By Pastor Paula Burchill
I have been feeling moved and led to add my two cents to the conversation around race in this country, but I have been putting it off and struggling a lot. I know there are deep and big feelings around protests that are happening during the national anthem. I am a military wife—I understand the side that feels hurt by the demonstrations. And having listened to people like Michael Bennett, I also understand that there are people of color who truly believe that this is a vital way to grab the attention of a nation that needs to hear that there is not equality for all, particularly people of color. But I also understand that for some people, when they feel disrespected, conversation is stopped, and as much as we might need to talk to each other, we don’t seem to be doing it. Rather than moving together, each side seems to be moving further and further apart.
Owners and presidents and police officers and players make statements and what are we to do? What would Jesus have us do?
I have been thinking about some comments Jesus made in Matthew 7: 3-5. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really good at pointing out other people’s specks– but the log in my own eye? That is a bit harder. So I have been trying to ask myself some hard questions about my own experience, particularly around race and racism.
To be honest, I really don’t think about race all that much. But as I have done some reading and listening, I have been finding out that that is a luxury of being white, and I never even realized that was true. I don’t need to think about it. Most people of color will tell you they think about race every day.
I have to confess that I have never really thought of myself as even having a race. I grew up around people that pretty much all look like me. When I looked to leaders in my community or my country, they looked like my dad or my grandpa. The illustrations in my books, the characters on the TV shows I watched, they all looked like me. That taught me that I am what is normal. Everyone else is different.
I have never put on a skin colored band-aid and not had it match my skin. I almost never get asked for additional ID when I pay with a credit card. When we got a loan for our house or our car, it was smooth and easy. My kids go to schools with plenty of resources. I believe that if you work hard, you can do anything because this is true for my family.
I take these things for granted, but these things are not true for many people of color.
So what I tend to do is to start to point out specks in other eyes: Oh, you don’t have a house or a car, you probably aren’t working hard enough. You are complaining about something stupid like the color of a band aid, get over it. There are worse things than that. You see my people also don’t like complaining because we think there is no sense crying over spilled milk. But I’m realizing it is a lot easier to not cry over spilled milk when most things work out in your favor.
When Jesus asked me to take a look at the log in my own eye—I’m kind of getting idea that he did that because he knows that speck seeking stops me from listening. It stops me from seeking understanding, from loving my neighbor, from being kind and from putting my neighbor’s actions in the best light possible.
So I guess I’m asking you to join me in taking a look at the log in your own eye. No matter what side of this issue you find yourself, can you stop, step back and just for a moment put yourself in your neighbor’s shoes? What would it be like to be a veteran and feel disrespected for your service? What would it be like to be a person and of color and not feel safe in your community?
And then if you can do that for just a moment, will you join me in praying for love in your heart? Because you know what? Jesus said the way the world would know that we are Jesus’ disciples is by our love for each other. There are so many examples of hate. Can we be examples of love?
I pray that I can. And I pray that this helps us to have respectful conversation around this topic. I welcome you to reach out to me and share your experience.