There Is Hope
“You know me. But do you really know me?” That was the provocative question that my friend Richard Coleman posed at a recent Bridge of Reconciliation meeting.
Many people of good will gather regularly across the Twin Cities to work for racial reconciliation and racial justice. It is good work. It is important work. It is work that embraces the biblical vision of God’s shalom, as expressed in Isaiah 61:1-4:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion–
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
How inspiring — and challenging — that Jesus reads from this passage during his visit to the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:16-19)!
It is important to cross over racial lines for regular fellowship and regular conversation. There can be no racial reconciliation and racial justice without that. But it is not enough. “You know me. But do you really know me?” What African-American pastors and church leaders tell me is that a deeper kind of conversation is needed. A conversation in which those from the majority culture listen well to the experiences, the hurts, the fears, the hopes, and the dreams of African Americans. Romans 12:15 tells us just what to do: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
The pain we are experiencing today in America over racial issues runs very deep. It seems that the iniquity of our fathers is being visited upon the third and fourth generation (see Exodus 34:7) — and many more. But there is hope. There is always hope in Jesus.
A great first step is within reach of many of us. To create a sacred space where deep conversation takes place. Deep sharing, and deep listening. So when that question is asked (“do you really know me?”), the answer can be authentically given. “Yes, I do.”
That won’t solve all our problems. But it is a beginning. Let’s see how much God can do with that!
By David Lenz