And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant aroma and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
We white Christians mean well, but it’s hard for us not to be unintentionally selfish and dominant, expecting things to go our way. To us, being on top and in control is just normal life. It’s how we’ve always navigated reality, without even thinking about it. When our attempts to accommodate others come across as condescending, we easily feel misunderstood and unappreciated. At our best, this is where white Christians like me tend to start out.
Some positive movement can be observed, thank God, in adjusting to our actual unity with our minority brothers and sisters in Christ. When, for example, an African-American preacher does well in a conference these days, we applaud. We applaud loudly. That’s good. Ten years ago too many of us weren’t applauding loudly. So let’s keep going. Let’s do everything we can to honor the Lord who died for us all. Anne Rice said several years ago, “Christians in America have lost credibility as people who know how to love.” Let’s regain our credibility, for the Lord’s sake.
But, as always, the best things are what only God can do. Our efforts, even when fruitful, tend to move slowly. But God can get right to the point. God can create a dramatic moment to electrify a whole generation.
We Christians believe that sacrifice is the highest form of love. Christ on his cross was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” At the cross he defined what it means for us to love today: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us . . . .” He himself said, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
Sacrificial love, love that gladly pays a personal price for others, especially for others unlike oneself, even hostile to oneself — that is not upper-echelon Christianity, attainable only by an elite. Sacrificial love is simply Jesus. And it is clearly commanded to us all. If we are unwilling to sacrifice ourselves in love for others, then we do not know Jesus, and we should shut up about him. But if we are willing, then the love of Jesus is real to us.
Let me again say that we should take every opportunity to reach out and build trust by our faithful and steady efforts over time. But what if God gave us the privilege of sacrifice at such a dramatic level that a whole generation broke through to a solidarity unimaginable to us right now? What if we prayed, asking God for the privilege of dying for a brother or sister of another race? Obviously, only God could orchestrate the events to take us there. Only he should. Reckless rolls of the dice are fanaticism, greatly dishonoring to the rights held exclusively by our King. But what if the Lord did place a white brother, through unforeseeable events, in a situation where he was given the privilege of sacrificing his life for a black brother? If God granted that prayer, many hearts would melt, and the lesser questions we struggle with would become easier to resolve.
Is there any reason, any biblical reason, for us not to pray something like this? “Lord, in addition to all the humble but significant measures you will help me take toward the unity of your people, would you please allow me to lay down my life for someone not like me? I’m going to die anyway. I would cherish the privilege of dying in this Christlike way. Would you give me the sacred gift of sacrificing for another, as you sacrificed for me? I’m available.”
This post was originally published on The Gospel Coalition