Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. — Ta-Nehisi Coates
I was in my 20s before I had a friend whose skin color was different than my own. It wasn’t intentional. I grew up in a lily-white suburb and went to an entirely white high school. I played college ball in Minnesota, and my team was almost entirely white. It wasn’t until I played church league basketball during my seminary years that I met Maurice. Mo and I were the only guys under 40 in the league, so we guarded each other.
After each game, we’d slump against the gym wall to cool down and talk. As we became close friends, he taught me to see the world through his eyes. One day, I invited him to come play ball on a team that went into the prisons. As we walked inside and the inmates saw Mo, cheers and applause erupted. He had a lot of friends inside. On the drive home, I asked Mo about his childhood. He grew up 20 minutes from where I was raised. Twenty minutes to a whole new world.
As Mo and I lived life alongside each other, I witnessed injustices in the way Mo was treated. I was able to see how assumptions and stereotypes affected him. This friendship transformed me, all because we were willing to move toward one another. Mo moved toward me. I moved toward him. We helped each other grow.
Now, that’s a long story, but it’s the story of how Jesus wants us to live and move in our churches and in society. I shared the story of Luke 7 yesterday: how a Gentile centurion asked a Jewish rabbi for help by sending a Jewish messenger, because a Gentile and a rabbi weren’t supposed to interact – no way, no how. But rather than answer him through a messenger, “Jesus went” toward the Gentile officer, intent upon entering his home (Luke 7:6).
This is what we do. This is how we go. We move toward each other because Jesus, who lives in us, does not discriminate in His love.
Jesus, show me ways to appreciate the beauty of diversity. Lead me in creative ways to live multiethnically, multigenerationally, and multisocioeconomically as I step over imaginary borders and move toward others who are different from me. Amen.
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