Race Relations and ‘Bearing One Another’s Burdens’: A Brief Meditation

I often will explain to Christians when talking about race relations in America, that slavery, black codes, Jim Crow, and years of racist policy has drastic effects today for black and brown people.

Generally, if they give me enough time to explain in detail how my assertion is true, and if they are honest learners (two big ‘ifs’ in this conversation), they will agree that they can see how history effects today.

However, they will typically explain how they are not morally culpable for these actions. Further, they will explain to me how their parents raised them to love all people, and they would never intentionally harm anyone.

If this is you, please read on. Putting the colorblind rhetoric and moral culpability aside, let me say unequivocally, regardless if you feel culpable, you are responsible for learning of Christians burdens and to act to bear them.

God has proclaimed in his word, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2). What is a burden? A burden is something heavy, oppressive, something harmful and hard to bear. What does it mean to bear a burden? It means to shoulder it, to lift the weight, to strive to relieve the harmful effects. What burdens are you bearing for your black and Hispanic brothers and sisters? Do you know their burdens? Have you listened and learned their burdens?

Here is what Brad R. Braxton, a biblical scholar says in regards to Galatians 6:2:

“Christians have an obligation to shoulder the burdens that other believers carry. Apathy and lethargy are antithetical to Christian identity. The struggles of fellow believers should incite a congregation to compassionate and concrete responses. When the Galatians engage in loving, mutual relationships, they, indeed, fulfill the law that truly matters–the law of Christ.”

Our black brothers and sisters have had their eyes set on glory and have had hearts of faith clinging to Christ as they have been climbing, with chained hands, the ugly, American hill of inequity and oppression. They climb a steep hill indeed. They carry the burden of white supremacy and racism, and we have not borne it. We have not borne racism’s effects, we have, instead, perpetuated them. We have not borne and sought to alleviate their sorrows, and we have not fulfilled the law of Christ.

We, however, are commanded by God to walk in new ways. We are commanded to bear their burdens, we are commanded away from apathy and lethargy to an obligation to shoulder the burden of white supremacy until it is obliterated. We are called to bear their burden and seek to alleviate and then abolish the disparities that exist in our prison systems. Which, to be clear, have a higher rate of black and brown people behind bars. Indeed, there is no way to fulfill the law of Christ other than to pick up these heavy burdens.

Not only must we do this for Christians but every man. For we “shall love our neighbor” as we do ourselves. I love myself too much to let evil philosophy say I’m inferior to any man (i.e. white supremacy). I love myself too much to let a system exist that gives me a higher chance to go to prison than any other ethnicity (the reality for black males). Therefore, I must love my neighbor as myself and seek to annihilate these oppressive ideologies and systems. It is the second commandment and it cannot be shirked.

Evangelicals, we “must obey God rather than men” (Acts. 5:29). That is, we must obey God rather than politicians and those against social justice. We must obey God instead of our grandparent’s ideals. We must obey God instead of secularist ideals. We must obey God and not Fox News or CNN, wherever these contradict, of course.

Evangelicals, we have a way forward. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the carrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:14-17). We must not build up that which Christ has torn down. We must live in this freedom from enmity with God and other Christians and go on bearing our brother‘s and sister‘s burdens!

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