Denny Dillman's elementary class

I’m taking a break from talking about the homestead this week.

There is so much turmoil in our world, from COVID-19 with all of its disruptions and difficulties, to the tragic death of George Floyd that has led to protests, riots and unrest.

All of this is confronting and exposing our worldviews. Opinions are but a click away. Slight missteps of speech end up being harsh confrontations. Angry words, accusations and ugliness are ever-present at every turn, even among believers.

We forget Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (ESV).

Jesus said, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

When I read this passage, I think of my dad. While he was a fighter in his youth, resolving conflict with his fists, as he grew in faith, he became a man of peace.

But he was also a man saturated by the racism of his time. My father was both a peacemaker and a racist. Such conflict in the heart, a collision of worldviews that he passed along to me.

In my quiet time on the homestead, I have been considering the tumultuous season we are in while praying and searching Scripture. The Bible says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5a ESV).

Anybody else find yourself looking for justification of your opinions rather than using God’s Word for the sake of examining yourself, considering the log in your own eye?

We all would like to believe we examine ourselves, but too often we examine ourselves through the lens of pride and self-indulgence. Our past sins get glossed over. Our current way of thinking and living is justified behind a veil of self-edifying affirmations.

But here we are, confronted with this directive: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.”

My old neighborhood has a Facebook page, for those who lived there in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. My friend Tim Irwin posted a picture of Mrs. Whitetree’s fifth grade class at Blue Lick Elementary in 1974. Even though I was in Mrs. Brown’s class, I knew most of these kids. Except for one: Rhonda Perry.

I knew of Rhonda. But I didn’t know her. As I looked at the picture, I became overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and shame. I did not know Rhonda for one reason: she had dark skin.

At age 10, the sin of racism was firmly established in me. Years later, I found myself overwhelmed by this historic sin in my life. I missed out on a friendship with someone created in the image of God because I was taught to make judgment based on the pigmentation of another person’s skin.

I searched Facebook and found Rhonda. I messaged her, confirming she was the girl in the picture. I shared my regret that I missed out on a friendship because of my prejudice. She was gracious, thanking me for reaching out. Here is a glimpse into our Facebook conversation:

Rhonda: “When we first moved in the neighborhood it was very rough for my family being as we were the second black family to move in the neighborhood. We had a lot of hate crimes/racism inflicted upon us but we toughed it out, and in the end became the most popular family in the neighborhood. I don’t hold grudges about that because I know racism is a taught thing.”

I found myself deeply convicted because my family might have been one that demonstrated racism. “As I sit here in tears, I want to say to you I am sorry. I am sad I never knew you in my neighborhood, in my school. Forty-six years later, I am sad I missed being your friend.”

Rhonda: “Oh wow. I accept your apology wholeheartedly. I’m so speechless right now because you didn’t have to reach out to me but you were obedient.”

“Obedient” sounds noble. I simply found myself convicted by my sin, penitent before God, who reconciled us to Himself, sacrificing His only begotten Son. While I long ago repented of the racism of my youth, as my father did before he died, the need to reconcile remains.

Friends, we are called to glorify God by pursuing reconciliation, obeying His command to love one another as Christ has loved us. Rhonda was not just a friendship lost because of my wicked racism. She was (and is) my sister in Christ, a human soul that God has created and Christ has died for. Today, that lost friendship has been reconciled to the glory of God.

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.