We all have ambitions. Dreams, desires, and goals that we are marching towards in this life. Some, due to circumstances may have to walk towards these goals. Some, will have the opportunity to run after them. We often place our eyes on the prize which is the fulfillment of our desires and goals. We often do so with such tunnel vision that we refuse to let anything or anyone slow us down. Our friends, family, churches, and society itself all cheer us on,
“Don’t look back! Keep going! Don’t let anyone slow you down!”
But what if love is more clearly seen in a willingness to slow down rather than speed up? What if looking back and even slowing down so that you may walk alongside those not at your pace is a greater demonstration of faithfulness than crossing the finish line by yourself? What if walking alongside the weak or walking hand in hand with others you don’t understand is a better demonstration of success than leaving them all behind and pursuing your vision unfettered? What if the glory of running this race we call life is more clearly manifested not in the length of our lead but in how willing we are to slow down for the sake of love and empathy?
I often think of the pace Christ ministered on this earth. He had three years to accomplish everything he wanted to do in his earthly ministry. Surely, he got tired of having to repeat himself over and over again to his hard-headed disciples. Why didn’t he just leave them behind and select those who “got it” easier? I believe the answer is, Christ did not find success in simply arriving at the culmination of his passion. Success for Christ included the patient enduring of his disciples and their training. Success for Christ included being crucified with his beloved disciple and his faithful mother there with him. It included a tomb purchased by a Pharisee. It included wayward men who abandoned him being reconciled and infused with a new zeal and ambition. Jesus demonstrated love not by walking ahead of people, but by slowing down and walking among them. Whether it was weeping with two sisters, laying a hand on a man with leprosy, and appealing to the Pharisees to repent and believe in him. Jesus always walked with the people and never ahead of them. Sadly, Christians often ignore this example that was set by their Savior. Empathy is the fruit of walking alongside others while pride is the fruit of seeking to walk ahead of the crowd. One of the ways the majority culture church demonstrates pride is in the realm of politics. In my previous articles, I have talked about the churches refusal to allow minorities to mourn white supremacy and abortion at the same time. More recently, I wrote about the bondage of Republicanism that many black Christians find themselves in. Today, I’d like to write about the dangers of demanding a pace.
There are people who are responding to the Inauguration in different ways. There are the racist alt-right who on social media are boasting of their victory in Trump and are telling blacks to get over their loss (Obama). There are other people who lack sensitivity and are calling millennials “babies” and are asking for people to stop whining and move on as the Right did when Obama was elected (did they really?). There are people who are well meaning and are encouraging those who are significantly discouraged to move on and recognize that God is sovereign. Finally, there is another group (I’m sure there are more) that is made up of minorities and abused women who are indeed discouraged and, despite their discouragement, are not doubting God’s goodness. Rather, they have heard certain promises made and seen a disposition of the new president that worries them.
When these minorities hear other people, many who voted for Trump or who just belong to the majority culture, tell them to “move on” in any of the ways I have described above, what they hear is white privilege and spiritual paternalism. What they hear, are people who are not affected by policy or a worldview of supremacy telling others to “get over it.” They also hear an analysis that says, “If you do not get over it, it is due to a theological or spiritual deficiency.” It is possible that instead of the majority culture demanding minorities and the marginalized to “move on,” the majority culture should listen to minorities and the marginalized telling them to, “Slow down.” There are two kinds of circumstances that should lead Christians not to run ahead of others, but willingly slow down and walk alongside them.
Christians need to slow down and walk alongside their brethren when they’re hurting or weighed down by sin.
Christians need to slow down and walk alongside their brethren when it is clear that they are lacking empathy or understanding concerning the life and burdens their brethren feel or are under.
What am I calling for? I want to be clear here. I am not saying that minorities are the weaker brethren who are in need of majority culture aide in order to cross the finish line. I am saying that many members of the majority culture in America are racing ahead of their minority family in an effort to reach their political or social agendas. I am saying that many White Christians are not realizing that the goal of the Christian life is love not the longevity of America or Republican policy. The majority culture church promised its minority family that they would run the race of faith together. Then, a vision of America being great again was shown to them, and they left their minority brethren in the dust to pursue it. Can you see the tragedy? Can you understand the tragedy? Can you feel the tragedy?
Imagine a family running a race towards the Kingdom of God. Imagine that the family was made up of peoples from every tribe, nation, and people group. Black members, white members, Hispanic members, marginalized women, and even Palestinian family members. They are all running the race together, and despite a history of disunity due to one of the groups seeing itself as superior to the others, they all still run side by side. With their eyes fixed on the Kingdom of God, they are all running hand in hand. Then, imagine that one of these groups takes their eyes off of the Kingdom of God and places it back onto the Kingdom of man. What if that group began to run faster, and with an extra rush of adrenaline pressed on ahead of the others. With zeal they jumped over the hurdle of “Law and Order,” and then they swiftly climbed over the Wall that said “no Hispanics allowed,” with muscles groaning they climbed the mountain of misogyny, and with lightning reflexes they dashed over the border line that read, “Israeli occupation, Palestinians are the enemy.” This group has gotten so far ahead of the others that they can barely see them now. In fact, they didn’t even realize they were no longer walking alongside them. Love would have compelled this group to slow down, and to run back and walk alongside the others as they travail the obstacles that have been placed in their way. This group should have slowed down and asked their black brethren what the obstacle of “Law and Order” meant for them. They should have asked their Hispanic brethren why the wall hurts them. This group should have asked the women about the scars on their hands and how the wall of misogyny was responsible. Maybe, this group would have learned something if they would have asked their Palestinian brethren why “standing with Israel” was hurtful. Instead, this group cups their hands over their mouth so they can shout, and from the top of their lungs they say, “Catch up!”
Oh the dangers and lovelessness of demanding a pace.
From a gang-member and professional rapper to a preacher and theologian, Kyle J. Howard has experienced Sovereign Grace and has dedicated his life to proclaiming it to others. Born into a multi-ethnic family of attorneys, Kyle was trained in rhetoric from an early age in preparation to one day take over the family law firm. However, when Kyle entered into his teen years, he rebelled against his family upbringing. At 15, Kyle became a member of a very violent gang known as the Crips. At 18, and shortly before signing a hip-hop recording contract, Kyle was radically converted to Christianity. Since then, Kyle has devoted his life to serving the church through the various gifts God has given him. Since 2012, Kyle has attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At Southern, he has received an Associates in Biblical & Theological Studies, a Bachelors in Biblical Counseling, and is currently finishing up his Advanced Masters of Divinity in the field of Historical Theology. Kyle primarily serves the church as a Christian counselor and writer. Kyle provides a broad range of counseling services, but has begun focusing on providing soul care for Christians who are experiencing racial trauma. In his writing, Kyle has largely focused on issues concerning ethnic and racial reconciliation in the church. Along with counseling Christians struggling with trauma, Kyle has also begun coming alongside other counselors and majority culture churches and helping them cultivate ethnic and cultural sensitivity within their own counseling ministries. Kyle serves faithfully in his local church and has been married to his high school sweat heart (Vy) for ten years. They currently have three children. Kyle can be heard on his weekly podcast which is called the Coram Deo Podcast, read through his many articles at www.kylejhoward.com, or followed on Twitter @kylejameshoward.