Today is Martin Luther King Day. Today our nation pauses to recognize the man and celebrate his noble cause. Today we remember the racism of our past and we resolve to proceed into the future with equality and dignity. This is good. I share in this future hope, even if I am somewhat disconnected with the past. Growing up in South Africa, the shadow of Apartheid blinded me to the American journey towards civil rights. In my memory, the fight against racism has a different cast than the one celebrated here today. But much of the struggle was the same. Pride and prejudice joined forces with cruelty to dehumanize a people because of their color. Praise God that change has come.
This is not to say that the trouble has ended. The Jim Crow laws have been repealed, but pride and prejudice are a more stubborn stain. Institutionalized racism has been outlawed, but the human heart is reluctant to show parity. We are slow to change. We are even slower to reconcile. There is still work to be done.
Considering the work ahead I have chosen to share with you this excerpt from John Piper’s book, “Bloodlines.” I am convicted. I hope you will be too.
No lesson in the pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony has been more forceful than the lesson that it is easy to get so wounded and so tired that you decide to quit. This is true of every race and every ethnicity in whatever struggle they face. The most hopeless temptation is to give up–to say that there are other important things to work on (which is true), and I will let someone else worry about racial issues.
The main reason for the temptation to quit pursuing is that whatever strategy you try, you will be criticized by somebody. You didn’t say the right thing, or you didn’t say it in the right way, or you should have said it a long time ago, or you shouldn’t say anything but get off your backside and do something, or, or, or. Just when you think you have made your best effort to do something healing, someone will point out the flaw in it. And when you try to talk about doing better, there are few things more maddening than to be told, “You just don’t get it.” Oh, how our back gets up, and we feel the power of self-pity rising in our hearts and want to say, “Okay, I’ve tried. I’ve done my best. See you later.” And there ends our foray into racial harmony.
My plea is: never quit. Change. Step back. Get another strategy. Start over. But never quit…
To white or black – or any other race or ethnicity – that is my plea. I’m not saying you have to make it the number-one emphasis of your life. Some are called to that. Not all. But I am saying to make it an emphasis of your life.