Learning to Weep

As I write this post today I do so with a deep sense of humility. One of the chief things I’ve learned about speaking or writing on topics of prejudice is that there is so much I do not know, so much I do not feel, and so much I still have yet to learn. And yet, I also know that as a Christian my role is never to be silent or passive in the face of injustice. The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only frees me from the consequences of my sin and makes me right with God, but then it establishes my life as an “Ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). The Christian’s role is always to speak and to act and to love and to bring Jesus’s Kingdom with me into every sphere of society.

It was not long ago that I was sitting at my desk when Ahmaud Arbery’s story came across my Social Media feed. As with many who saw the video of Ahmaud’s death, my stomach went in knots immediately. Then as I continued to dig into the details and learned about the lack of an arrest, my heart sank only further. I know there are many details that are still unknown and a court case will bring those to light, but my heart was heavy with the imagery.

As a white man trying to process this I have learned time and time again that there are realities about life that I take for granted, that my non-white brothers and sisters simply cannot afford to take for granted. I have learned that the privilege of wearing a hoodie on a cool afternoon without being thought of as a criminal is a privilege that not all share. I have learned that walking down a sidewalk with your hands in your coat pocket and not thinking twice about how that looks is not normal to everyone. And I have learned that the freedom of jogging through my neighborhood without being seen as a threat is often unique to my particular skin tone. I hate that!

And yet there is part of me that feels like I must confess. Everything changed for me when my wife and I adopted two precious beautiful African American daughters. As I look back on my life, that change in my family was a turning point in my perspective. My confession is that until then, every story of radical injustice and every horrifying news article, while real and painful and never overlooked – was also kept at a certain arm’s length both emotionally and practically. The headlines did not move my soul as they do now. I wish they did. It was a shortcoming in my life that they didn’t. I should have felt the way I feel now, back then. And I know that honestly I still have so much more to feel and process.

Somehow God used my two little girls to change the story though. I started seeing the news and seeing my daughters, and for the first time began actually weeping over such injustice. This was new. I began to actually consider the world I am living in through the perspective of preparing my daughters to live in it. I am literally dreading the day when I have to explain prejudice to them. The thought of that conversation crushes me. I like to joke that one of my daughters has “lightning in her eyes” because she is so full of life and energy and zeal and passion. Already I can see the confusion and disappointment in those eyes when I have to let her know that prejudice exists. I’m tearing up literally writing this. They’re getting older every day, and that conversation is closer than I like to imagine.

My point is not about me. My point is that these girls have made these headlines personal in a way that I was unaware that they weren’t personal before. Everyone knows that prejudice still exists, but not everyone feels it the same way, or has to live in its reality the same way. As Christians, we not only recognize the wickedness of injustice as an affront to God, but we also must learn to begin to truly relate to each other as family. Particularly when it comes to topics of racial prejudice, this is a topic the Church has not done a great job at. The healing that is needed will require thinking, feeling, and actually stepping into other people’s stories with substance, the way Jesus did. That’s where change and Gospel healing can take place. You don’t have to have all the answers to begin this journey, but you do need to be intentional.

Written by Raef Chenery

I'm a pastor in Chicago at Park Community Church - South Loop. I'm a husband to my beautiful wife Sara and a dad to three sweet girls, Ruth, Joy, and Mira. I'm blessed to be surrounded by a number of men and women who love to think about the ways that our faith interacts with our culture. This blog is as much for me to get my thoughts in order, as it is for those who might benefit from it and engage in the conversations as well. I would love to get your feedback through the comments on each post.

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