I recently had the opportunity to respond to an email from an individual who was very concerned that their daughter had “bought into the lies of white people needing to feel guilty about being white.” With all the focus on racism and injustice in our culture, the talk of white privilege and guilt is being commonly discussed.
In an attempt to give a biblical response, the following is part of what I shared with the concerned parent:
One of the definitions of guilt is: “The state of having committed a sin and/or crime.”
Laying a biblical foundation will help us look at the topic of guilt.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (John 2:10).
[L]et us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them (Psalm 32:5-6).
Should your daughter feel guilty for being white? Not at all. She did not make herself white, God did.
Is your daughter guilty of sin? Apart from Christ, yes she and all of us as well are guilty. All are in great need of the mercy and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and what He did for us in coming into this world, living, dying on the cross and rising from the dead three days later so that we can be forgiven and saved.
What should your daughter or any of us do to address many of the injustices that have occurred in our society? A wise response for all Christians is to confess that we have all sinned and done others wrong. As we seek for forgiveness we can pray, “Lord, help me know what you want me to do to help right the wrongs in our world.” Then genuinely listen to hear His response.
A wrong response is “Well, the problem is too big. There is nothing I can do about it.” All of us can pray for the Lord to bring healing and wholeness to our nation. All of us can seek to learn learn more about the problems behind these issues rather than being prideful and simply saying “I am not a racist and I treat all people right.” And leave it at that. There really is more about these justice issues that we all can learn.
Is racism real? Yes, it is. Are there people in the world who don’t like others just because they are black or white? Yes, there are. Is this ever justified? Never – not ever. The problems are not a result of skin color though. The problems in our world are a result of the sin-filled heart in people who have never come to know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the answer to all of these problems? Jesus Christ. People need to come to know Christ and then they need to follow Him. The church needs to faithfully and diligently carry out the work the Lord has called each of us to do – to love people and make disciples.
My encouragement to you and your family is to take the time – really take the time to pray about the problems behind injustices in our world. Also, pray for people in our world who really are victims of racial injustice - some African Americans, some Native Americans, some Hispanic Americans, babies who are aborted in their mother’s womb, etc. And let’s seek to prayerfully learn about things we can do to stand against injustice in the world.
All followers of Jesus Christ need to confront the reality of racism, its lasting and residual effects, and its tragic desire to continue to exist in whatever form and way that it can today.
Nehemiah and Daniel (Nehemiah 1:5-11 and Daniel 9:4-19 respectively) repented on behalf of their nation even though neither was personally guilty of the sins that prompted God to send them into captivity. New Testament believers in America would be wise to follow their lead if we want our nation to prosper under God’s hand. If we are really wanting truth, justice, and righteousness for all people.
[In Part 2 I will discuss the difficult and touchy subject of systemic racism]