Is Perception Reality?
"Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble" (Psalm 119:165).
Although strikingly beautiful and looking fierce, this little bird is actually a prey bird. That means that it's instincts make it nervous, vigilant, always fearing that some creature might be stalking in the shadows. Peace is elusive for the prey bird. Even if this beautiful feathered guy moved into someone's home as a pet and became domesticated, he might occasionally strike out at his owner. Whether defending it's food or running away from a perceived threat, it will be a rare moment when this kind of bird can just relax.
Peace seems to be eluding our whole world right now. Many of us feel just like this bird.
At least part of America is trying to have a conversation about race, discrimination, and privilege. Due in part because of the filmed death of George Floyd and partially because of a long history of inequality, some would like to make now the moment America listens to the voices of people historically in the racial minority. Specifically, black and brown people who trace their coming to America back to the days of slavery, these people would like a chance to air their grievances and some would even like to be compensated for years of pan and suffering.
Some state that they perceive America as racist in many ways. Not just ill treatment from law enforcement, they see inequality in many sectors from the job market to healthcare to housing options. Many have personal stories of mistreatment based on their color, ancestory, or speech.
Athletes kneel during the national anthem, protestors march in large and smaller cities, and Antifa rioters tear up urban neighborhoods all in the name of furthering this conversation.
A Different Reality
Perhaps on the other side of town, many people see things quite differently. They not only don't want to have a conversation, but find themselves quite tired of being called racist, unfeeling, or privileged. Their perception is that America has for the most part created the most egalitarian and prosperous country in the world. Not owing it's success to the slave trade of the 19th Century, they see Democracy, Capitalism, and God's blessings as the things that still make America the envy of the world. Frankly, they feel a little tired that many younger people and minorities only want to talk about things that they see as sins of the distant past.
What's more they see the current debate as not particularly fact based. They quote statistics for the last year available that 10 African Americans were killed while being taken into custodity, while 20 caucasians were killed being taken into custody.) One person wrongfully killed is too many, but it's country of 330 million people for goodness sakes.
For those whose parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression, they inherited no vast fortunes, saw their parents succeed through hard work and modest living, and view success as more dependent on perspiration than any kind of privilege. What's more, life is difficult for everyone, regardless of skin color. Perhaps some are using racism as a scapegoat when their problems are the natural pain we all feel from living?
Then, there are us Christians. Though our perspective is sometimes more skewed by economics and politics than our faith, we find ourselves almost as evenly divided as the secularists. In this political climate, is it really a good time to have a conversation. Neither side is likely to hear what they want to hear, but maybe both might hear something they need to hear.
How can our faith rescue us from being ordinary?
1. Encourage others to come to Christ with their deep heartaches. 1 Peter 5:7 encourges us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.
2. We need to listen to those who are hurting, even if we don't feel like it. "...But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no [a]schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26).
3. Tell the truth as you understand it. None of us has to pretend that we believe things that we see as false. Have your conversations in love and with compassion, but let's exchange our honest views and ideas. No need to pretend you believe something that you don't. The Holy Spirit is able to straighten us or our Christian friends out, if we give him the chance. And for goodness sakes, don't call other members of Christ's Body names, even when you disagree with their views. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we [a]know that we are of the truth, and shall [b]assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things" (1 John 3:18-20).
If we continue to live by God's word, we can have peace even while the world rages around us.