This question was posed by Rodney King (African-American), who had been severely beaten and mistreated by his arresting Police Officers (White), as was widely broadcast on the News. The failure of the courts to bring about justice by convicting the perpetrating officers later sparked the infamous Los Angeles Riots.
In a time, when racial tension is flaring up like never before, this question is an important one to ask. It is Black against White, White against Native American, Hispanic against Black, Asian against Black and Hispanic etc. The year 1995 has been declared the International Year of Tolerance.
Isn’t it interesting that those who proclaim the value of tolerance most fervently stop short of abiding by it? They announce: Intolerance is unacceptable! To everyone’s dismay, intolerance seems to be more prevalent then ever. Is tolerance the answer? Is there really a simple answer at all to the racial question?In my opinion, the answer is No, we can’t just get along! Yet a positive answer to the question of peaceful co-existence of people of all races and backgrounds is possible if we look beyond ourselves.
We first have to realize that we are all of equal value to God who created and therefore wanted different people groups with their own cultural traits. It seems that each culture has certain strength’s (gifts) and weaknesses. From a biblical perspective, all people, all human beings are not only created in God’s image, (Genesis 1: 26-27; Genesis 9:6) their lives are also all stained by sin. (Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:23;) We all fall short of God’s standard.
Any person can be changed by sincerely repenting and receiving forgiveness, granted by God, because His Son Jesus carried our sins and the just penalty for them on the cruel cross. (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23) The one receiving this new life should also be aware of the tremendous value that God placed on every single human being. It is expressed in the fact how much God paid for us. He did not pay with riches measurable in Dollars and Cents, but by giving His only Son, Jesus. That is how valuable we are to Him. One who has received forgiveness is commanded to forgive others also, realizing that the forgiveness he has received is by far greater than what he might have to forgive his neighbor for.
As we realize this we need to make an effort to extend grace to others, even if their actions are less than desirable.
We need to make an effort in trying to understand why the other person is reacting in this way. We need to feel and share in carrying their pain. This includes looking at historical events, that are all to often brushed off as happened a long time ago. Do we really understand what it means to be held as a piece of property, being bought and sold at will by an arbitrary owner. Do we really understand the pain that a Native American might feel about massacred beloved ancestors, land stolen from them, broken promises, and crude and untrue stereotypes being applied to all of them. Their wounds are real, no amount of tolerance alone can take care of those. “Time heals all wounds” is not only a false but cruel figure of speech. A festering wound left alone will not heal by itself, it will only get worse.
When will we tend to our neighbors wounds and seek healing for them, instead of having only quick answers? When will we look beyond behavior that is often only the outflow of things gone wrong and touch the hurting soul underneath instead of adding to their insult and isolation by placing blame on them? Jesus himself gave us a perfect example. He showed us how we should live, by being completely “other’s-centered.” This “Jesus-Brand-Christianity” is lived out by considering others more than ourselves. Jesus told us that the most important things for us to remember and do are to:
- Love God, because He first loved us and showed His love by giving Jesus.
- Love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
If we follow these simple yet profound commands we will get along with each other and much more, we will start to appreciate one another, differences and all, and begin seeing that we all need and complement each other with our giftings and abilities.