The Action of Inaction


A kitchen fire demands response. A lost child compels an exhaustive search. A broken bone requires medical attention. In any event, crisis calls for action.

We all recognize the need for a response in the face of danger. Often, this response is associated with physical actions to remedy a situation and restore balance. Sometimes, however, moments of crisis call for more.

In the last year many have more readily recognized deep, entrenched and nuanced elements of racism across multiple facets of society. A crisis. Different than a housefire, but one every bit as damaging, and one demanding Biblical response.

The first step in responding to a crisis is recognizing there is one. This recognition of lingering racism has come into view for much of the white, Evangelical community across the country. Social media and the prevalence of cell phone video footage have brought a multitude of heinous, violent and racially-charged actions to the forefront of the public consciousness. The shockingly commonplace nature of these events has brought the white church face-to-face with deep-seated, existential problems along racial lines. Issues most were unaware existed on such a scale.

As the scales have fallen off, a groundswell of desire for Biblically-driven action has emerged. There have been elements of a unified voice across racial barriers calling for change. White Evangelicals now recognize, by and large, something should be done in response to what we have seen. But what? How do we positively participate?

So often the human response is to see and to solve. Fixing problems makes us feel good. We enjoy being the hero and so often we want to chase that feeling. However, the issues at hand necessitate a different sort of initial action on behalf of the white church.

The initial response is so simple it can feel like inaction. Listen. Listen to black brothers and sisters. Listen to their stories, their hardships and their struggles. Listen without retort. Digest the pain without a counter. As Paul says in Romans 12:15-16, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another…”

We must sit with the words of our black brothers and sisters. In doing so, in simply listening with an ear to understand and not retort, we will find new perspectives, and will see doors begin to open. Doors for empathy, connection, encouragement and ministry will begin to creep open, for both parties. Windows into deep relationship open when we humbly listen and lament with those who have experienced injustice in a way we have not.

We must not ignore the fire in the kitchen. I beg us not to look this moment in the face and pretend it’s not looking back. Look inward. Look forward. Yes, by God’s grace the amount of people suffering under the yoke of oppression has diminished over the course of the last 400 years. But very clearly people still face grotesque oppression fueled by racism. We are family. We must heed the cry of our brothers and sisters, men and women made in the image of God.

Will listening or lamenting ‘cure’ racism? No. But it will position us to move into response with understanding. It will fuel real prayer to the one who can heal hate. Christ can do the work. He invites us to join in humility. To participate in bringing gospel-centered justice to our communities.

I long for a movement of family members of all stripes pursuing the great mission our Father left us with. We must reach our soon-to-be brothers and sisters from every ethnos. I welcome every family member who will have me. I call on the body to pursue the outcome of Revelations 7:9 in its posture. As we go, as we commit to act, we must remember to be quick to listen, even when that action feels like inaction.

“Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10