Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

There seems to be a lot going on these days. What I mean by that is, there seems to be headline worthy news every week (if not every day). And this can get tiresome. The idea for this blog was sparked from this article written by NBA player, Kyle Korver. You should read that article first. It’s good. And, it’s important.  

Did you read it? I hope so. In it, Kyle writes this:

“As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.

It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history…not some random divide.”

James (you’ve maybe read some of his blogs here, too) sent this article to Anna and me. After we all read it we were mentioning how it can feel like we keep rehashing some of the same things.  And, for Anna and myself, we can ignore these issues. I can ignore issues of inequality for women, too. And, one thing James said really struck me. He said he feels, “like we’ve just begun to have real conversations about it,” in regards to racism and how the talks can feel tiresome at times because it seems like we aren’t anywhere.

As a white man in America, I have it the easiest. Now, hear me out if, for whatever reason that sentence made you mad. First off, relax. No one attacked you. What I mean is, yes, it is true that white men can have it hard still in America. Very hard. We just don’t get discriminated against for the color of our skin or our sex. That’s all. We get two free steps ahead of everyone else from the start. That doesn’t mean life won’t be hard for us. We just get two free steps ahead.  

And, that’s when it struck me. If you know me, or come to City Chapel, at some point you’re going to learn that I’m a “Paul guy.” What I mean by that is, I read Paul’s letters in the Bible more than most parts. Maybe it’s because I was a math major and went to seminary. Who knows. I just love his letters. It’s my own “canon within the canon” (As my Professor Dennis Voskuil used to say) if you will. But, one part Paul repeatedly wrote about I never fully understood. I knew what he meant, I just never experienced anything that required me to know it. Until James said how it’s tiresome but it feels like we’ve just begun to have real conversations for the first time. We need Endurance. Patience. Long-suffering. Whatever you want to call it. Paul writes in Romans 5 that “. . . endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame…” We need endurance.

“Racism was fixed with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War” Ha.

“Racism was finally solved with the Civil Rights Movement.” Nah.

“Racism ended in America when we had a black president.” Still nope.

The green bar is SO short. So short. And, I’ve only been alive for a fraction of that green bar myself. And, it only feels like we’ve just now begun to finally have conversations about it.  

We’re just starting. And to those of us who have lived with privilege our whole lives--whether because of our skin color or sex or anything else--equality will feel like oppression to us. Because we’re used to privilege. To cops assuming we’re alright, as opposed to a threat. That, we’re able to do any job, not just the “easy” ones. That we belong, and not hear, “where are you from?” everyday.

This will take endurance. Paul says in Colossians 1:11, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” And the writer of Hebrews says that we, “have need of endurance.” We do. But, this isn’t an inactive patience but an active endurance. It’s not an endurance of waiting by sitting down. It’s an endurance like a marathon runner.

As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote while locked up in a Birmingham jail, just as Paul was locked up when he wrote most of his letters:

For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights…

… There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”  --MLK Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail  

And, as Kyle Korver wrote in his article, “I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”

And, as Kyle writes, those of us in a privileged place need to shut up and listen more to those who are--and have been for hundreds of years--telling us things aren’t right.

Or as James, the brother of Jesus writes, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to get angry.” I pray that we are quick to listen. Eager to pray. And full of endurance.  

“Time for me to shut up and listen.”

Written by Pastor Ron Radcliffe