“Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy],
and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].” — Romans 12:15 (AMP)
By now many of us have watched the heart-wrenching narratives of one injustice after another that have become all too common in the United States these days. We have witnessed tragic unnecessary deaths, false accusations of innocent people and insensitive public racial comments, just to name a few.
We have watched as personal pain and anger have boiled over into the streets of cities around the U.S., Canada and Europe. My wife, Kelly, and I have read the words of friends on social media who have shared their pain of being black in the U.S. We grieve for them and weep with them! I wish I could say I understand — but I can’t. I have never experienced the reality that African Americans and generations of their families have gone through and continue to encounter today.
At times, I’ve been given a mere glimpse into the pain. We have a multi-ethnic family, some joining by adoption and some by marriage. I recall a day when one of our kids was quite young. We were at a playground and two young boys began to make derogatory comments about our child with brown skin. I remember the emotions that Kelly and I felt — shock, pain, anger — and our tears that followed.
I have heard our other kids of color talk about things that have happened to them at school that have caused pain simply because of the color of their skin. I’ve listened as another one of my kids who works in law enforcement has struggled with the brutality carried out by others in law enforcement. And now his agency wonders if, because of public outrage, they too might be targeted.
While these situations have been painful, I realize they are nothing compared to what our African American brothers and sisters regularly encounter.
I am deeply honored and privileged to serve an organization that believes that all people are made in the image of God. We believe it is unjust for people to not have God’s Word in a language and form they can understand. We send people to the ends of the earth so that those who are often viewed as the least of the least — not by their choosing, but simply because of the language they speak, their socio-economic position or the color of their skin — may understand that they are of great worth and made in the image of God.
But with all my focus upon those around the world, have I neglected to focus upon the reality that in my own country, state, city, neighborhood and workplace there are those who are unable to live fully today in the freedom that comes with the value God places on them as his crowning creation?
I am convinced that the only true solution is transformation in our hearts and minds that can only come from the one in whose image we are created. This is true for us as individuals and as a nation. I encourage each of us to ask God to renew our minds, giving us his perspective and aligning our thoughts with the truth of the full context of his Word.
Let’s also ask that our hearts reflect the mind of Christ. In turn, our attitudes, words, actions and posture are unified in Christ. I pray to that end and ask God to heal our nation. And yet, I can’t leave it there. It can feel like so much of what needs to change in our country is beyond my control and influence. However, I don’t get a “pass” in this area. In fact, I believe it has to start with me.
In Psalm 139:23-24, the Psalmist David cries out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT).
In this time I am reflecting and asking the Lord: “What needs to change in my life — my words, my attitudes, my actions? Help me have eyes to see what I do not. Help me to know what needs to change in my own life so that I can lead well — in my family, with our neighbors and in Wycliffe’s ministry. And then help me to act upon what you show me.”
As an organization, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA remains committed to diversity and belonging. We have been and will continue to be committed to studying the Scriptures together and exploring what it looks like for us to truly love one another as Christ calls us to do. I pray that God would give each of us eyes to see and ears to hear how we can be a redemptive community where all women, men and families can live fully in the reality that they are made in the image of God. I pray that such a community would begin with me — as God continues to transform me day by day, moment by moment. Together, may we as Christ’s church intentionally pursue being a community that reflects God’s heart for all people.
To our African American brothers and sisters, whether you are in our ministry, our neighborhoods or throughout our nation: We see you, we love you and we are so very sorry for the pain you experience because of the color of your skin. We stand with you during this difficult time.
Dr. John Chesnut
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA