I first fell in love with words when I was seven years old. I still passionately love words today. To speak them, write them, or read them— centers me in the presence of God. Words are powerful. They can invoke pride, fear, comfort and chaos. That’s why when I saw the video of Amy Cooper in Central Park —the woman that called the police in fabricated fear, I was physically sickened when I read her apology. “And you know words are just words and I can’t undo what I did. But I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone. Especially to that man, his family,”
No! Words are not just words, Amy Cooper. Proverbs 18:21. “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Her words to the police could have caused that man’s death. Her words have caused her to lose her job. When we sin we have to do more than say, “I’m Sorry.” We are required to repent. Hearing that woman shriek in fear and quicken her speech like she was in imminent danger was very believable. Her obligatory apology after losing her job at Franklin Templeton— not so much.
We all must examine our apologies and determine whether we are sorry for the act or just sorry for the consequences.
Words have power…when we mean them.
True repentance, Psalm 51 repentance, is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It’s a process and it requires prayer, reflection and intentional action to turn from and avoid the same behavior in the future. America has got to stop saying “I’m sorry” for racism. It’s time to repent.
To be truly sorry, you must first examine your actions and acknowledge them as wrong. This may take more than a few hours or even days. Sometimes it takes centuries, as was the case with the Southern Baptists Convention, who in 2018 finally acknowledged their “deep racism” and dark American history. In 1956 the National Association of Evangelicals passed a resolution that declared racial discrimination as a violation of the teaching of Christ. Yet, a 2019 Barna study revealed that only 16% of Christians believe America should repent for its racist history. That number includes only 24% of African-American Christians.
We’ve got some work to do, Saints.
Psalm 51 repentance for Amy Cooper may not be to admit that she’s a racist. Maybe she’s not. She probably doesn’t think she is. However, genuine repentance requires her to admit the truth…that she weaponized the evil of racism for her godless benefit. In Psalm 51:3 David cries out, “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.” We all must examine our apologies and determine whether we are sorry for the act or just sorry for the consequences.
True repentance hurts but it sets us free. Calling out the truth about our sin to God is painful and yet freeing. American Christians have to start being honest and truthful with God about our nation’s sin and the part we play in it. The American church should lead the way to healing and justice. We should be the example of Christ in the nation for the world to see. Racism is the thorny ground that keeps us from being all that God intends this great nation to be.
The Church cannot point fingers at the world and shame them for racism as long we go to our separate corners on Sunday morning to worship God and remain there all week. As long as Black churches and Black Christians are the dominant crowd outraged by police brutality and killing of unarmed Black men, we will not advance the kingdom of God in America. As Christians, we march and fight for the rights of innocent unborn children while staying silent about the two Georgia men who killed an innocent unarmed Black man. As Christian patriots, we are outraged at Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the National Anthem. Yet, we stay quiet about that Minneapolis police officer who killed a Black man by kneeling on his neck.
Repentance is a necessary part of Christianity. “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” (Acts 3:19) American Christians, we are required to do more about racism in America than say “I’m sorry.” If you are one of the 84% of Christians that doesn’t believe America should apologize for it’s history. Fine. But, what about racism right now? American repentance isn’t just about atoning for our history. It’s about pleading to God to forgive our present sin. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
One thing I learned from Paul in Romans 7:15— we may not realize that we’re racist until we decide, in a moment of indignation, to weaponize our knowledge of America’s racism.“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate.” Like Paul, Amy Cooper may be shocked by her behavior. After all, she’s a white woman walking her dog in New York City. That wreaks of “liberal democrat” but racism has no party affiliation. It has no class designation, though it seems to diminish with higher education. Racism is a tool the devil uses to enter our hearts and activate what I call the “Big Three” from 1 John 2:16.
The lust of the eye— We are willing to ignore God to get what we want.
The lust of the flesh— We are willing to ignore God to feel good.
The pride of life— We value our position and are willing to ignore God to keep it.
America, we’re ignoring God because it feels bad to face our sin. The charge to Christian Americans is simple in Romans 12:2. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this [nation] but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you which is good, and pleasing and perfect.”
Come on, America. Take the charge!