Last Friday evening at Finnegan’s bed time we read books. We always read books before bed. And like all dutiful parents I was feeling particularly lazy and unmotivated to read.
Earlier in the day I had seen a brand new Reading Rainbow video. The video featured Levar Burton reading a book about Martin Luther King Jr.. Tara and I have been easing into the idea of Race with Finn. For the most part he has not noticed any mentionable difference in the way people look. What a beautiful thing that is. Yet I know that there are gears turning that he never talks about and I cannot get a handle on.
The idea of people looking different or acting different or talking different is one thing. The idea that you could hate for those differences was inconceivable for Finnegan.
We arrived at a place in the video/book where someone tried to hurt MLK Jr. and his family. Finn stood up and walked away. He started reaching for his other books that are a smidgeon more jovial. When I asked him what he was doing in a strong Fatherly tone, he turned a little and I could see his face. He was starting to cry.
I was not sure that he would understand what was going on but he did. I asked what was the matter and he replied, “I’m sad because people were being mean even though God made everyone. God just made people look different.”
We spoke about it for a while and at the end he comforted me. “Jesus died to forgive the mean people too Daddy.” If an adult had “comforted” like that I would most likely make a snarky theological quip. Coming from my four year old made it a wise and convicting reminder.
We talk about this with our son because South Africa is broken due to the Sin of Racism. The ghosts of an oppressive racist past haunt the nation at large. The continuation of racist ideologies divide people and the Church.
As we have seen in the last year or two (or Fifty if we have paid attention) the United States may not be too different. The severity of pain different than South Africa. And the affects may not be as widespread Stateside, though only due to difference in population ratios.
I am not so bold as to tell anyone how to parent unless asked to. But when it comes to speaking to your own heart remind yourself of the Sin of Racism. Be reminded that we must repent of and turn from it.
If I tell Tara in the morning that I love her then act like I only love myself all day, I am sinning. If I repent of my sin to God and to Tara then continue to be selfish, I am still sinning. That is not true repentance. If I leave for the day or avoid Tara so that she cannot see me being selfish, I am still sinning. That is not true repentance.
If I say I am not racist and avoid people of a particular ethnicity, I am still sinning. That is not true repentance. We must replace any semblance of hate for someone else with love for that person. But not because of some notion that in our own strength we can change things. We love because we are compelled to by Christ.
Today is a day that we should honor Martin Luther King Jr.. He showed everyone in the world a picture of Racial Reconciliation, or at least the beginning of a journey toward it. He showed us, many times Biblically, what it meant that God created all men and that no one man was better than another. He said that judgement should come only by our character and actions. Not by whether we have light or dark skin.
We went out for breakfast as a family this morning and we prayed after we had finished. We thanked our Father in Heaven for MLK Jr.’s life. For his life’s work. We thanked God that we have an example like him in modern times. The example of someone who fights for what he believes in without fighting. Someone who resisted the sin of returning hate for hate.
And we thanked God for his Son, Jesus, who died so that we do not have to and who was raised back to life so that we can live. Jesus, who despised morally divisive ethnic division. We have been tasked to break down barriers of race and to offer Salvation to every ethnic group that exists on Earth.
And Finally we prayed for Christ’s return. When that happens MLK Jr.’s dream of equality and harmony among all colors of people will be fully realized. At Christ’s return all our prejudice will be stripped away and people from every tribe and nation will worship as we were created to.
It is a good thing to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day with your kids. The only thing that I fear more than Finn knowing how much pain there is in the world, is that he will be fooled into thinking there is no pain and that people do not suffer everyday due to the way they look, talk, and act. Going to those who are in pain for any reason, but for these reasons specifically, is a Biblical imperative. If we do not teach our children of the pain that exists and our joyous Gospel duty to respond, how can we expect them to be faithful servants?
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.