“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredible healing message of “You’re Not Alone.”
There is so much to say about the events that have occurred this week. As a church, we are sad and unsettled and weep for our brothers and sisters of color. Rather than be reactive, we as a church want to be responsive. We want to be a greater part of the conversation.
I hope you and your group were able to join the webinar on Thursday night, “An Open Conversation on Racism, Righteousness, and Hope,” with Rod and two close friends of Fairfax who are African American pastors. If you were not able to be a part of it, it has been recorded and available on the opening page of fairfax.cc.
I have reached out to our leaders earlier this week and I now want to address the conversation going on in your group right now.
The makeup of each neighborhood group is different and the stories, told and untold, vary in context. Everyone has been profoundly affected by the events of this past week, especially the African American community and other people of color. Communities of color have been living with these realities for a lifetime. Then there are those of us who are wrapping our heads around this for the first time or in a different and new way. I can’t give a script because as Brené says there is no right or wrong way to do this. But not addressing it won’t work. One thing is for certain, we can’t tiptoe around the elephant in the room (or on the zoom call) now that the sinful weight of racism has been put forth. These conversations will be sacred ground. You will feel the weight, the importance but you may feel uncomfortable as these and other feelings can rise up.
Here are a few thoughts as those conversations begin:
Lament and Repent
Lamenting and repenting is the good work that believers do every day. We reach out to God and ask for forgiveness every day for the ways in which we have not been image-bearers of God or honored that same image in others. We ask God to change our hearts. Issues of injustice are surely part of the work we need to wrestle with every day. It’s part of being in the “yes” position.
Listen before we speak. It’s so important especially for those of us who have not experienced these injustices.
Listen to what is happening beyond the news coverage.
Listen to friends and family who have been hurt by racism and unrighteous behavior and see it as it really is.
This weekend we will start a new series from 1Kings called “Take Courage.” We need a lot of courage right now to be the kind of followers Jesus asks us to be. I hope this study will be helpful. If you already receive the daily reader, a new one will start this Monday. We will be reading scripture that deals with how God sees injustice. If you don’t get it yet, go to fairfax.cc/reader to subscribe. Continue to watch for more opportunities coming. We all need to listen and learn from each other as we respond.
As you enter your group time this coming week, folks may bring different stories because of their own perspectives and life experiences. If you have someone in your group who is a person of color, this member is tired, frustrated, and hurt in a fresh way right now. Because of this, anything you can do to lift the burden will be appreciated. Ask them what is the best way to acknowledge their pain. Some may want to share; others may not. We need to be sensitive to the needs shared and not burden our friends with opinions. More than anything, we need to stand with our black and brown brothers and sisters.
If there is not someone in the group that is a person of color, this conversation is still important to have. Talk about what you have seen this week and how it has affected you. Talk about what questions you have around the issue of this injustice.
If your leader is a person of color, see them and hear them. Give them permission to take care of themselves and step away from the group for a week while they are processing. If they choose to talk about their feelings or tell their story, listen, and keep their story within the sacred confines of the group. Your leader has been through a lot this week, care for them well.
Some have expressed the tension between this injustice issue and law enforcement. We as believers are called to hold the tension of justice for all people and holding accountable those who have been unjust. We all know incredible law enforcement people – people who promote the legal system. We honor them in their good work. But this situation can be likened to a doctor who harms. Or a pastor who abuses. It doesn’t mean all doctors or pastors are bad; it means that in every profession there are people who practice their vocation well and others that harm and abuse. Any person of any profession who has not treated others with dignity and respect needs to be held accountable so they can do no more harm.
Pray for our brothers and sisters who have been profoundly affected by this. Pray for how to best respond. Pray for grace in our conversations.
Pray that the Church responds in a way that is hopeful and longstanding. Pray the Church does not back down. Or forget.
Pray that the country sees the real injustice and doesn’t get busy with other things.
Pray that those in power make way for real change. Pray for the helpers who are using their voices, their bodies, their position to promote peace and justice.
Pray for lament. Repentance. Healing. Wholeness. Sustained hope. Compassion. Restoration. Peace. Justice. Redemption. Reconciliation.
Pray for us to be like Jesus and not walk away again.
Pray that we lay down the barriers and let the Holy Spirit change us.
Pray for our hearts to be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may be in line with what God wants. Pray for his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
This is the hard work that God calls us to as believers. Let the beginning of this journey be an ongoing conversation…on earth as it is in heaven.