Within the movement for Ethnic Reconciliation in the Church, a new vocabulary has been developed. I won’t seek to define the word “woke” in this article but will instead seek to share some thoughts concerning the dangers of embracing it wholesale. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t treated ethnic reconciliation as an issue of love and Gospel. Often, the church treats ethnic reconciliation more like a political preference (optional and preferential) rather than as an issue of Biblical faithfulness. When we look at Scripture, in places such as Galatians, we see that the Apostle Paul has a very different perspective. The Apostle Paul considered ethnic disunity a Gospel issue and an issue of love that was so essential that he was willing to rebuke Peter (Apostolic leader) when Peter forgot this. If the command of Christ is to “love one another” (John 13:34-35) than to not love each other is disobedience. Sisters who are married to men who are indifferent concerning ethnic reconciliation should lovingly call their husbands to repentance for lacking love. The church should confront lovelessness in reconciliation with the same zeal they would confront Pornography or adultery. Both are an assault on Love. The saint who would challenge their brethren to repent of lovelessness in pursuing porn (lovelessness) should be willing to challenge their brethren to put off the lovelessness shown in indifference and antagonism towards Ethnic Reconciliation. It’s not okay. Naturally, the church and individuals should do this with compassion and care. They should do it recognizing the various challenges the flesh, world, and devil bring to bear on their majority culture brethren which can make dealing with these issues challenging. Still, the Saints cannot afford to say simply,
“We have to wait until they become ‘woke’ on their own.”
“Wokeness” may happen but even if it doesn’t, the saint is commanded to pursue empathy and love.
To wait for “wokeness” is actually unloving itself. It is unloving in two ways:
1. It robs a fellow Christian of the privilege to pursue love. If pursuing ethnic reconciliation is pursuing love, than to wait for someone to become “woke” leaves them in a loveless posture rather than calling them to walk in the love Jesus wants them to. Love would desire Christlikeness in their brethren and be willing to call the Loveless to a repentance in which the fruit will be loving more like Jesus. Not confronting the Loveless is self-preservation. To pursue the loveless when it is potentially costly is self-denial. Love calls those who are not abounding in love to love more faithfully!
2. The scriptures never command or expect us to enter into a specific kind of knowledge in order to pursue the love he commands us to abide in. Love is cultivated through pursuing others with empathy not through sociological knowledge. A Christian does not need to understand the African American experience and the realities of racialization in order to love their minority brethren. Pursuing a heart that loves people of color will naturally, over time, result in greater awareness of the challenges they face while living in a racialized society. However, Simple awareness of a plight does not necessarily mean there is true love. Slave masters knew the plight of black people exhaustively. They were “woke” to the struggle but lacked the love such “wokeness” should’ve conjured in their hearts. The most loving thing a person can do is not be “woke” but pursue love. “Woke” is the fruit of love and not the goal. All Christians can love people of color whether they understand the struggles they face exhaustively or not.
I think one of the massive ways we will see progress in reconciliation is when we begin to see it through the lens of sin and lovelessness and not simply through a category of “wokeness”. Categorizing knowledge of minority struggles as “Wokeness” can have the unintended consequence of leading people to justify their indifference and lovelessness as simply not knowing better. It allows for those who are lacking love to claim ignorance rather than confront their sin of lovelessness. What will you do? Will you call saints to be “woke” or to abound in love? Love has a way of opening people’s eyes in a way that awareness alone cannot.
You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast “Coram Deo Podcast” which focuses on issues concerning Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology. You can search for podcast on any major podcast catcher, listen on the web here, follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast, or just click the artwork below.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Christian counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He currently lives in Atlanta & is finishing an advanced M. Divinity in Historical Theology and ultimately desires to pastor.