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“You Can’t Take It or Leave It”

April 29, 2018 • Life for Leaders

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-8

 

A white person and an African American person with their hands locked in unity.Are you familiar with Randy Alcorn? A prolific author of Christian novels, Alcorn caught my attention many years ago with a book entitled, Dominion. Here’s Amazon’s description of the book (the second in a series), which was re-released in 2006:

Sweet Revenge? When two senseless killings hit close to home, columnist Clarence Abernathy seeks revenge for the murders—and, ultimately, answers to his own struggles regarding race and faith. After being dragged into the world of inner-city gangs and racial conflict, Clarence is encouraged by fellow columnist Jake Woods to forge an unlikely partnership with a redneck homicide detective. Soon the two find themselves facing dark forces, while unseen eyes watch from above…

Woven into the fabric of this solid and suspenseful crime story is a rich and beautiful narrative about a friendship among two men—one black, the other white. In the novel, the men go out to dinner one evening with the women they love. At the dinner table, the topic of race comes up and Geneva, the black woman at the table, makes this statement:

“Race. You want to hear my food preparation analogy?” Geneva asked. “To whites, race is like a sauce. You can put on as much or as little as you want. To blacks, it’s a marinade. It permeates everything. You can’t take it or leave it. It’s always there, no matter what.” (p. 106)

When I read that, I had to close the book and take a break. This was the very first time I’d ever read something in a Christian book that reflected the truth of my experience as a black woman. It was hard to believe the author is not a black man.

How did he know our experience well enough to write about it with such accuracy? I had to know, and so I wrote to his organization for an answer. Randy’s assistant sent me a link to an article which includes the following information:

Randy spent a lot of time with black men and women, relying heavily on their personal accounts and paying particular attention to the recurring stories he heard from them. He used thousands of notecards to jot down thoughts and ideas about the book. He also read at least 60 books by and about African Americans. Randy writes, “I asked God to give me insight, as it was way beyond me as a suburban white to write with a black viewpoint character. Very difficult, but very rewarding—hope I never forget what I learned.”

As if all of that weren’t enough, Randy Alcorn once received a list of African American Christian Authors. Whose name was at the very top of the alphabetical list? You guessed it: Randy Alcorn.

This is what it means to humble oneself. This is what it means to serve one another. This is what it means to hear someone else’s story and honor it, value it, and treasure it. This is what it means to enter into relationship with another person, another group of people.

Of course, Jesus was our best example of this. He moved into our neighborhood (as Eugene Peterson has paraphrased it), and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, Jesus made himself nothing so that he could draw near to us, and heal us.

Something to Think About:

Who are the people you hang out with? Are most of them like you? On what list might your name accidentally appear?

Something to Do:

Watch this video of Randy Alcorn in which he talks about writing the book, Dominion. What stands out to you the most? What are some paradigms in your life that have shifted over time?

Prayer:

Lord, we all have a long way to go before we have the same mindset as Christ, but I want to try. I want to cast off earthly power and position and popularity in favor of serving you and serving others. I don’t really know where to begin with that, but I am willing. Here I am. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Do Your Work in a Worthy Manner (Philippians 1:27–2:11)

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