I think I should begin by saying that when I met my husband, it wasn’t the first time that I found myself in an interracial relationship. I had dated guys from all sorts of background and races – black, white, Asian, Hispanic – and I never really had any problems with people being negative or hurtful towards my relationships. Nor were there any internal feelings of discomfort.
I have to credit my environment – I was raised in a pretty multi-cultural environment. Even though I was in a small suburban town stuck in the 1950’s, the town was incredibly diverse. I was exposed to all kinds of cultures and races. From kindergarten to high school, I was never just with white, black or Hispanic people – but a mixture of everyone. I never thought that racism was something that I struggled with internally.
With that said, the relationships I had when I was “dating” boys of a different race were in high school and quite superficial. After all, it was high school – you talked on the phone and maybe held hands if you saw each other. The relationships lasted anywhere from a few days to a couple of months.
Years later, I met my husband.
Suddenly, I found myself deeply in love, and I wanted our relationship to evolve. We both felt the same, but then something started to rise to the surface – and that something was racism. I started to realize that I had my own misconceptions and preconceived notions of what I thought people of my husband’s race were like. Even though I grew up around all people, there were parts of me that held bitterness and resentment. I had no idea that this was stuff was hidden in my heart… it was buried deep.
Either I was in self-denial, or I hadn’t spent enough time in an intimate relationship with someone of a different race to realize that it was even there. And then God began to pull back the layers and expose the hatred and all the wrong misconceptions. As the layers were pulled back from the wound of racism, the wound began to breath. As the wound began to breathe, it also started to heal.
As I was experiencing these issues and going through the emotional healing, I was a professing Christian. I know what you are probably thinking. You might be thinking “Well, you weren’t a real Christian because you had racism in your heart.” But I would argue quite confidently that I was indeed a Christian.
In the book of Acts, Peter didn’t have the best perception of Gentiles. He thought of them as unclean, but God came to Him in a vision and removed the veil of racism covering Peter’s heart. God exposed it and then healed it. Peter’s racism and prejudice were erased when it dawned on Peter that God loves Gentiles as much as Jews. Peter was the kind of man who loved what God loved. He couldn’t hate and call unclean what God had called clean.
Can you be Christian and racist? Yes. Racism is a result of imperfect love. The opposite of hatred is love. When you love people, you can’t hate them. You can only love or hate, but you can’t do both – a love-hate relationship is oxymoronic.
When you have a perfect love – the kind of love that God has for people, it’s not possible to hate them. The book of 1 John speaks of perfect love and how perfect love drives away fear because those who fear haven’t perfected love. This is an amazing verse to describe someone dealing with hatred and racism. Racism is driven by fear. People fear what they don’t understand and when people don’t understand or can’t relate to a group of people, the fear often develops into hatred. Much of racism is simply fear and misunderstanding.
Perfect love drives away fear. When we no longer fear, we can finally love.