For some time, I’ve been having two very different conversations with two very different groups within my christian family. One is with African-American Christians and the other with white Christians, both mostly evangelicals, although many of the African-Americans don’t use that label.

I compare these conversations to the marital counseling I provide in the sense that there are of course many things I say to the couple together, but there are often things I would say exclusively to the wife or husband. Here, I’m hoping I can safely say everything in the presence of both members of the family.

CONVERSATION A

With my white christian family, I increasingly talk about how Samaria in Acts 1:6-8 should speak to our black/white relationships. Though we are clearly commanded to be people of justice and goodness who understand and practice the Golden Rule, I wonder how much of a problem it should be for them that the progress in justice and freedom that African-Americans have experienced over the last 60+ years in the workplace, in the marketplace, in neighborhoods and schools all over this country is not something that is associated with the “white” Evangelical Church.

I want to know whether it’s bothersome to them that Jesus’ teaching that we are to be known by the way we love one another lacks any real traction in the way America perceives the white evangelical church. 

Our nation’s marketplace of ideas is still not very populated with soundbites, discussions, podcasts, dissertations, or published books from the white“ Evangelical Church chiding, encouraging, strategizing, funding, pleading, and making grand and substantive arguments and actions for America to “do right” by it’s Black neighbors. I’m afraid that those you work hard to evangelize may end up perceiving that they are on their way to figuring out this race thing without the help of the white evangelical church. And after the outpouring this pass year of protesters from seemingly all corners of the USA and the planet, do you thing your children may be coming to that same conclusion? 

I’ve suggested that the continued lack of “love one another” leadership may effect the witness in “Jerusalem, Judea… and the ends of the earth.”

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea …and to the ends of the earth.” Do you think me dramatic or harsh when I say you have not witnessed well in Samaria? If Samaria is the near and familiar, yet uncomfortable, then is it far-fetched to accuse you of hardly using John 13:34-35 to witness by partnering there? Can you see a white Evangelical missions history of great witness to brown and black across seas and oceans, but hardly in your own city, town and nation?

I have expressed a hope to see you acknowledge the low-hanging fruit: displaying the transforming power of the gospel by seeing your own Samaria as an unavoidable component of the “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Don’t you think it illuminating that Jesus named Samaria? It’s near, familiar, uncomfortable, unresolved, complicated…  I sincerely wonder what it would do to our global evangelism efforts, and what type of spiritual revival and outbreak of saved souls might the Holy Spirit sweep through our land, if you were courageous and humble enough to bring John 13:34-35 along with Matthew 22:39. “…And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” to all of your Samaritan relationships.

CONVERSATION B

With my Black Christian family, I’ve humbly broached conversation around the effectiveness and holiness of gratitude. I express concern for giving a thankful heart its proper voice in our personal and public discourse. The current voices of Enough, Our Lives Matter, I Can’t Breath etc., are timely, necessary and led with a heartfelt urgency and outrage by mostly a younger generation.

Are we, as the Black Church’s baby boomers, being courageously faithful to God’s glory by pointing out that in the USA over the last three plus generations, much progress has been made? I believe there is an easy case to make that we have so very much to be grateful for and thrilled by. Shouldn’t we as a people avoid the example of the post-Egypt Children of Israel who had a damning pattern of experiencing God’s hand of blessing in multiple ways, yet frequently responded to Him with temporary thanks and repeated requests for “more?”

“Being grateful for things being as well as they are” is a thing!

I try to make the case that we are responsible for making a lot of noise around the amount of amazing progress in the USA in this area of race. To be honest about the greatness of God, the prowess of evil, our agony at the hands of our enemies and the power of God to orchestrate freedoms and victories for us is a very Davidic pattern throughout Psalms. The degree to which our country has responded to the moral necessity to catch up with our documented values around “all men are created equal…” has been historic. It would be unholy and “untruth” to minimize and skip over these blessing simply because of the awful truths about areas of our daily lives that seem to still be mired in blind and racist responses.

I want to be free to “thank God for things being as well as they are.” We are grateful for the many mountains He has moved. The progress our people has experienced and its benefit to all groups of people in this country and around world is worthy of continued praise!

My appeal is that we would never allow our perpetual desire for a full reckoning of the stated values of this country to rob us of the courage to lead others in exercising the power of gratefulness and thankfulness.   

Being thankful is a gaining of ground, not a loss of ground! Id like to think that we trust God enough to be unabashed braggarts about the giant movement in our country over the last 60+ years, while at the same time being able to righteously lean into what else needs to be done, what else is unfair, unfinished and unchristian.

Gratitude can…

  • improve hearing and perception
  • embolden fence-sitters
  • create an invitation to courage and strength for the weak and afraid

So, the whole family has now heard both conversations.  And much like in my marital counseling sessions, the idea of ascribing 50-50 blame is not effective or true. I have found that coming up with equal“ amounts of things for people to work on is all too often an unsuccessful endeavor. The truly holy action is for each individual, or group, to concentrate on the block of wood in their own eye.

I have COME IN PEACE.

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Michael Martin

Michael Martin

Lead Pastor at Stillmeadow EFC
Michael S. Martin serves in the Christian community as a pastor, counselor, and mentor to pastors. He is known as a personal, marriage/family counselor and as a retreat speaker. He is the lead pastor at Stillmeadow EFC in Baltimore, MD.
Michael Martin

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar VanessaK on January 31, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    PastorMichael, Thank you for these open, forward, and thoughtful conversations that address all our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to apply this to every relationship that God allows in our lives. Seeing each other through God’s eyes is extremely important first step which generates love, acceptance and gratefulness. Then we need to check our emotional filters, our past stored data on our brain’s hard drive and bring it to the altar as much as we need to, till we love just like Jesus.

  2. Avatar Bill Kynes on January 27, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Michael, thanks for these good words addressed to all of us. Yes, as a White Evangelical, I need to continue to find ways to reach out to my African American brothers and sisters in love! The gospel requires no less.

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