Monday, June 22, 2020

Talking about Race

[Originally published in the Monroe News on June 19, 2020]

When our kids ask us about what is going on in the world today, what are we going to say to them? How will we explain it from the perspective of our Christian faith? A couple weeks ago you probably would have thought I'm talking about a viral pandemic. But not today. I'm talking about racism, protests, violence, hatred. I can't bear to scroll another second through a social media feed to take in the images and the twisted stories and takes of what is taking place around us.  I’m tired of police officers like the one in Minnesota who give other faithful-serving public servants a bad name.  I’m tired of individuals who don’t see the harm in destroying other community members' property as the participants of the riots have done.  I’m tired of inequality and hate continuing to exist in our nation and in our society.  Maybe I’m just tired of being tired.

So what can we say?  What should I say to my kids or to my friends or to my congregation about how to react to all of this?  What is the good word?

If I may, I want to share an example from the ministry of Jesus Christ.  He dealt with people relationships quite a bit in His ministry and He does have more than a few beneficial things to share.  In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, the disciples of Jesus are asking Him who is to be the greatest. They are worried about power and superiority. The disciples wanted to see themselves as above or better than their peers.  They were focused upon the differences among themselves and how these differences might make them better than others. 

This is Jesus' reply in Luke 22:27 "For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves." Jesus teaches that the true power of this life is found in service and love. It is not found in power or authority or superiority over others. Jesus modeled this personally. He was the one on hands and knees washing His disciples’ feet.  He was the one serving with love.

So what are we going to say and teach our kids about current events and especially the topic of race? What can we learn ourselves? Simply this: violence and hate and superiority need to be put away along with every other sin that destroys us. Let them be replaced with service and love for our neighbor. Every time we look at somebody and think negatively upon them because of physical differences we’ve already lost. There is no love in such judgment. It hurts us all. Its also un-Biblical and non-scientific.  

There is a clear message beginning from God’s Word: we are all one people. We are all one species. We are all made equally in the image of God. We are all one race descended from the same two parents in Adam and Eve.  So why do we waste time dividing one another and hating one another?  I have friends across the spectrum of skin tones.  I have family at both light and dark ends of skin tone.  We are no different from one another other than the amount of melanin in our skin. Is that really supposed to make such a difference?  I think not.

Instead of dwelling on what little makes us different, let's make a difference in our communities by serving them, rebuilding them, building bridges instead of tearing them down. This mindset starts at home, it starts at the foundation of our society, the church, God's house. If we truly want to get serious about fixing relationships, about building a common bond in our community, and instilling a sense of love for our neighbor, that’s only going to be possible if we start with Jesus.  We can’t force people to love one another.  We can’t legislate enough laws to make people be nice to one another in every case.  But we can learn from Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. We can learn from the One who is the embodiment of love on how to do right by our neighbor and our community and even our nation. 

So wherever you worship, would you join with your brothers and sisters this week? Or if you don’t have a home for worship yet, look for one, ask a friend, follow a neighbor. Come to the Lord's house, be fed with Word and Sacrament and so be filled and made ready to serve and love with all fairness and equality.

To God be the glory.

Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at

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