Have you ever realized in the midst of a conversation that you are taking part in something that will forever change your life--a character-shaping conversation that is asking you to shift your paradigm to see the world in a new light, a conversation in which you know you will never be able to look at the world in the same way as you did that morning? Have you ever been in a conversation that strips you of an old paradigm and asks you to move forward in a new paradigm, a conversation that makes you question whether or not you have the character to move forward in that paradigm?
I had that conversation today...
Emily and I have been studying together out of a book called Restoring At-Risk Communities by John Perkins. Perkins is a man who has been instrumental in pulling together CCDA and has done ground-breaking work in the area of race reconciliation. If you haven't ever read anything that he has written, do.
This last week we studied through the chapter in the book that is specifically focused on race reconciliation and ended (or began, depending on how you look at it) the study today with a several hour conversation with Steve Maxwell, a good friend and a minister at PUMP.
Steve and his wife Alasha are some of my closest friends. I was there when their son Jonah was born, they frequently refer to me as their "other child", and I spend a lot of my life at their home and visa versa. Oh, by the way, Steve and Alasha are black. Normally, this point doesn't matter, but today it does. Normally when I think of Steve and Alasha, I think of them as my friends and my family, as people who are an intrical part of my daily life. But as I read, I discovered something that is relevant to the material that I was studying: Steve and Alasha are black. Jonah, one of the cutest babies in the whole wide world, is black. And whether I like it or not, Satan has found a way to separate and divide us through the color of our skin. And he's found ways to make us, all of us, think that we aren't racist and that we don't have racial problems anymore. But the truth is, I am a racist. I am a racist because I am addicted to myself--my own culture, my own values, my own comfort zones. I am addicted to the things that make me feel safe, and it doesn't feel safe a lot of the time to know people as people and not hues.
So why can I, a racist, be friends with Steve and Alasha? Because of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus told me to "love my neighbor," and he said that commandment is like the first--"to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength"--he said that everything hangs on those two commandments. I can be in relationship with them because I have related the Gospel in who I am and have related my story to them. Because they have related the Gospel in who they are and have related their stories to me.
The truth is that the Gospel story, and only that story, can heal the rift between the races--black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, Jew, Samaritan. The only thing that can heal the rift is us, who have the Gospel story written on us, taking the step to build relationship with our neighbor even when he is beaten and bloody and on the side of the road. Us giving up our self-addiction and learning to love our neighbor, and us recognizing that our neighbor is not only those who look just like us and live next door to us.
So why has this conversation so altered my paradigm? Because I know that everyday is an opportunity for me to relate, to form relationship. Everyday is an opportunity to share the gospel story and give up my self-addiction. Everyday is an opportunity for me to make a difference and reclaim the beauty Satan has destroyed, reclaim it for the glory of God. Because I now know that I can help people to see their neighbor. Because I can now encourage everyone I know to give up their self-addiction.
Lord, this is deeper than I ever knew. It is more painful than I was willing to believe. But don't let me see the world through out-dated paradigms that keep me caught in self-addiction. Father, I want to love people. I want to love my neighbor. Teach me to relate the Gospel and to relate my story. Teach me to build relationship that goes deeper than any of the comfort zones and false gods that I set up. Father, make me humble before men that they may see my good deeds and praise You, my Father in Heaven.