“Come ye sinners, poor and needy, bruised and broken by the fall
Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pardoning love for all…”
~ from an old hymn by Joseph Hart
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard from an African-American friend of how her children have been hit and degraded by white schoolmates for nothing more than being black. Then I heard from a Native American friend of how his son has lately been name-called and bullied at school for being part white. And now a little town in Missouri is torn apart by the shooting of yet another unarmed black teenager and an explosion of racial hurt, tension, and fear.
This world and we people in it are so messed up sometimes.
I write quite a bit on this blog about racial reconciliation, because it’s something the Lord has been teaching me about in recent years and a theme that traces through the stories I write. But I still don’t know how to do it very well.
I know it involves conversation, and friendship, and pushing boundaries, and asking forgiveness, and going out of my comfort zone…which I need to do more. But often I feel like I’m missing something. Sometimes the more I learn, I just get sucked into a circling storm of “My people have done so much damage, and I don’t know what to do to fix it except just grovel to the ground and beg those with skin of darker hue that they might someday, somehow, forgive me and let me off the hook.”
And that’s not particularly helpful to anyone.
On vacation with my family last week, I read the novel Zora and Nicky, an interracial romance by African-American author Claudia Mair Burney. (Here’s a great review on Novel Matters, by the way.) Her exquisite prose and finely crafted characters drew me in right away, but it was her unflinching confrontation of race in America today that struck me hardest. Yet even more than that, it was the solution she portrayed that brought tears to my eyes.
Zora and Nicky, two young people of different colors, struggle to find who they are, live authentic faith, and face the prejudices and misconceptions they both carry about the other because of their race. They both come from families and churches with major problems. But most of all, they both find that the only place for healing and true God-flowed relationship is at the wounded feet of Jesus. At the cross.
This story clicked something in my brain. My people—people of European background—have horribly oppressed many others in this world, because we’re sinners. And to complicate matters further, those we enslaved and oppressed are sinners too. And it’s because we’re all sinners that, despite the progress we’ve made over the last century and a half in America, these racial areas still get so very messy and complicated. Because none of us today are completely unbiased or unaffected by prejudice and resentment and cultural blindness.
We’re all sinners, poor and needy, bruised and broken by the fall.
The scenes that made me cry in Zora and Nicky came when the characters of diverse colors drew broken together before Jesus and realized that, no matter how much our sinful natures and cultural blindness have divided us, we truly are all from the same family tree—God’s.
And maybe if we could all just come to Jesus like a certain leper did, falling on our knees before Him and knowing we’re poor and needy, there we could be truly bonded together, the broken pieces made into one, at the foot of the cross.
“And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’
“Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’” ~Mark 1:40
What do you think? Am I missing something here? Please comment and share!