10 Steps for an Open Heart towards Racial Healing

Currently, tensions are skyrocketing in many cities and communities over racial tension. While many people shake their heads as to how the Civil Rights Movement appears to be back on our doorsteps, others shake their fists as to why nobody saw that the problems had never been resolved.

We are faced with solving multiple issues: the moral problem with brutality, violence, and bigotry; the divisiveness in the church; the inequity and prejudice between races; the polarization of social and political policies; practical solutions to civil unrest.

While the simple spiritual answer to racism and discrimination is “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27), the process of reversing biases and accomplishing justice are more nuanced.

Understanding the complexities of the race discussion requires listening and learning from the people we don’t understand. Many are not willing to do that and will therefore never be involved in reconciling differences or achieving equity for everyone.

However, those who want to bring peace, who are interested in facilitating justice, must learn how to hear from people they don’t agree with or understand. Here are 10 steps towards this understanding so you can be a true ally:

1. Pray.

This is the starting place. None of us are exempt from prejudice and presupposition, and we are certainly not sinless. Ask God to search your heart and reveal any error in your beliefs or attitudes. Confess what God shows you. Then ask God what he wants you to do about the problem of racism. He may show you a path different from those around you.

Psalm 139:23: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

2. Assume you don’t know all sides of an issue or policy and try to learn other perspectives.

Racial tension is a complex problem that has lasted for 400 years in this land. You will not be able to hear new perspectives or find new solutions if you assume you already understand everything.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

3. Listen to personal stories.

Read, listen, acknowledge the narratives you don’t naturally comprehend. Trust the narratives. In order to work together with someone different than you, you must actually trust and hear what they’re saying.

Proverbs 4:5: Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.

4. Forgive and ask forgiveness.

While the larger problem of racism may not be your fault per se, we all have a hand in creating and perpetuating racial divides. Everyone has someone to hate, judge, or suspect when systemic racism upsets the status quo. Be humble enough to own your personal misunderstandings or wrong-doing, rather than assuming that the problems at hand are someone else’s fault.

James 5:16: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

5. Empathize with other people’s perspectives and pain.

Everyone forms opinions and beliefs based on their own context and culture. If we choose to give love and kindness, we open ourselves up to empathy, which is an attachment psychologically to another’s feelings and experience. It’s not the same as sympathy, which literally means to feel for someone who’s just like you. Rectifying racial divides demands empathy.

Romans 12:9-11: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

6. Set aside party policies.

Racism and equity are not political issues. They are moral issues that have been politicized for the purpose of power and control. We can’t address the wrongs in our culture if we’re constantly worried about stepping out of our party affiliation and lending support to the opposition. If we belong to the kingdom of God, Jesus demands our allegiance to him and his mission. We must obey his moral law and fight for the things he values.

James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

7. Read about justice in Scripture.

The first thing Jesus talked about doing in his ministry was bringing justice to the poor, oppressed, diseased, and grieving. There are more than 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about justice specifically, in the Old and New Testaments. Justice is not a new political agenda; it is God’s purpose for sending Jesus to earth—to heal the spiritual, emotional, and physical injustices that sin brought into the world.

Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

8. Educate yourself.

Complex issues like systemic racism, war, and cultural differences are not as simple as we think. If we are humble and empathetic, we open ourselves to learn all sides of an issue and can become equipped to work on peaceful solutions. Find multiple sources to learn how racism began, how it has prospered, and why it hasn’t been fixed.

Proverbs 1:5: ...let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance...

9. Elevate people over policy.

Value conversation and community more than being right or winning a debate. Arguing over beliefs rarely solves anything. Instead of fighting one another, let’s figure out a way to work together.

James 4:1-2: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

10. Be careful with your words, whether written or spoken.

Often, we work out our confusion and frustration through language. Be aware that idle words cause pain and intentional words bring either life or death. Ultimately, your words should please the Lord. Be sure that your motivation and attitude honor God as much as your message should.

Psalm 19:14: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

new 2020 headshot of author Sue SchlesmanSue Schlesman is a Christian author, high school English teacher, pastor’s wife, and speaker. She has a BA in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Theology & Culture. Her second book Soulspeak: Praying Change into Unexpected Places released in August 2019. Sue’s material appears in a variety of print, online, radio, and podcast mediums. She has a passion for missions, social justice, traveling, reading, and the local church. Sue has been married to her husband Shane for 30 years, and they have 3 adult sons. You can find her in Richmond, VA, writing about life, education, family, and Jesus at sueschlesman.com.


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