When One Part Suffers

i love my brother Speech Thomas https://www.adtheband2.com/#!Go-Back-To-Africa-Really/iab04/56b8a4cb0cf2dc1600e982a4… his music, his preaching, his wisdom, his thoughts… i’m sorry for his pain. you may not agree with everything speech writes, but for people who claim to adhere to the bible, i think the apostle paul said that when one part hurts, we all hurt. i encourage all my friends who have lived a ‘white’ life to spend time just listening to speech and other people of color. the world is full of debate and polarization. i doubt i agree with everything speech, or anyone for that matter, might say. and i certainly am not asking anyone to agree with speech, or me. i’m just making a plea that we listen. i think james the just also said to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

if i had been an advisor to dr. mlk jr; if he’d have listened to me … preacher to preacher… (this is a fantasy of course, but please hear the point) … there would have been no civil rights movement. my view of the world is so narrow that i have never expected anything but heartache in life when Jesus in the purest form isn’t the standard. had dr. king listened to me,  i’d have told him to please just be a christian, turn the other cheek, preach about the cross and make the church grow; for in the world change is hopeless. Have a dream, but let it be for more churches filled with lost souls saved, not more un-bombed churches.

i know that in many people’s eyes that is exactly what dr. king did; to many he set the supreme example of turning the other cheek. and for many christians religion is about fighting social injustice. so to many there’s not a more christian moment in history than when dr. king lead thousands to change america.

i respect that even while i don’t completely understand it.

it’s always seemed to me that politics enters in so quickly. i get easily confused. and my roots are so deep in evangelical church of Christ christianity that i’ve lived both the luxury of passing through the world with my skin color being no hindrance to my success and my world view being so narrow that i can boil everything down to who’s lost and who’s saved.

i know it’s all a bit more complicated than that.

but like i said, God help me, i have no hope for the world apart from Jesus. why else would i try to be a christian? i can be polite and embracing and loving and more readily admit to the fact that when it comes to faith it’s so hard to separate opinions from facts. but why try to follow the one who said he was ‘the way’ if in your heart you believe there’s another option, because surely trying to follow Jesus is not the easiest way to live a life.

had the fantasy played out, the fantasy of me talking dr. king out of his role in leading a movement that shook the world; it would have been a crying shame. sad as the world is now, how much sadder it would have been if the tide of opinion had not changed at least to the point it is now. when i was growing up, in segregated Arkansas, the ‘n’ word was used in church of Christ pulpits and worse was said in the homes of elders, deacons, and preachers. the sect i grew up in was partially divided 200 years ago over abolition; both sides thumping a bible to prove their point. over the course of time, one side won that argument and thankfully it wasn’t the stars and bar’s side; the slave owner’s side. while there are still churches that are hard to distinguish from a KKK meeting; i’d like to think those extremes are in the minority. i may be wrong. but  for the most part, i believe, american christendom as a whole rejects racism as a philosophy. in practice it’s still another matter.

racism is not over by a long shot. i’ve never ever heard one non-white friend say that it was. i’ve never heard a pundit of color come close to saying it unless they were paid to. when arguments are made about the advancement of non-white people it’s almost always a white person doing the explaining.

i’m not writing this as a politician or a public figure. i’m neither of those things. whoever may stumble into this essay of mine, it is intended for my nearest family of believers, those of us who call ourselves the icoc, or at least allow ourselves to be numbered among that fellowship or at least know that our ‘roots’ come from conversion to discipleship through this fellowship. i’m writing to us, as the brother who for a long time was known for being ‘the glue’ and was allowed to prance around the world in so many of our churches either preaching or performing. if you’ve ever had any respect for my thoughts please hear this one out.

i along with so many of my friends have spent too much time debating and need to at least ‘hear the pain’ so many of our brothers and sisters feel; our brothers and sisters who are not white; our brothers and sisters who have supported and worked hard to be family with people who very often insult without knowing and reveal prejudices with complete unawareness. i’ve been guilty of that so much of my life and hate that it’s taken so long to realize what i see now and that yet i still have so much to understand. i will not ever understand completely. try as i might, ‘getting it’ is aligned with having ‘received it’ often with blood. but for my families sake, for my friend’s sake, and for Jesus sake and the love of God i have to do what paul said and at least open my heart to empathy instead of condescendingly disagreeing. i need to hurt when my brethren hurts and to do that i have to listen when they cry.

so many of my white family think that we ‘get it’. our non-white brethren love us and even laugh at our jokes. but so many of our family bear their sorrows amongst themselves away from their white brethren, very often not expecting us to get it; just hoping we’ll listen.

i think we can go on as things are … the status quo in the churches… for a long time. we have already come this far and i certainly don’t write this wishing to stir anything up, i want to simmer down. i want a nap. i want my white brethren; i want me, to just notice that so many of our closest most trusted men and women have a whole different view of police violence, ferguson, ‘black lives matter’, ‘i can’t breathe’, the penal system, what they have to teach their babies to keep out of the penal system or the back of a police car; or worse. i want us to notice, that while these are issues that call on us to question many things we’ve considered to be ‘God ordained’; that we have smart, educated, dedicated family who want to change the system and believe God is ordaining that.

and if that bugs you, remember dr. king wanted to change the system. would you be against that today? will you take ‘i have a dream’ out of your sermons and inspirational quiet times? i don’t think you would.

for now all i’m asking is for my white folks and me to pay better attention to when part of our family is hurt, scared, hopeless. i don’t like dividing us into ‘colors’, but it’s not really a non-white problem. it’s a white problem. at least the only part i can speak to is the white part of the problem; and in my opinion it is the majority of the problem. i want white christians to realize we are in fellowship with people who’ve accepted that to be in fellowship with us very often they have to turn the other cheek and we don’t even know it. they have to go home to eat meat with those who do ‘get it’ cause we’d stumble, and so many of my brethren have been so sensitive and patient and Christ like on this subject, when i’m the one who should have been trying to understand better.

for now i write this with no hope that i can change the world outside the church, but i’m going to do all i can to change the church i’m in. if you don’t think we need to change, you’re most likely white. that should tell us something all by itself.

when one part suffers, we all should feel the pain. listen to our brothers, they’re suffering again. we can’t say that we practice what we preach; when feeling their pain is so beyond, so beyond, so beyond reach…

Steve has been a minister for almost 5 decades; and for more than 40 years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the https://portlandchurch.org

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