We never grasped, in our bruised white innocence and sentimentality, that harmony is easy – justice is not. We should’ve been praying not for harmony, but for endurance.
Let us run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Consider him, so that you don’t grow weary or lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV, excerpted)
In the late seventies, the pastor of my white suburban church proposed a partnership with a black church downtown. To promote racial harmony, he said. He was friends with the pastor, they got along well. Why not all of us?
Soon we were hugging each other monthly at youth group exchanges and shared potlucks. We began including spirituals in our traditional Sunday service. We shouted “Amen!” when their pastor preached. We raised money to repair their church’s roof. Harmony reigned.
Until it didn’t. Until somebody mentioned a recent police shooting. Until somebody said “racism” and it wasn’t a white person who said it. Until somebody raised their voice, and somebody else cried. Until we began feeling unappreciated. We were making an effort, weren’t we?
That partnership drifted, ended vaguely. Back in the suburbs, we never asked why. Never learned that those periodic encounters were at best a warm-up for the long, crucifying work of self-confrontation, repentance, and conversion. Never grasped, in our bruised white innocence and sentimentality, that harmony is easy – justice is not.
We should’ve been praying more in those months. Not for harmony, but for endurance. For the grace to not grow weary, to persevere through the hard stuff so that one day we could move off the starting line we’d mistaken for the finish, and actually run the race. All those months we should’ve been considering Jesus, so as not to lose heart at the first sound of hammered nails.
Crucified Jesus, you endured through cross and grave. Grant us your costly perseverance, for the sake of justice and joy.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.