Andy Stanley - This Human Race
Hi everybody thanks for joining us. Today we've hit pause on our regular format in light of the tragic events that have engulfed our nation. If you grew up in church you may remember the story. One of the most perplexing narratives from the life of Jesus was his late arrival to the village of Bethany after hearing about the death of his friend Lazarus you remember this. And John tells us that when Jesus finally arrived he asked to be taken to Lazarus tomb which was a cave and when he got there, he paused, and he wept. He stood in the pain of those around him before providing a solution. In fact it was so emotional that the men and women who had come to mourn with Mary and Martha actually remarked on it. Here's what they said, they said "see how he loved him"!
Now, in some ways that's what this moment is for us. This is the moment to pause in the pain the pain of the black community, the pain of the families directly impacted. George Floyd's family, Ahmaud Arbery's family, Breonna Taylor's family the list goes on and on. The families whose lives have been upended by the looting. This is the moment to pause in the pain of our nation and to connect these current losses to the current of racism that has plagued our nation for so long. To pause and to feel it and before we offer our solutions to weep with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. That's where empathy is born and on occasion that's actually where solutions are discovered.
Now I've heard people talk about how sad all of this makes them feel, but come on, sad is how we feel when something happens, that doesn't really affect us personally, something that's far away. Sad is about somebody else, and I hope we can all agree that this is bigger than sadness. This affects all of us and consequently all of us have a role to play. Now I know that some people are sometimes uncomfortable with people like me leveraging the words of Doctor King, but come on, he said so much and he said it so well and he goes right to the epicenter of our point. The reason this has to become personal for me and the reason this has to become personal for us, is this injustice anywhere you'll remember this quote "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
So for us to move past what we're experiencing as a nation with nothing more than a bad case of sad is to miss the significance of this moment and it's to miss the opportunity of this moment as well. He goes on and he writes this he says "we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny". Now, this is true now more than ever. It's true now more than ever because what happened in South Georgia was seen by people in North Dakota and what happened in Minneapolis has been seen by people well people all over the world. And then he concludes with this "whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly". In other words, there's no them, there's just us.
So sad isn't enough and I certainly don't have to tell my black brothers and sisters that right? You aren't sad, you're mad and understandably so you're scared, you're scared because well you didn't see a 46 year-old stranger with a knee on his neck. You saw you, you saw your father, your brother. I have two African-American friends who recently became fathers for the first time. They saw their sons, they saw the death of progress. They saw the death of hope, they saw the death of well, maybe my kids will grow up in a different kind of America, a better America and if that doesn't affect me personally, if that doesn't make me more than a little sad, then I'm the hypocrite to even call them friends.
Now this topic is a minefield for me. It's a minefield for us, but that's not the case for every pastor or every church and you know that. If we leaned far right or if we leaned far left this way you would be the choir and I would be preaching to the choir, I would be preaching to the choir to a chorus of Amens and applause, but we're not that kind of church. I've been to my share of you know far right-leaning churches and churches that lean far left and it's so much easier for those pastors. I mean everybody pretty much agrees on everything and everybody else, well everybody else is just going to hell, right? But that's not who you are and that's not who we are besides. Come on, the truth is rarely found in the extremes you know that. It's found where the circles overlap in the middle, the messy middle.
Doctor King told us that as, well in fact he modeled that. He died in part because of that. The messy, the messy, messy middle that's where the brutal uncomfortable facts all come together, but it's also where problems can be solved. But it is so uncomfortable it's so much easier to retreat to the echo-chamber of extremes where everybody agrees but nothing is ever accomplished. In the messy middle we're confronted with uncomfortable facts, and by the way facts aren't fair, but facts don't care.
Here's an uncomfortable fact; white people fear black men that's not fair, but it's true. What makes it even more unfair is that in the vast majority of cases our fear of black men is in no way connected to our personal experience. And if that wasn't unfair enough study after study has shown you know this, that fear of black men doesn't even spring primarily from racism, it's deeper than that, and that's not fair to black people or white people. Most black men have experienced what some people refer to as the fearful gaze, the fearful gaze of white men and women, then on the other side of the equation is this the majority of African-Americans in our country they don't trust the criminal justice system, do you? I mean you fear the police that's not fair facts don't care. It's not fair to police officers with spotless records, who risk their lives every day for people they don't even know, for people who in some instances don't even like them.
I was a journalism major in college and during the murdered and missing children chapter of our city's history some of you remember that. As part of an assignment I had an opportunity to ride along with a black city of Atlanta police officer on the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift so we were together all night, and honestly I was pretty much scared the entire night not of him, but we went from one domestic violence case to another all night long and I saw firsthand just a little bit, I saw firsthand the challenge of trying to play by the rules when confronting people who don't even know there are rules.
So white people fear black men, the majority of black people don't trust the police, most police handle themselves professionally and then there's this, whereas our fear of black men is rarely if ever connected a personal experience. If you're an African-American you know this, your mistrust of the criminal justice system is connected to personal experience. Us, white folks, we fear what might happen. You fear what has happened and then as bad as all of that is that's not even the worst of it. The really bad news is this statistics, data, sermons, protests, none of that will ever change any of those cultural realities to telling the black community how many times the criminal justice system has worked in their favor, has worked in your favor that does nothing to diminish your of mistrust, does it?
Underscoring how quickly a police officer was fired and then arrested, that doesn't address your fear. For the same reason that reminding white folks how many more times they've been hurt by, ripped off by, deceived by white people than black people that doesn't erase our fear of black men. If you're afraid of flying you get this come on data, statistics, lectures, none of that helps does it? I mean being told that statistically you are safer in the air than you are on 285, that doesn't erase your fear of flying and here's why, because facts and data rarely replaces fear and facts don't build trust. The only thing that has the potential to replace deep-seated fear and distrust, is experience. We can't talk our way, we can't law our way we can't talk our way or law our way out of this mess we can't pie chart and graph you know bar chart our way out of this the only way forward is we have to experience something different we have to experience our way forward.
My friend John Blake who is a journalist in Atlanta recently wrote an article and this is the title of the article. The title was "There's one epidemic we may never find a vaccine for: fear of black men in public spaces". Now that's not a sentence in the article that's actually the title of the article. But in the article he writes this he says "I believe another way to fight fear of black men is through exposure" or our word experience then he says this "until more white people actually live among and befriend black people this fear will persist".
So, you know this maybe from personal experience, the white people who have all but silenced their fear of black men, are the white people who have befriended black men or have been befriended by black men and their families. Sure enough in communities where police departments create opportunities for people to interact with and to come to see police officers as fathers and mothers and neighbors, trust is built, fear is diminished. I mean, come on watching the police and the National Guard lock arms with protesters this week was powerful, wasn't it? It was their way of saying "we agree that a grave injustice has been done, we failed to police ourselves, we have more in common than not". They were saying that "what breaks your heart, has broken ours. We are more than sad, your anger is justified your voice has been heard".
So, with all of that as a backdrop I wanna ask you a question. Here's the question I want us to wrestle with, and here's the question that I want us to wrestle with not just today, but every day. If experience, if our personal experience is the way forward as it relates to the variables that you have control over, how do people who don't look like you experienced you? If experience is the way and it is how do people when it comes to the things that you can control, how do people who don't look like you experience you? Not what do you think about people who don't look like you, not how do you feel about people who don't look like you, and not what do you believe about people who don't look like you. Again, when it comes to the variables that you have control over, how do people who don't look like you experience you? And then more to the point of what I wanna talk about for the next few minutes. How should people who don't look like you experience you?
Now, if you're not a Jesus follower that's about as far as I can take you, but that's a lot to chew on because you do have some control over how people who don't look like you experience you. But if you are a Jesus follower, there's a lot more because Jesus told us how people who don't look like us should experience us and this is not new, we talk about this all the time around here. This is core to who we are, this is core in terms of what we teach and how we wanna be experienced individually and as a group of churches. As Jesus followers we are accountable to the law of Christ not the 10 Commandments or what most Christians refer to as the 10 Commandments, come on, you can keep all 10 of the 10 Commandments, all day and still be the chief among racist, it's true.
If you don't believe me ask the Apostle Paul, who kept the law perfectly while despising Gentiles and torturing Christians and then he met Jesus and everything changed. And Paul went from a violence leveraging law keeping Pharisee to the greatest of these is love Jesus followers in a day because he better than anyone understood the stark contrast between what had come before and the kingdom Jesus came to introduce. Jesus, who on his final pre-crucifixion night replaced all 10 commandments with one commandment a better commandment, a new commandment. He reduced all of life, this isn't an exaggeration, he reduced all of life to one transgenerationally relevant unchangeable command that has the potential to change everything in spite of how things change. A new commandment he said "a new commandment I give you love one another". Of course that wasn't new but of course he wasn't through. He defined it for us "as I have loved you" This is his definition "as I have loved you so you must love one another".
This was a new command, Jesus followers this was not a new suggestion. But it was so central, he said this, you remember this by this one thing not 10 things, not 600 things by this one thing thing you will know people will know that you are my disciples if you love one another as I have loved you. So, how should people who don't look like you experience you? Like that. How should people who don't look like me experience me? Like that. Then the Apostle Paul comes along and he elaborates on the one another part of this he says do you wanna know what it looks like to love people who don't look like you? Do you wanna know what it looks like to take Jesus new covenant command seriously? He says here's what it looks like here's a good place to begin "carry, carry one another's burdens". That's what Christ did for you. That's what the Jesus brand of love looks like when you do this Paul says "when you do this in this way you will actually fulfill the law of Christ".
When we choose to carry someone's burdens think about this when we choose to carry another person's burdens what divides us diminishes and what unites us surfaces. Because when you choose to carry my burden you'll have a better understanding of where I sit and consequently why I stand where I do and I'll gain a better understanding of you as well. Carry someone's burdens and you will fear less you'll understand more, you'll mistrust less you'll trust more and when the concerns of others concern you and you act, you are fulfilling the law of Christ. When the concerns of others become my concerns and I act on those concerns I am fulfilling the law of Christ. And when the law of Christ informs our collective conscience or imagine this when the law of Christ informs our national conscience, we will find common ground even when we don't share common culture or a common experience.
And here's the thing, you'll know you're getting this right when white culture and black culture becomes secondary to the one another culture introduced by Jesus. See here's the thing, when a slice of my culture gets in the way of loving and valuing another human being that slice of my culture must be temporarily or even perhaps permanently retired otherwise I'll just be content with sad. Otherwise I'll never step over the line to carry your burden. So, I wanna get awkwardly practical for just a minute because in the messy middle, when the circles come together when the facts come together it's always gonna be a little bit awkward. So what does the Jesus brand of love look like in our current context? How should it shape how people who don't look like you experience you? How should it shape how people who don't look like us experience us?
Two things, first and this is certainly not original with me. It is not enough, it is not enough not to be a racist. It is not enough not to be a racist. Non-racist is not the goal. Being non-racist does nothing to address racism. Practically speaking it amounts to indifference toward racism. If you're a Jesus follower you must be we must be anti-racism, just like you're anti child abuse. Think about it you wouldn't walk by somebody abusing a child and think to yourself I'm not a child abuser. You wouldn't walk by and think yourself I'm not a child abuser and say nothing or do nothing. We must be anti-racism like we're anti-bullying like we're anti voter fraud like we're anti whatever it is that gets you worked up.
I mean think about it this way if you're a parent as a parent I wasn't content to simply be non-liar. I was anti-liar. I did not put up with it and my children and our family right? I wasn't content with being non-disrespectful to Sandra I was anti disrespect to Sandra there was zero tolerance for disrespecting Sandra in our household. When you are anti something you address it when you see it you speak up when you hear it and to carry somebody's burdens come on to carry somebody's burdens is to get up underneath the weight of their burden and when we decide to carry the burden of anyone who has been discriminated against for any reason, we won't be silent. Because now it's our burden but, I gotta warn you.
Speaking from personal experience I'll own this whether you're white or brown or black when you shift from non-racist to anti-racist you may discover something disturbing about you. You may discover a racist in the mirror. You may discover subtle versions of racism that have been hiding even masquerading as virtues buried in the recesses of your heart. Racism you were completely unaware of until you decided to say something, correct something or apologize for something. For some of us, the truth is, when it comes to our hearts racism will never be rooted out until we are willing to speak out. And honestly there's probably a little bit of racism in all of us and who knows perhaps it will never be completely erased from our hearts but it must certainly be erased from how people experience us so that's the first thing.
Number two, proximity is not friendship. Proximity is not friendship knowing the names of people who don't look like you is not the same as having a friend who doesn't look like you. This is a big part of a solution author James Clear who's written several really amazing books he says this he says "facts don't change our minds. Friendship does". Isn't this true? Facts it's what we said earlier facts don't change our minds friendships change our mind.
So as I've urged you in the past pursue relationships pursue friendships with people who don't look like you. Engage in their reality perhaps this isn't so overlooked. Perhaps nothing characterized the life of Jesus more than his intentional pursuit of people whose lives and lifestyles were nothing like his. Jesus gets a lot of press for being a friend to the poor and the downtrodden but that is not the whole story. The men he invited to be his closest companions were from a variety of social context. His circle of friendships included the rich people, poor people, working class, religious leaders, a tax gatherer, scribes, women and ultimately Pharisees.
In fact in the same conversation where he announced his new command, he looks around the room at this collection of day laborers, a zealot a tax gatherer and even a traitor and he says this. He says "I have called you friends". Imagine this, your savior, the savior of the world your Lord, your master calling you friend he's nothing like you but he likes you and then he said this guy's "you did not choose me I pursued you I chose you". That's how he loved. That's how Jesus followers love not from a distance not in our hearts with our hands and with our feet with invitations, with time, with meals.
Here's the thing: if we don't know people if we fail to listen to people who don't experience the world the way we do, we will never bear their burden. We will not fulfill the law of Christ, we will be content with sad and we will be content with mad. And we may wear the badge in the label Christian, but we dare not call ourselves Jesus followers. That's why I'm constantly urging you to be a student first and save your criticism for later. The reason you don't understand the reason, you don't understand how white people could I don't understand, how black why black people are always, it's because you don't understand. That's on you, that's on me, that's on us, but that must end. As long as we're content with proximity rather than friendship we will always we will always discount everything that doesn't fit perfectly into our own flawed worldview.
So when it comes to the variables you have control over how do people who don't look like you experience you? And will you, would you regardless of the color of your skin decide not to be content with merely being a non-racist? Will you decide to make the shift to anti-racism, anti-discrimination? Will you stop, and I'm sorry, to push so hard but would you please stop with all the but I love everybody and would you go out and love somebody who doesn't look like you? Who doesn't experience the world the way that you do? In other words will you follow Jesus? He was so clear, you have heard it said and we've all heard it said, right?
You have heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I tell you that's not the way it works in my kingdom. You love your enemy and you pray for those who persecute you and if you do he says you'll be children of your father in heaven because that's what he does. If you love those who love you what reward will you get for that? Tax collectors do that and if you only greet your own people everybody does that, idol worshipers do that and then he said this "be perfect" because this is what perfection looks like from the vantage point of our heavenly father "be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect".
And we're like wait, what? Perfect yeah! Because when you read the gospels nothing could be clearer than this. Jesus taught that our love for God is demonstrated and authenticated. how? By how we treat other people not how we treat God God's fine but not just the people that are like us people who are nothing like us, people who may not even like us. I've told you this before and maybe this won't be very reassuring coming from me but I'm like you I don't always know what to believe. I mean my views on a variety of topics have morphed and evolved and completely changed through the years.
In fact one of the humbling things about being a preacher is that my views on just about everything are documented somewhere on a hard drive. I mean every preacher, I know wishes they could go back and re-preach or un-preach somethings, delete some old message. I mean we met well, but then life happen. Kids happened, tragedy struck, we grew we matured. We began to see the world differently. God didn't change, we changed, but those old sermons that are gonna live on forever somewhere.
And here's the thing: I certainly hope my views and beliefs that matured, I hope they accurately reflect the reality of our fathers world. But there's no finish line, my worldview, my perspective is a working progress and so is yours. What we believe we believe but come on our beliefs are limited by what we know, what we see what we've experienced but here's the thing while our knowledge and understanding are constantly in flux one thing is not. There is one thing Jesus was so clear about that there is one thing that transcends our limited knowledge, our limited insight, our limited experience and that's love. It fills the gaps. It reduces the friction created by our limited insight and knowledge and judgment inhibiting experiences.
There's so much I don't know. There are things I'll never understand, but my ignorance, my limited insight does not impede my ability to put others first, that has nothing to do with intellect or insight. It has everything to do with my will. So, like you while I'm not always sure what to believe I almost always know what love requires of me and so do you. You, you are somebody's experience. How do people who don't look like you experience you? How should they? Jesus made that uncomfortably clear and then from the pages of the Gospels he turns and he imagine, he looks over his shoulder at me and he looks over his shoulder at you and he looks over his shoulder at people who don't look anything like you and he says follow me.
Follow me and I'll show you what love requires of you and if we accept that simple invitation, perhaps in time we'll all lose our fear of flying. Perhaps we will silence our irrational fear of black men. Perhaps we'll see men and women fathers and mothers instead of just uniforms and badges. Perhaps in the chaos of the blue lights and the sirens we'll see somebody's son. We'll see somebody's little girl and perhaps some day it'll finally dawn on all of us that whatever affects one of us directly affects all of us indirectly because we are all made in the image of God and we are all part of the human race.