By Bill Webb
Among many Christian groups, Sunday, Feb. 13, is Racial Reconciliation Sunday. The name of the day suggests that this is not a day of celebration but a "work day" of sorts. Many have made progress in the area of racial reconciliation -- our nation has made progress -- but racial prejudice is hardly an easy sin.
Racial prejudice may exist between African-Americans and Caucasians, but the topic is much more complex than that. Even the smallest communities in America are likely integrated with various cultures and peoples -- different races. If people who are different in customs and culture and language are to get along, everyone must work at it.
For most of us, racial reconciliation must begin with personal repentance. Some are blatantly prejudiced against people who are different. They might say something like this: "Now, I'm not prejudiced, but those people...." Some are not prejudiced philosophically -- they can lecture, preach or write editorials about the need for racial reconciliation -- but their speech, their actions and their thoughts convict them.
Those serious about racial reconciliation will be cautious about saying things like, "Well, if they're going to live around here, they'd better change their ways. If they want to live in this country, they need to learn how to talk and dress like Americans." (I've never seen the people who make such statements dressed in traditional American Indian clothing or speaking one of the original American Indian languages.)
Forced conformity misses the point of racial reconciliation, which involves mutual participation, appreciation and partnership. Anything that remotely resembles racial domination has to be avoided like the plague. A winner-takes-all aproach makes everyone a loser in racial matters.
Racial prejudice has produced its share of hypocrites. We might never think of saying a discouraging word to another person's face, but we might be guilty of whispering a nasty sterotypical label or telling a racially offensive joke. People of faith know that no sin is totally secret. We may harbor hate in our hearts toward people, but we can never successfully mask it.
To be a person who successfully understands and appreciates people who are different requires each of us to be a person who understands himself or herself. We evaluate the influences in our life that cause us to look at life -- and people -- the way we do. Racial prejudice is foremost a "me" problem, even though it often is expressed as a "them" problem.
What does healthy racial reconciliation look like? Here are a few suggestions:
* Racial reconciliation is not a matter of tolerating others; it is a matter of respecting them and the factors that make them unique.
* Racial reconciliation sees people the way God sees them -- people who are to be loved into the family of God.
* Racial reconcilers are not colorblind. Rather, they rejoice in the variety of color and culture and diversity in the lives of other people.
* Racial reconcilers do not live in fear of others; they choose to be friends to people that some reject on the basis of human cosmetics.
* Racial reconcilers stand up for people who are being abused -- even when those people aren't present -- and confront racial prejudice for what it is.
* Racial reconcilers cut others some slack. Any of us -- in a particular setting -- could find ourselves on the short stick of racial prejudice.
* Racial reconcilers know the joy of discovering qualities to appreciate in the cultures of others. They appreciate the depth of life.
* Racial reconcilers realize that one Creator miraculously brought into being every tribe and people group and declared every aspect of His creation good.
We have a racal reconciliation teacher in the person of Jesus. Thank God for a Savior -- Jewish by race -- who chose to reconcile unto Himself Asians, Hispanics, American Indians -- every racial group that exists -- even Caucasians like me.