Part 2: Equipping Our Children to Think About Race

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Yesterday’s article proved that having a clear theological understanding of race and racism is important. We want for our children to grasp that everyone is made in the image of God, that racism is an ugly sin, and that we need to learn to love and appreciate diverse people and their cultures. But instruction only accomplishes so much…

The reality is that most of what our children will learn from us (regarding anything at all) is usually caught and not taught. For instance, our children will learn a lot more about patience from how we handle the jerk who cut us off in traffic than they will from our amazing family Bible Study on the topic. Our behavior provides a tremendous amount of instruction, and if we are honest our children tend to imitate our vices far more quickly than they do our virtues.

When it comes to helping our young people navigate a diverse world with grace and truth it is imperative that we model for them how to do this.

1.Be quick to lament and slow to pontificate

One of the most powerful things Jesus did at one of the most broken scenes in the New Testament was when He wept. At Bethany, surrounded by two grieving women, their anguished community, and in close proximity to the death of His friend Lazarus, He took the time to cry. It is a startling moment because Jesus himself knew that He was just minutes away from raising Lazarus from the dead and overcoming the agony of those around Him with laughter and tears of joy.

And yet He still took the time to sponge their pain and weep.

Today, we are inundated with examples of rage, riots, and rallies surrounding race. When we see these things is our first response lamentation? Are we moved by the fact that relationships are broken and that unity is shattered? When we see oppression, racism, and racial strain within the Body of Christ we should lament broken relationships and that the gospel itself is scandalized by our disunity (John 17:23). Lamentation is frequently the first step towards repentance, restoration and reconciliation.

Sometimes our tendency is to pontificate, to vent, or opine about the issues before we lament. Our children are drowned in our rhetoric before they see our hearts saddened. This should not be. It is good for our children to see that disunity grieves our hearts – just as it grieves the heart of our Father. Lamentation also provides us space to restrain our tongues from evil, or to emote something ugly that will steer our children in the wrong direction.

2. Promote diversity around the dinner table

Great things happen around the dinner table. There is almost something magical about inviting people into your home and breaking bread. Many of us find ourselves saturated in a homogenous world. We live, work, and worship predominantly with people who look a lot like us. Even if we have some diversity around us, we typically flock to “our own kind.”

It is good for our children to witness diversity in our homes. Many of our kids will meet students from different cultures at school. But in this context, their integration is somewhat forced. An invitation into our homes is an invitation into our lives.

Inviting people from different ethnicities and cultures into our homes knocks down barriers. It allows our children and us to simply behold people as people. Diversity enriches the conversations and enlarges our world. These relationships can provide healing, empathy, and understanding that would be hard to produce otherwise.

My family has been intentional about inviting a variety of people into our homes. This includes people from different cultures, even unbelievers and those from different backgrounds. In almost every case, our guests have been surprised that we would invite them over. It was something unexpected. But I can say that my family has been the beneficiaries of these meals. Our lives have been deeply enriched by the lives, the stories, the humor, and presence of our guests. The power of and the need for diverse dialog is what drove me to write my book Meals from Mars.

Some of the most remarkable things Jesus ever said were over dinner. In eternity, we will all be feasting at one banqueting table. With God’s grace, why not get started now?

3. Diversify your pallets, art, instruction, and history

Beyond simply inviting diverse people into your homes, I would encourage everyone to consider adding diversity to what you eat, read, listen to, and study. For those who are members of white majority culture, I encourage you to intentionally seek out literature, music, and sermons from minorities. Introduce those things to your children at a young age. Allow your kids to taste food from around the world, but also to come and appreciate other cultural contributions including amazing books and music.

Reading children’s literature to our kids with culturally diverse characters is impactful. Even storybook Bibles with more accurately brown-skinned characters is important. Playing worship music and downloading sermons from various cultures introduces our young people to the rich theology, sounds, and insights of God’s diverse people. The sooner we can do this the better. It is wonderful when our students see this as normal and not unusual.

Most of my American history books, even into college, only touched on the history of minorities in a very supplementary fashion. Because of this, I was fairly convinced minorities contributed almost nothing to America – aside from a few outliers that were mentioned here and there. The reality is that minorities had an extraordinary impact on the country from its very foundation. It is important for all of our children to see the diverse and kaleidoscopic influence of people from a variety of cultures who helped make this nation what it is. A robust and thorough understanding of American history helps us understand where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going.

Conclusion

In I Corinthians 12, Paul goes to great lengths to help us understand the Body of Christ. He mentions that each of us are unique members of it. Then he challenges us to remember that every part of this Body is needed and every part belongs to the Body. We must model for our kids the reality that we need diverse members of the Body of Christ to enrich our own lives, to help us function, and to relay to the world that we are united in and to the risen Savior.

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