One Body: Race and the Church
Q&A with Rev. Dr. Nicole Martin on How Believers Can React to Racial Unrest in America
“It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus…. You are all one in union with Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26, 28
The Bible teaches us to love one another (John 13:34). It teaches us that we all belong to one body (1 Corinthians 12:26). It tells us to follow God’s command to be just, merciful, and humble (Micah 6:8). We believe that the Bible holds the answer to the deep racial wounds of our country. In these times of racial tension and loss, American Bible Society’s Bible-based trauma healing is helping church leaders guide people past their hurts and preconceptions to find truth in Christ. Record editor Laura Chan sat down with American Bible Society’s Vice President of Church Engagement and Executive Director of our Trauma Healing Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Nicole Martin, to get her perspective on what the Bible says about caring for believers from other races.
Q: We’ve been grieving with you as you recently lost your grandmother to COVID-19. How are you processing your personal grief in the midst of a national crisis?
A: Honestly, I am still processing this loss. Those who have had to attend virtual funerals know that the grieving process can be extended when we cannot say goodbye in ways to which we are accustomed. This is an even deeper pain because it represents an unfortunate collective experience of Black people during this crisis; The Washington Post reports that nearly one third of Black Americans know someone who has died from COVID-19. While there are many factors that play into this reality—like the social determinants of health, wealth gaps, communal living, public transportation, et cetera—I’m learning to allow my faith in God and confidence in God’s Word to clarify how I should feel and what I should do. God’s Word allows me to lament, grieve, and feel all that I feel. Simultaneously, God’s Word inspires me to act justly and think carefully about how I can ensure that more people don’t have to experience what I have experienced. Both of these take time and grace.
Q: You often quote from the writings of the Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah—and most specifically from his book Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. Why do you think it is important for the Church to lament together, and what steps can people take today to initiate this process?
A: In his book, Prophetic Lament, Professor Rah suggests that lament is the proper response of God’s people to the brokenness of the world. Lament acknowledges that there are some pains from our past that we have not yet overcome. In the current state of our nation, Christians can initiate lament that builds stronger unity among believers.
There are several steps we can take today. First, we can acknowledge that many Black Americans are living in a collective grief in the wake of the deaths of people like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. We can listen to the stories and lived experiences of Black Americans, understand the historical roots of their collective pain, and sit in solidarity as they suffer, as Christ teaches us. Second, we can learn from the Bible on how to express that lament individually and collectively. Like David cries out in Psalm 13:1 (NKJV), we can ask, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Third, once we’ve learned how to lament personally and collectively, we can find healing in Christ. As we heal as a community, we will be led to act justly for all.
Q: Thank you, Dr. Martin. I’m sure some of this will be uncomfortable for us to do, but I think that’s part of your point: none of us should be comfortable when our brothers and sisters in faith are facing fear and persecution. What step would you suggest readers take right now?
A: I’m grateful for this opportunity to share from my heart. If people are looking for more resources on a biblical response to race relations in the U.S., they can go to the abs.bible/justice website where we’ve posted resources like a small group curriculum and a webinar on conversations about race with diverse church leaders. And of course the most important thing any of us can do is look to the truths of Scripture. There’s a great resource on the abs.bible/justice website called “Jesus’s Parables on Justice” that has reflections from 30 pastors on what God’s justice looks like, what it demands of us, and how we can live out justice in our own communities. I invite all of us to pray for God’s healing, individually and collectively, so that we may live as one in Christ.
Find resources on a biblical response to race relations in America at abs.bible/justice
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