By Brent Vawter

We are in a battle with a virus. This virus is tearing apart our social fabric as it continues its death march through every community in our nation. 

I'm talking about racism.

I realize that comparing racism to a virus like COVID-19 isn’t a perfect analogy, but here’s why I’m using it anyway, given all that we've learned about viruses this year:

  • Racist thinking is easily, even unknowingly passed to others.
  • It can go undetected for a long time, even to the host.
  • It most often presents itself when other conditions are present, like stress or a perceived threat.
  • It will present with different symptoms, from ignorance to inherent bias to a sense of superiority to outright discrimination, … and yes, unfortunately, even to aggression, injustice and murder.

This past week has given us more examples of racism in its various forms, and I’m compelled to at least acknowledge it. It would be foolish for me to go about life pretending I won’t be impacted or that I couldn’t be an unwitting carrier. It would be callous of me to not support and care for those who are directly impacted by it. And it would be prideful for me to not take a close examination of my own heart. George Floyd, Travis Miller, Christian Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery, ... we should lean into these stories instead of tuning them out, because there's a cure to be found.

Theologian and minister Leonard Lovett said, “Before any talk of reconciliation, we need to begin with conciliation, the process to overcome the distrust or hostility. There is no precedent for racial harmony in American history; we have to begin to create a world that is not predicated on white privilege but on a common humanity.”

So how do we go about creating a world where diversity doesn't divide us, and what difference can one person make?

The simple answer: start with you. You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go. Admit that you might have some blind spots and some things to learn, and don’t overestimate yourself (1 Corinthians 10:12). Humbly reflect on the truths found in scripture and allow them to reveal any attitude or understanding that doesn’t sync up. Here are three areas to start with:


1. Created in God’s image

Genesis 5:1-2 clearly states that God created mankind in his image. The only distinction we see between one person and another is their gender – not their skin color or anything else. Racism is largely about skin color, however. It judges a person based on their appearance rather that seeing them as God’s image-bearer. Scripture calls us to look with different eyes, seeing each other as a living expression of God – as someone who should be respected, honored and when necessary, defended.


2. United in Christ

We are all guilty of sin. Those of us who have placed our faith in Christ have received a new life that will extend for all eternity! We’ve gone from death to life because Jesus took the initiative to insert Himself into our personal story and take on the death penalty that was rightly due each one of us. This changes everything. It changes our relationship with God, and it should change the way we see and treat others. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) We may look different and have different cultural backgrounds, but God doesn’t give any moral or social weight to those distinctions. In fact, Jesus' main concern on the night before His death was that we would see past those differences. “May they all be one.” (John 17:21)


3. Love: the most important thing

Jesus said our highest priority should be loving God and then allowing His love to flow through us to others. (Mark 12:28-31) Anything that prevents us from loving God or loving any other person in any given moment is not of God. Scripture clearly states that we cannot love God and discriminate against our neighbor at the same time. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

There's no better place to start than scripture. As I’m writing this, David Platt just tweeted basically the same thing: “Before race and justice are political or cultural issues, race and justice are biblical issues.”


Here also are a couple of things I've learned over the last 18 months (with help from some of my new friends):


It's not always and never.

I love my wife, but I might not always act lovingly. From time to time, my selfish or wounded or insecure heart might manifest in an unloving response toward her. I’ve learned the same is true with racism. It’s not an ‘always or never’ thing for any of us. We might not consciously harbor racist thinking, but in any given moment our pride or fear or self-justification can manifest in a racist way. We all deal with pride, and pride shares the same DNA as superiority, the breeding ground of racism.


How to appropriately engage with what's happening.

You might not see yourself as a William Wilberforce or a Martin Luther King, Jr., but that's not an excuse to do nothing. Here are a few practical, meaningful things we all can and should do: 

  • Call it what it is. Racist behavior is racism. It’s not a person who’s behaving badly or who got too aggressive while doing his job. When someone is deprived of their rights or in any way treated differently based on their skin color, language or cultural background, it’s racism.
  • Build relationships. You may have a racially diverse friend group, but are they also a culturally diverse group? If you live in the inner city, do you have friends who grew up in the affluent suburbs? What about you suburbanites ­– do you regularly spend time with friends who live the daily struggles in the inner city. The best way to love your neighbor is to first know your neighbor.
  • Reach out. With all that’s playing this week in the media, take a moment to call your black friends and ask how they’re doing. Give them a chance to share how these incidents impact them and validate their emotions. Listen to them. Learn from them. Weep with them. But don't take on the role of an investigator. Many of us have a tendency to say things like "I wonder if the officer was justified" or "Are we sure that individual knew her actions were racist?" These may be valid questions, but they fail to recognize the emotional impact on someone we care about.
  • Show up. When a peaceful demonstration is organized to advocate for racial justice or reform, be there. Your presence says to those directly impacted, “you matter” and “this is a priority for me.”
  • Speak up. Don’t duck this topic because it’s uncomfortable. Put yourself out there as being someone who’s not okay with allowing this virus to spread. Jesus offers us the vaccine - Himself. Tell others where to find it (Him). Better yet, lead them there.


Father, continue Your transforming work in our hearts. Expose and deal with the pride and prejudice that is rooted there. Forgive us for the ways we've been complacent and the ways we've been complicit. Give us eyes to see others as You see them, and find us willing to serve them sacrificially as You did. Let Your love flow through us as we do our part to create a new normal – a conciliated Oklahoma City. You're the God of the impossible. Do it again, Lord, and do it first in me. Amen.


Brent Vawter is the Area Director for CBMC Oklahoma. Having spent the first 30 years of his career helping several Fortune 100 companies with their marketing and operations, he now focuses his efforts on helping businessmen grow in their relationship with Christ and impact their workplaces and their communities with the hope of the gospel.