by Bryan E. Crute
February is designated as a time of celebration and reflection, a time designated as Black History Month. But as our nation continues to be divided along racial, religious, socioeconomic, and a host of other divisive fault lines that constantly threaten to create relationship quakes of epic proportions, I am reminded of my childhood.
I experienced overt racism growing up in a small country town of about 3,000 people. Epithets, dripping with anger and ignorance, were hurled at me on a regular basis and cut me to my core. The old idiom “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just wasn’t true. Being rejected and isolated solely because of my skin color often left me feeling alone and lonely. Why would some of my white friends treat me differently when they were with their parents than when we were in the classroom? It was very confusing for me.
My dad and mom took my siblings and me to Sunday school and church every Sunday. They kept Jesus’ example of love and forgiveness before us, along with their support and love. This laid a foundation for future healing.
As a child, in one of those Sunday school lessons on the Beatitudes, I learned how Jesus had said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11 KJV).
As an adult, when I went through my first step study, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:1, which says, “Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them” (ESV).
Unpacking my pain and having my heart and mind renewed, I realized the stalemate that happens in divisive relationships is because “there was no one to comfort.” When I truly met the Comforter, through many tears, I realized that in order to not be a victim of hatred and oppression, I had the power to release people from any pain they had inflicted inside of me. I forgave them. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (KJV).
Today, I am free and can offer hope and healing to those who oppress and to those who are being oppressed. When I watch tension-filled, racist events happen in our country, I am saddened and angered, yet I’m most of all COMFORTED to know that if God could heal me, he can heal anyone! Celebrate Recovery helped me heal, and as a cultural community member, I want to help bring healing and hope to as many people (regardless of race) as possible.
Consider: How have you been changed by God’s forgiveness? How has God’s forgiveness of you helped you forgive others?
Pastor Rick Warren recently hosted Dr. John Perkins for a conversation on the Christlike response to violence, injustice, racism, and poverty. Watch the message below…