My heart grieves the losses of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, who join a long line of Black people who were killed brutally and senselessly. My heart grieves for their families, for Black people and other people of color for whom the pain is all too familiar, and for all who have lost faith in a system that has not helped or protected them.

Racism is evil. As Bishop Jimmy Nunn said, “It is demonic.” And overt racism is easy to identify and condemn. But racism is also insidious. It infects our thought patterns, culture, and systems—even things that seem totally benign.

It is too easy for me to forget about the pervasive injustice that still exists in our country. I don’t worry about being perceived as a threat if I go on a run—and not coming home as a result. I’ve never been followed around a store because I looked suspicious. When I was looking for a house, my skin color didn’t restrict me from certain neighborhoods. When I’ve been appointed as a pastor of a church, my race has never been an issue. My Black brothers and sisters are regularly denied these privileges.

For white followers of Jesus, to love our Black neighbors well, we have to be willing to do the hard work of fighting racism in ourselves and in our society. Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility has helped me recognize the tendency of white people like myself to devote more energy to convincing others that we’re not racist than to eliminating the racism in their own hearts. But if we think racism is only a problem for other people, we blind ourselves to our own prejudices.

So where do we start? Listen to voices of people of color. I appreciated this conversation with my friend Rev. Tino Herrera, Rev. Darryl Burton, and Rev. Cheryl Bell, and I’m grateful for their willingness to share their stories.

We can also examine our own racist tendencies and work to eliminate them. If you are walking down the street, who seems like a threat? If you are hiring an employee, what makes you think one candidate seems ‘more professional’ than another? If you’re a realtor, do you take certain clients only to certain neighborhoods? If you’re a teacher or principal, why do you discipline some children differently than others? These are just a few of the ways our biases can negatively affect people of color.

And we can pray. I’m praying that today’s pain will lead to lasting change in the fight against racism. I’m praying for the safety of protestors, police, and the National Guard. And I’m praying for God’s justice and peace to reign.

This work is often difficult and uncomfortable, but that is true of any worthwhile pursuit. And Black people do not have the option to step out of the discomfort like I do.

Black lives have always mattered to God. If I’m going to follow Jesus, they must matter to me, too.

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