In this season, I feel prone to guilt. In contemplation of recent events and of my own privilege as a white woman, guilt has begun to eat me up from the inside. Questions circle my head about any bias that I have or have had and how I expressed it: Have I ever hurt anyone with insensitive comments? Where do I contribute to the problem? Why are these biases here and how did they root themselves into my head? etc.
I want to be clear when I say this: this is not a wrong response. In fact, in many ways I think if we don’t take time to contemplate, listen, and question, we would be failing to acknowledge the extreme seriousness of racism and of our own actions. Racism is a sin, in both its internal and external forms. I know I have fallen short, I know I have not done my part, and I know I need change in my own heart by the grace of God alone. I don’t know about you, but guilt keeps getting in the way for me; guilt is preventing me from taking steps forward, it is weighing me down to a standstill. In this season, it is crucial that we look to Jesus and cease neglecting his sacrifice: Jesus came to take guilt and shame and give us grace. When it comes to the sin of racism, accepting grace may seem like the hardest thing in the world because we know we don’t deserve it. We know we didn’t earn it. We know that we should have known better than to ignore this sin for as long as we did. At least, those are my convictions today. But, this is the amazing grace that we sing about! His grace saves wretches! His grace is sufficient and in it there is no room for guilt and shame because they were nailed to the cross. Guilt is a trick of Satan not a tool of God. Guilt engenders helplessness but God gives us conviction and conviction propels us forward. Let us remember these words from Paul:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”
As undeserving as we may be, we must accept this grace because grace is the catalyst to progress. Grace frees us from our standstill and breaks the chains of helplessness and brings us back to the Waymaker. To clarify, I am not appealing to the fact that we should accept grace and get on with our lives as usual. I aim to say that as followers of the living God we must accept the grace of Christ and seek actual means of progress in our lives. Grace is not a ticket out, on the contrary grace, when accepted fully, will actually grant us the capability to love others in greater capacity. Paul knew this and encouraged the Corinthians with this amidst their grief and regret.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. For consider how much diligence this very thing—this grieving as God wills—has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter.”
I find Paul’s words here to beautifully articulate today’s societal desire for justice and how to get there! Scripture tells us that true heart change and true justice seeking can only come from repentance. For, it is with the act of repentance that we are saved, by grace. Grace is the essential ingredient to a fruitful pursuit of justice. As I’ve been ruminating on grace in this time, I couldn’t help but think about Paul. Paul used to be Saul, and Saul was infamous for being a persecutor of Christians. It wasn’t until an angel appeared to him on the road to Damascus that he became a follower of Christ (Acts 9). Yet, immediately after his baptism he begins his ministry and goes on to be one of the most influential men in the early Church and the writer of much of the New Testament.
Let’s put ourselves in Paul’s shoes for a moment. Let’s say we ourselves are persecutors of Christianity. We have said and done horrendous things towards this people group. Then, we change our minds when we realize that Jesus actually is the Messiah. We were wrong, and not only were we wrong but we did detestable things. There is a pit of guilt in our stomach from our words and actions. What do we say to Christians now? How can I ever face them after I did this? How do I make up for what I did? We don’t think we can show our face again.
If you are anything like me right now, maybe to a certain extent you have asked yourself these questions in regard to your relationship with your Black brothers and sisters. This is the godly grief that Paul was getting at in 2nd Corinthians. However godly grief is not intended to be permanent, rather it leads to repentance and grace. Worldly grief on the other hand will bring these questions to a screeching halt where they will keep circling and circling until we actually believe that we are helpless. But, God’s will is not that we remain in grief, it is that we move to action. His will is to take indignation and let it be the driving force of our pursuit of justice. This is where I take great inspiration from Paul’s example. He had every right to feel like the most guilty person in the world, yet he didn’t let it eat Him up. Instead, he received the grace of Christ and immediately began to serve those he had just persecuted.
I pray that we may not get caught up in the enemy’s guilt game. I pray that we may take the godly grief stirring inside of us and look to the cross, for it is only in the presence of grace that we may begin to seek true progress. The sin is great, but God is greater. God, we repent and pray that you lead us in your way to justice.