Unity through Discomfort

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

I typically use this space to write about hope, specifically the difference hope can make in this world. With some exceptions, these thoughts have come from my experiences and observations. This has generally been free from controversy- who wouldn’t vote for hope?

Over the past few posts, I have felt compelled to write about racial injustice and inequality, and my journey in coming to a greater understanding of its existence and implications. This has generally connected back to hope, especially as it relates to being created equal by a Creator who designed us for equal opportunity to live full and fulfilled lives. These topics are considered more controversial and even divisive by some.

I have found this interesting, but not completely surprising. As I have been on my journey of learning, I have been challenged and have had to ask myself difficult questions. How have I been so oblivious to the extent to which racial injustice and racism has been a part of our world? Where does racial bias exist in me? These questions can be inflammatory and discomforting, especially without the full picture. Like many, my assumption has been that my “non-racist” perspective and belief in the power of opportunity was enough. Since I am not a part of the problem, I am a part of the solution. By being “color blind” I am promoting unity, or so I thought.

As a Follower of Christ, I attempt to look at situations through the lens of Christ. My rate of success to that end is far from perfect, but such is life as an imperfect human. Reflecting on the question of racial injustice and racism, the parable of The Good Samaritan came to mind. If you are unfamiliar with the parable, it is found in chapter 10 of the Book of Luke in the Bible. As a parable, it is a story Jesus created to illustrate a point.

The parable is more or less about a traveler who is robbed and left, half-dead along the side of the road. Two “religious” people see him as they pass by on the road, but rationalize their way out of helping him. Following the two religious people, a third person, a Samaritan, passes by and decides to help the man, even paying for his care after helping him off the road. This would have been shocking to the listeners as Samaritans were considered outcasts at the time.

There are many applications to this parable, but a particular thought came to mind as it relates to injustice. A number of years ago, while listening to an interview with International Justice Mission founder Gary Haugen, I remember him saying in response to this parable, “if people keep getting robbed, someone needs to fix the road.” In other words, if we want to put an end to an injustice, we have to address the root cause of the injustice.

While it may be uncomfortable, this is why addressing the issues of racial injustice and racism is not divisive. If our goal is to create a world in which unity can truly exist, we have to address racial injustice and racism. This is what it looks like to fix the road. By shying away from the topics, we as Christ Followers are as guilty as the religious leaders in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Yes, I did not rob the guy, but I am complicit in his robbing and future robberies if I am unwilling to help him and to do my part to fix the road. This needs to be our attitude toward racial injustice as Christ Followers.

Hope is found in fixing the road. If I believe everyone is created on purpose and for a purpose eliminating roadblocks that prevent the reaching of a person’s God-given potential is critical. This is a part of addressing practical and spiritual hope- removing the perpetuators of hopelessness. In fighting against racial injustice and racism, we bring greater clarity to the power of hope.

This is where true unity is found. Not in the absence of discomfort, but rather in the willingness to pass through the discomfort to reach a new reality. A reality of true equal opportunity and mutual admiration.

James Belt

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