I was floored. My “raceless” little world was shattered to pieces. I began to look back over my time in Kenya, South Asia and Brazil, and I wondered if I’d completely missed what had been happening there. While I was rankling against the unfairness and discomfort my white skin seemed to attract like sunburn, were my friends of color seeing—maybe for the first time—that their skin color was an asset and not a liability?
Thanks to my time overseas and the patience and grace of that dear church plant in Charleston, South Carolina, my eyes were suddenly and irrevocably opened to a world of pain and oppression that I’d been utterly blind to. My struggle in those moments overseas came because I was not able to use my whiteness to my advantage. And the humility required to allow others to cover me was a difficult pill to swallow.
I Must Become Less
Now, I haven’t achieved some miraculous level of racial reconciliation. Ask any of my (admittedly and shamefully few) friends and coworkers of color, and I’m sure they’ll graciously and gently assure you of that fact. But I see it now. By God’s grace, my sinful heart now has the smallest of cracks in it, and the light is slowly coming through.
Now, when people of color tell me they feel belittled, I try to listen humbly. When black men tell me that the laws that have given me liberty have denied them justice, I believe them.
When Latina women tell me that “harmless” jokes about illegal immigration hurt them deeply, I retire those jokes from my vocabulary.
Because Christ has commanded me to “be completely humble and gentle; [to] be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2 ESV). Because Christ, when he walked this earth, reached across ethnic barriers with gentleness and grace (John 4:1–45).
And because, if we’re ever going to see that “great multitude that no one [can] count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9 ESV), it’s going to require the wisdom, experience, input, blood, sweat, toil and tears of hundreds upon thousands of people who don’t look, act or think like me.
I can’t change the past half-dozen centuries. But God can change me. And I desperately need him to.
This article originally appeared here.