As a non-black person, the death of Eric Garner was shocking and deeply troubling to me. I could barely bring myself to watch the video of his harrowing arrest, knowing that his shouts of “I can’t breathe!” would be his last. I can't believe that no one will bear any responsibility for his death, as if he had died peacefully on his bed, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
That was how he should have died.
Yet I must confess that part of the reason I am so outraged by his death is that I have lived in ignorance of black oppression for so long. My outrage is intense because it is relatively fresh; for those in the black community, this is a personal reality that they have endured for centuries. So while it is tempting for me to feel self-righteous indignation about Eric Garner’s death, I must also repent that I have not paid enough attention to the traumatic experience of African Americans simply because it was not my immediate or personal reality.
As such, I have struggled as to how I can come alongside my African American brothers and sisters in a way that is biblical and affirming but not condescending, to be a true friend but not a rescuer. To others who feel the same, I would suggest that the incarnation of Jesus provides a wonderful model of how nonblack people can stand as allies to our African American family in Christ.
As my friend Rich Villodas explained last week, we often think of Jesus' incarnation as an integral part of the story of salvation, and indeed it is. But the incarnation is not only the story of how Jesus becomes our Savior, but also describes what kind of Savior he is to us: a personal one. The book of Hebrews describes three ways in which the incarnation ...1
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