Are you racist?
Don’t automatically answer, “No!”
Maybe you’re not prejudiced towards blacks or whites.
But maybe you are toward Baptists or gays or “white trash.” Or men over 60 or loud women or intolerant Republicans.
Our bus arrives late in the early morning hours in Antigua, Guatemala. We wanted to get to the Guatemala City airport with extra time to ensure no one would miss our connecting flights in Houston. But now we are hurrying.
I’m keeping up with the front of the crowd. The language barrier has only been minimal.
All is well. Until I begin filling out my travel form and a short older man walks up beside me. He mumbles something about “help” in an accent I barely understand. Is he offering it or needing it?
He’s needing it. Sigh.
He says he can’t read the form. Will I help? I glance at my watch. Double sigh. I say okay, thinking he’ll have only one or two questions.
But no. He hands me the entire form, a pen, and his passport. It’s in a language I can’t read. He’s not from around here, and by here, I mean not any of the Americas.
One question at a time, I ask him for answers. He often doesn’t understand the words (or maybe it’s my southern accent?). Place of residence? He’s vague. Are you carrying tools/equipment? He doesn’t understand. Do you have any samples with you? He really doesn’t understand.
Where are you going? Home. It’s a region our country doesn’t even officially recognize. An enemy nation of our friends.
And here I am helping him get there, with all my suspicions and irritations now high. Is this even legal for me to fill out his form? And now my fingerprints will be on it?
Do I still have prejudices? Um, yes.
In John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, he tells of four ways his church seeks to eradicate racism through ethnic diversity. These can be useful to all of us.
If you want to be less prejudiced, pray for opportunities to meet real people that you might be prejudiced against.
Read books. Listen to speakers. Explore outside your comfort zone.
Look for people different than you. Delve into friends’ circles that are wider than yours.
Intentionally invite others into your life that are foreign to you. Proactively nurture relationships you never had considered. Initiate conversations that might be uncomfortable but can prove expansive.
Otherwise, if we remain blind to our prejudices, we’ll continue contributing to them.
“The sin of pride will subtly contaminate all our relationships, even where it is not recognized. A disease does not have to be diagnosed in order to infect and kill.”
Bloodlines is a helpful book to open our eyes to undiagnosed racism. The chapter on interracial marriage (which can be applied to many areas!) is possibly the best one.
“Will it be harder to be married to another race, and will it be harder for the kids? Maybe. Maybe not. But since when is that the way a Christian thinks? Life is hard. And the more you love, the more painful it gets. . . .
Christians are people who move toward need and truth and justice, not toward comfort and security. Life is hard. But God is good. And Christ is strong to help.”
Back at the airport, I finally finish the man’s form. I hand it and his passport back to him. He thanks me genuinely. “You’re welcome” then I dash off for immediate boarding (I didn’t miss the flight, thank God).
But I keep thinking about him.
Perhaps he isn’t a terrorist at all, but only a granddad anxious to see his wife and his family. To get home. Maybe I’ll erase the stereotype I’d drawn on him.
Because he is a real person. With a face. A name. A life.
Not an issue, not a political problem, not my enemy.
We’re more alike than different, me and this man. Two travelers on a journey whose paths crossed at a moment of need. Lord, have mercy on us both.
* * *
See the other. Be kind to the other. Love the other. It’s what God does. And what he wants us to do.
Who is an other in your life that you need to meet? To love? I’d love to hear in the comments.
My thanks to Crossway for the review copy of Bloodline
- Why are you still here?
- A sacred rhythm of grace