By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
The sins of racism and prejudice are rampant in our world. The heartbreaking reality is that our struggle to overcome bias stretches back to the beginning of human history. Even the first family felt the painful effects of hate and unchecked bias. In Genesis 4 we read that Cain killed Abel because he allowed hate or bias against his brother to grow in his heart to the point that he murdered his own flesh and blood.
A huge part of what it means to be a Christ-follower is being someone who desires God’s "will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God’s mission is to reveal truth to us so that we may be set free. God loves every person and God does not want his fearfully and wonderfully made creations to be bound up by sin.
It is in church and within the safe spaces of our small groups where we can begin to do the hard work of examining and challenging our own hidden biases, racist tendencies. It's here, in vulnerable interaction, we discover what reconciliation can look like for our lives and in our communities.
Romans 12:10 charges believers to “love each other with genuine affection” and “outdo one another in showing honor.” Christ-followers can step up and set an example for our communities with our words and actions on how to honor and love others well.
How, though, do we start these sometimes uncomfortable conversations regarding race relations? What does it look like to repent for the ways our racial biases have hurt others? How can we begin to experience the freedom that Jesus promises?
Let’s explore great small group resources and questions that can help jumpstart conversations around this important topic.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kritchanut
Small Group Resources
Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison and Latasha’s Be the Bridge small group guides are one of the most outstanding resources currently available designed to facilitate discussions that lead to racial reconciliation from a Christian worldview.
The Be the Bridge organization offers an amazing online community that helps support individuals and groups as they pursue God’s head for racial reconciliation in our world. They also offer quality small group resources that provide leaders and participants engaging and thought-provoking information and questions to talk through together.
Right now my husband and I are going through the Be the Bridge book with the small group we are leading. Our group is reading one chapter at a time between meetings, and then when we get together we talk through the discussion questions at the end of each chapter as a group.
Latasha’s moving words and the end of chapter questions have stirred our hearts! We have been challenged to confront our own racial biases and sins head-on. I am so thankful for this study and how it has challenged my heart.
As we've walked through the study, our minds have been opened to a more complete view of history and we are beginning to see more of what God’s heart for racial healing looks like. We have only begun to learn and grow in this area and pray God leads us as time goes on. Latasha’s work offers an honest and hopeful place to begin taking steps towards healing and growth.
Here is a list of questions organized by topic for your small group to explore together to help facilitate spiritual growth and racial healing.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Rawpixel
1. Questions to Examine Our Biases
Many of us would like to claim that we don't see one race as better or more privileged than another. Yet our society does treat people of color differently. Consider asking these questions with your small group.
In what ways have you observed our society communicate a preference for whiteness over those of other races?
How do people buy into this idea without realizing it?
How can you work to be an advocate for black and brown people in a world that favors whiteness?
Growing up, what were you taught about race relationships?
How has your upbringing influenced your personal biases?
Pause to examine your own life experiences, and discern...In what ways have you contributed to or experienced the pain of racial bias and prejudice? Determine if you need to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness or extend forgiveness to someone who may have hurt you.
Should an individual share responsibility for corporate actions?
How should we respond to past and present racism in our country?
What holes are you discovering in your knowledge and understanding of our country's racial history? How are you working to “fill in the gaps” of your own understanding of history in order to get a more accurate and complete picture?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
2. Questions to Help Build Relationships
As you relate to one another in your small group, ask and answer these questions:
What barriers do you think there are in your life that may hinder you from having healthy relationships with people of a different race or ethnicity?
Sadly, most of us live in and work in very segregated spaces. How do you begin to enter into someone else's world that may feel different than your own?
Should you be intentional about building relationships with those who have a different cultural background than your own? If so, how do you guard a relationship from becoming just an experiment?
What should you keep in mind as you enter a friend's world? As they enter yours?
How can you be intentional about broadening the voices that you are allowing to influence your worldview? In what ways can you use entertainment, social media, books, and podcasts as a way to help you broaden your perspective?
What are some ways that you can become “antiracist” in the ways that you interact with the world?
How can we be models to the next generation when it comes to building better relationships with those who are different than ourselves?
What part, if any, of your own racial identity could get in the way of you building strong diverse relationships? What are some ways you could work to overcome those hurdles?
In what ways does the gospel prompt us to seek restored relationships between people?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusiness images
3. Questions Regarding Institutional Racism
Many of us are familiar with the civil rights movement and all the changes it brought in government, education, and public life. There is a temptation to view these changes to be all we needed in our country to see racial harmony. Explore these questions with your small group:
How do we see racial tensions continue past the civil rights movements?
Racial reconciliation will also mean asking hard questions about the groups and organizations we are a part of. How do we build walls instead of bridges?
What policies, social norms, or organizational structures exclude or send negative signals to ethnic minorities?
How do we push past apathy, token gestures, and begin to create meaningful movement towards reconciliation for our lives and communities?
Why are power and authority important issues to discuss when approaching reconciliation? Give a specific example of how power and authority reinforce racial barriers.
What are some of the challenges we have to overcome when attempting to integrate the spaces of our lives? What are some of the costs to this process and some of the benefits?
How can we be agents of change in our society when it comes to institutional racism?
What are some of the challenges and/or fears you may face when approaching the topic of institutional racism?
What should our prayers look like when seeking God’s justice for our broken world?
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/gmaydos
4. Questions about Diversity and the Church
Proverbs 31:9 says “Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” This verse answers with a resounding “yes” to the question: “Should believers be people who are actively working towards healing the wounds racism has created in our communities?”
The wisdom of Scripture prompts us to move past our affiliations and comfort zones, and tells us each to do our part in becoming bridge builders. Ask these questions in your small group:
Do you believe that worshipping only with people who look like yourself deprives you of a more full picture of what living out your Christian faith should be? Why or why not?
Could our understanding of Scripture, style of worship, and view of who God is be influenced by our culture more than the teachings of the Bible? Do you agree? If so, give an example.
How can believers and the church improve in the ways that we celebrate the diversity God created in humankind?
How can the church as a whole better acknowledge, lament, and repent for the ways they have built racial barriers or acted in racist ways rather than built bridges?
You may have heard many say that "11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” Do you believe this statement has truth to it? Do you believe the church should strive towards integration? Why or why not?
How can an ethnic group preserve its cultural uniqueness? Should ethnic uniqueness be sacrificed for the sake of unity? Which community should sacrifice the minority or majority group?
Let’s take the time to pause, reflect, repent, and change the ways we engage with the world—so that we can be those who are agents of racial healing and reconciliation. God tells us that at the end of the story that he is writing there is going to be a big party that includes people from every nation, tribe, language. We will all be worshipping together (Revelation 7:9).
If we want to start bringing heaven down to Earth now, then we need to be people who usher diversity into our lives and speak out when we see the evil of racism at work in our world.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes