God is inviting us to respond to the volatile issues around racism in a uniquely Kingdom way, a way modeled by Jesus. This Kingdom way provides concrete handles for battling against the rulers, authorities and powers that drive racism in our world.
What is the unique Kingdom response to issues regarding race? The answer is rooted in Ephesians 6:12: that our battle is not against flesh and blood. This means that we can’t make enemies out of others. We are called to never fight against fellow “image bearers” of God — other people. But if we’re not careful in the work of fighting racism, we will make enemies out of those who are racist. The principalities (spiritual agents that influence the world) desire nothing more than to inflict a new version of conflict. Our impulse to fight each other comes because deep in our spirits we know that we should be revolting against something. But in our ignorance of the systems at work, we turn all that angry energy towards each other.
But what if there’s a different posture we can take when engaging this work? What if in this defining (“kairos”) moment, we revolt against the systems of racial oppression through education, prayer, activism, and conversation? What if we choose to manage our responses to the potentially relationship-breaking emotions we’ll have? What if when we dismantle the systems, we’re also able to protect and build up our covenant to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ?
This is modeled in the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17. Jesus, the Master, was doing the work of a slave. In those days, it was customary for a slave to wash the feet of visitors. To not provide this kindness would be considered inhospitable. Some believe that maybe the disciples’ feet were not washed upon coming in because there were no servants available to do this job. Whatever the reason, Jesus himself gets up from the table, removes his outer garment, pours himself a basin of water and begins to wash the feet of the disciples.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus did not use power over people, but used his power to come under and serve. He used the power of sacrifice to reach the hearts of people. The power-over strategies of the world can only force behavior. We look to this example, because in the struggle for racial equity we want and need hearts to be changed.
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet mere hours before his arrest — hours before his disciples would expect him to respond with the power-over approach the world uses. However, he knew he was going to respond with power under, even to the point of death on the cross. In this, Jesus teaches us that when the powers press in, we as Kingdom people are to resist struggling against flesh and blood through pride, anger, vengeance, and violence. Instead, we take a posture of love, one that leads us to serve and not to attempt to dominate.
There are four responses of this posture of power under:
- Respond with Confidence
- Respond with Humility
- Respond with Truth
- Respond with Invitation
These four responses prepare us to engage issues of racism in a Kingdom way, a way modeled by Jesus, a way that will change the world.
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