I attend a very white university. Both churches that I have been a member of are also mostly white. There are times when I think nothing of the fact, because I’m surrounded by people who look like me and, often, have similar backgrounds. Familiarity is comfortable.
In his book Befriend (10/10 would recommend), Scott Sauls claims, “Where there is injustice, most white Americans would say that they stand with the victims and against the perpetrators. But do people of color feel that these things are true?” Being in the majority is comfortable.
Sauls goes on to discuss the “diversity” that white people like to claim: “In fact, it is not true diversity, because it requires zero self-reflection or change from the ethnic majority. On the other hand, cosmetic, recreational, and token ‘diversity’ is costly to minorities because it requires them to do all the bending, all the adjusting, all the adapting, all the sidelining and sacrificing of their own culture and heritage and uniqueness, to assimilate into a white world where things are done in ‘the white way.'” Befriending those who are not like us can be uncomfortable.
Barrack Obama’s quote from Nelson Mandela broke the record for most-liked tweet of all time. This quote, combined with this picture, highlights the naïveté of children towards racial discrimination. I think this is a great picture, and I’ve witnessed the apparent color blindness of children. But I believe in total depravity in this fallen world; the first half of Romans 5:19 says that “by the one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners.” As uncomfortable as it is to think about, any one of us is capable of hating others for their race, due to our innate sinful nature. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So what can we do? Is there any hope for humanity?
“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
The remainder of Romans 5:19 gives us hope: Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will was enough to make us righteous.
But the thing is…Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will required humility and obedience “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus’ act of extending friendship to sinners included giving up His life in the most humiliating and painful way possible. His sacrifice was anything but comfortable.
If Jesus can love those who are infinitely beneath Him, we, as followers of Christ, can love fellow sinners who need grace just as much as we do. Together we can bow at the name of Jesus and confess Him, who is our superior in every way, as Lord.
The gospel gives us the freedom to have friendships that mimic the kingdom of God, consisting of every tribe and every nation. Sauls also describes the impact of the gospel on race relations: “It means that through Jesus, our definition of ‘us’ must expand, and our definition of ‘them’ must shrink.”
This school year, I commit to extending my circle of friends to more of those who don’t look exactly like me. Not so I can say, “I’m not a racist; I have a [black/hispanic/Asian] friend.” Instead, I hope to demonstrate the power of the gospel through my friendships, by choosing Christ-like love over comfort.
Emily (@ejenkins220) is an author and editor at thegracescripts.com. She is passionate about ministry + sharing in her brokenness. Emily currently attends Samford University and is studying Religion. She lives in Alabama.