazing. The black culture is so different from the white culture and they both reflect the glory of God in different ways. I’ve learned to appreciate the preaching of people like David Platt and Charlie Dates. They couldn’t be more different stylistically but both are necessary to get a full and complete picture of God.

The same is true in the melting pot called America. I think my past has afforded me the opportunity to learn from people who don’t look like me, yet, they do look like God and that’s beautiful.

So, yesterday, another friend died too young. Honestly, it’s crazy to think how many friends I’ve had that died too young. Whether it be Alex Kube my first college roommate or Will my first true Christian friend. There have been too many! Just this year my friend Michael was killed in a motorcycle accident and Bryon was our first church member to die. And now Jamar died yesterday.

I think the thing that is unique about Jamar is the memories of our relationship. Jamar was an amazing competitor and one of the best football players I’ve ever seen. But that’s not the unique part…. The part that fascinates me most is the collision of two lives who have absolutely nothing in common from our societal standpoint yet shared a friendship together.

I don’t know why but Jamar made me reflect on my blindness to the racial divide. He made me reflect on my naivety to the situation we were both born into. Jamar and I went to the same elementary, middle and high schools yet shared little in common. We lived miles away but worlds apart. Separated by invisible dividing lines in a city that is steeped in the cultural south. Me, getting the benefit of the doubt because of a skin color I inherited and someone in antiquity said was better than his skin color. This realization brought out many emotions. First, wondering why the world is so broken that we sometimes miss the genius of a guy like Jamar. Next, the gratefulness of sports to bring cultures together that otherwise wouldn’t intersect. And lastly, anger that the blindness I had robbed me of experiencing a fuller joy in the moment. It is only retrospectively that I am appreciating God’s goodness through diversity.

I’ve often said, “wisdom is less about learning from your own mistakes and more about learning from others experiences.” Maybe this reflection will bridge the gap between my ignorance and Jamar’s grace. Maybe we can step a little closer and enjoy the moment in the moment.

Jamar made me realize that the Gospel is the only transformative power on the planet. That race is a social construct, a dividing wall of hostility that the blood of Jesus broke down. He made me realize how grateful I am that the Lord Jesus Christ saved me from the pattern of blindness that continues to alienate and separate communities based on the color of their skin.

He also made me realize that there is hope. The same hope that fueled Martin Luther King Jr. to fight for equity. Our hope is found in the finished work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus raised from the dead our brown skinned, Middle Eastern Savior died to save all people who would put their faith in him. He died to save human beings because all people are made in the image of God. The power of Satan wasn’t strong enough to hold Jesus in the grave and the power of Satan isn’t strong enough to keep God from building his kingdom filled with all peoples!

He made me realize that color is magical because it’s a creative reflection on the glory of God. I love that none of us are the same because in our uniqueness we see a fuller picture of the God we love.

Again, I don’t know if this post has much direction other than the inner reflections of a man who doesn’t know how to put words to the beauty and sadness that I see all around me.

I see a country divided by race. I wish I could scream out at the top of my lungs that integration is beautiful. That we are missing out because the “Billy’s” of this world need to be exposed to the “Jamar’s” of this world and vice versa. We need to experience one another’s joys and sorrows and understand each other’s mountain tops and valleys. We need to embrace each other’s cultures without trying to conform one another to the other’s culture.

We need to understand that the thing that makes humanity beautiful is our diversity. But it’s also our commonality. We might be multi-colored but we are one race. We are the human race and we are all made in the image of God.

One of the things I am looking forward to when I get to heaven is seeing the multi-cultural expression of the church. Seeing people from South Asia sing and dance alongside stoic western anglos. And expressive black churches singing spirituals alongside Europeans and South Americans. It’s going to be an amazing picture of what the church needs to start creating now.

After writing all of these thoughts down in a jumbled up mess I think I know what I want the take away to be. I want us to bring heaven down to earth now. I want to share my life with more people who don’t look like me so I can learn to be more like Jesus. I want to see how Jesus looks outside my echo chamber. I want to be a whole person who experiences all of life. I want my kids and your kids to not only see color but to embrace the beauty of color.

Thank you to all my friends who have been patient with me. Thank you for not abandoning me at my ignorance of color blindness. Seriously, I don’t deserve your grace but the beauty of grace is that it helps us grow up into maturity.

Last thing, don’t waste the opportunity to reflect and evaluate. God tells us to set up markers in our lives so that we don’t forget his goodness. In the same way we need to take the markers that life throws at us and reflect until we chisel out the diamond that is underneath the rock.

Grace,

Billy

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Lead Pastor, City Church. www.citychurchga.com

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