The world is on a wave. It’s a racial equality wave and if you don’t stop and catch the momentum you might miss it.
What is racial equality? It’s the belief that all races should be treated equally and that no race is superior than another.
As we think about why protesters are on the streets and why people are talking about racism, we need to understand that people are tired. People are tired of unfair treatment. People are tired of being judged rather than learning the content of their character. People are tired of the abuse and violence. People are tired of inequality all because of a difference in skin color.
Here’s the truth today: our skin color is not a mistake, it’s a gift from God (Psalm 139: 14).
I am excited about what God is doing through this racial equality movement. I believe that good things are coming forward as people stand up for justice.
But change starts with us. Real change starts with our heart, which affects how we behave.
Probably the most important task we can do during this wave of racial equality is a heart check. Where are we on the spectrum of racism? Do we struggle with racism?
Our first reaction is “No way, I love all people” or “I get along with all people.”
However, the same person who might say they are not racist might also say “I don’t hate people I just don’t like ....” Or “My son or daughter can only marry or date within our race.” Or “You know those people . . . ” Or “You people . . . ” Or “Why do they….”
Not realizing these statements above are actually racist.
The story of Jonah 4 can actually help us understand if we have a racist attitude or not. In Jonah 1, God calls Jonah, who is man of God, to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah didn’t want to go because the Jews and the Ninevites were enemies. However, eventually Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches the word, but in Jonah 4 we learn about his real attitude.
Heart Check #1 In Jonah 4, we learn God does not bring disaster on the Ninevites and Jonah was angry. Jonah was mad that God had compassion on the Ninevites. Hmmmmm I wonder if we are like Jonah?
Let’s do a heart check. Does it make you mad that God loves all people in the world? Does it anger you that God wants all people to be saved and blessed? Does it bother you that your political leader, boss, doctor, daughter in law, is a different race? Do you have an entitled spirit and think you are the only one who should be blessed, have the best car, home, health care, etc?
Your anger over God’s love for all people might be an indication that you are struggling with racism. God wants all people saved, blessed, treated with love, and respect. If you think you are better than another person or that you are the only one that deserves God’s love - then you might be guilty of racism.
Heart Check #2 Jonah said to God, I know that you are gracious and compassionate God, so he says to God, it is better that I don’t live but die (vs 3). Why does Jonah want to die? Jonah can’t picture a world where the Ninevites are included in God’s love. This is problem. Jonah would rather die then to change his bad attitude of hatred towards the Ninevites.
Perhaps you have been the one who is saying to others, “I don’t want to talk about racism. I don’t want to change. I don’t want a diverse church, company, family, city, or community.” You are the person who is resisting conversations about racism. Why? Maybe because you do not want to change your attitude. Jonah told God I want to die. This is sad. Perhaps your resistance to talk about racism, might be an indication that you are struggling with a racist attitude.
Heart Check #3 Then God says to Jonah, “is it right for you to mad?” (v 4). God confronts Jonah. Perhaps the LORD has been talking to you lately and saying, “Why are you mad? Why do you have hate in your heart for this person? Or people group? Why do you discriminate against him/her?" Perhaps God is wanting you to confess this sin of racism in your heart. God is saying to you, do you have a right to be mad?
Heart Check #4 After questioning Jonah, God provides a plant for Jonah to be in the shade. But the next day God sent a worm to eat the plant and Jonah gets mad. Jonah is angry over God’s love for the Ninevites and when the plant dies. The only time Jonah is happy is when God provides the plant. Jonah is so self-absorbed that his life is all about his feelings, his wants, and his needs. Jonah does not care about the Ninevites.
God confronts Jonah and says you are more concerned about the plant then the salvation of the Ninevites (v10). God was displeased with Jonah. What about you? Have you been placing more value on things and your feelings versus the value and life of another person?
As cases of racism emerge from the news, people have been distracted and tend to focus on what is not valuable versus what is valuable. For example, in a case where a woman who was walking her dog threatened a man that she would call the police, people focused more on the dog instead of the person who was threaten.
In other cases where individuals were murdered, people focused more on the crime that was committed rather than on the death of the person.
This is what dehumanizing a person looks like, when there is more focus or value placed on a non-human item than a person.
Racism is treating a person with no dignity or respect and putting more value on things - for example a dog and the crime a person committed, than on the life of a person.
Are you guilty of caring about inhumane things versus the humanity of a person?
God calls us to be loving and kind. God tells Jonah shouldn’t I be concerned about the Ninevites who can’t tell the difference between their left hand and right?
What about us? Are we concerned about people?
As we think about these heart check points: Does it anger me that God loves all people? Am I reluctant to change my attitude towards people? Is God calling me to change? Do I focus more on immaterial things versus loving people?
May God by his power, who gives us grace and mercy, shift our hearts in the right direction and help us to see people the way he sees us - with love and compassion.
God call us to love and not show favoritism to people. The Bible says,
James 2: 9, “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers."
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Acts 10: 34 “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism."
John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Ephesians 2: 14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”
If God wanted the world to be one color, he could have made the entire world brown, black, yellow, red, or white. But God didn’t, why? Because racial diversity is God's idea and it should be honored and glorified.
The good news today is Jesus died for the sin of racism and by the Holy Spirit we can love others who look different from us.
As we move forward by the grace of God, may God in his mercy, forgive us of our sins and may we humble ourselves and confess our sin to God.
Dear Jesus, forgive me for any racist attitude I have towards others. I repent of my sin and I want to do better. I want to model the love of Jesus to every person I interact with in my life. I want to be like you, where no matter who I encounter that the first thing that would rise up in my heart is love and not hate. May the Holy Spirit give me grace and power to treat others with love and respect. I can do better and will do better. By the power of the Holy Spirit that is in me, I will not turn a blind eye but actively be a just person who stands and speaks about justice because I represent your love. In Jesus’ Name Amen.