February is Black History Month, dedicated to highlighting stories and achievements of black individuals from throughout history and acknowledging the suffering and adversity they have faced. The issue of race in America is tough. It gets messy really quickly. It gets political really quickly. I don’t want to go there. We too often do go there, and down in flames quickly. In towns of low diversity, we can often get stuck talking inside our comfort zones and feel as though BHM is irrelevant, but I think that’s misguided. The world is connected, what goes on in one part of the world is relevant to another part. What affects one person or population is relevant to other people or populations. So bypassing the political angles, I want to talk about how Jesus followers, especially white Jesus followers, especially white Jesus followers in a predominantly white town, should treat Black History Month.
We have little control over whether something like Black History Month is in effect. But we have total control of how we treat it and respond to it. So the question that I think matters most is, What should we allow to influence our response? Unfortunately, we American Christians often speak first from our political identities. The problem I see with this is that from the outset it separates people around points of conflict. And this is of course the exact opposite of the intention of Jesus. Whether we live like it or not, His work united all of humanity. We now have one point of access to a restored, forgiven, wholesome relationship with our Creator as intended from the beginning. We all go through Him. The key difference between Jesus followers and the rest of the world is (or at least should be) that we are trying to do for others what we have experienced Jesus do for us—we love them, give of ourselves for them, meet them where they are at: be Jesus’ presence to them.
So how should we respond to Black History Month? After praying through it and talking through it with friends on both ends of the color spectrum, I came to the deeply profound (that is, obvious) conclusion: we should value people. Meaning, give up our entitled right to choose a political side that justifies our comfort zones and open ourselves up to what might be going on in the heart of another person. Jesus laid aside his divine right as God to meet us in a manner full of invitation. We should be ready to yield our opinions on matters of lesser importance in order to communicate love to the matter of highest importance: the heart of another person. We should be willing to listen and learn and build bridges of relationship and empathize and validate and be advocates for the flourishing of fellow human beings. Regardless of your opinion of the notion of Black History Month, it’s very valuable to someone you know (or someone you should know). I believe we ought to be thankful for it as an arena for loving, and be ready to enter into it with the heart of Jesus.
– Cameron Peters, Director of Communications