How to Turn Racism into Gracism
- Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Lift up humble people. Seek out people who aren’t usually noticed and give them positive attention. Remember that people aren’t less important just because they’re less visible. Ask God to help you recognize hidden heroes at your church, like people who volunteer in the nursery, in the parking lot guiding cars, or on the technical team running the sound and light systems. Look for other hidden heroes in your workplace, neighborhood, school, and other places you frequent. Ask these people how you can pray for them, and ask them to pray for you, as well. Check in with them on a regular basis to talk about how God is working in your lives to answer the specific prayers through which you’ve been interceding for each other. Speak up for those whose voices are often unheard when it’s time to make important decisions. For example, even though there are no children on the board of your church, be sure to keep their best interests in mind when making decisions. Use hospitality to reach out to people who usually go unnoticed in your community. For example, invite a family whose race is a minority in your neighborhood over to your house for dinner. Help people who are in the minority when they’re in a crowd (such as women among a group of men or single people among couples) feel more comfortable by giving them extra attention. Be sure to serve others in a way that they truly perceive as honoring rather than making assumptions about what you think will honor them and risk embarrassing them instead. If you’re in doubt about what acts of kindness would be effective, just ask them. Think of people in your life who you’ve neglected to thank for something they’ve done for you (such as your parents or a teacher) and express your gratitude by writing each of them a thank-you note. Ask God to constantly help you identify marginalized people in your church and community, educate yourself about them, and become an ambassador of reconciliation to them.
Protect the most vulnerable from embarrassment. Whenever you have the power to criticize someone with whom you disagree, refrain from lashing out at them and choose instead to speak with grace. Instead of blasting people because of their different theology, methodology, politics, or philosophy of ministry, pray before speaking to them. Ask God to give you compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience as you interact with them. When you encounter people who are less popular or powerful than others in your church or community, do what you can to protect them from mistreatment and humiliation, and advocate for their interests. Take people’s dignity and reputations into account before deciding whether to expose their weaknesses, faults, and vulnerabilities. Help make your church a place where people help each other look and feel their best instead of engaging in backbiting and suspicion, and a place where people encourage each other and help each other succeed rather than exploiting or embarrassing each other when they fail. If people ask awkward questions, use wrong language or hold unpopular views, inspire them to new levels of education and growth instead of just calling them derogatory names and dismissing them. Avoid gossip and slander no matter what the circumstances. Give people the grace they need to grow from their struggles.
Refuse to accept special treatment if it is at the detriment of others who need it. Choose not to express your rights or exercise your freedoms and privileges if doing so will chip away at other people’s dignity or hurt them in other ways. Value community over comfort; be willing to give up privileges that isolate you from others who are excluded from those privileges. Don’t accept any kind of special treatment that will cause pain or loss for someone with whom you have a relationship. Share in the lives of those who are less fortunate than you, being willing to commune with them on their turf instead of on yours. For example, if you live in a large home, accept a dinner invitation from someone who lives in a small apartment rather than expecting to eat together in your home just because it’s larger. Use your networks to help people who have not have the advantage of the opportunities you have had so far in life. For example, give people job leads and help them get good deals when they’re trying to purchase something like a car or a home.
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