Undoubtedly, the #BlackLivesMatter grassroots movement has gained tremendous traction with national media and various members of the public since its launch in July 2013. A movement birthed after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Black teen Trayvon Martin—yet still without the desired changes to dismantle structural racism. A book I read recently along with my personal beliefs on the issues has prompted me to invite you and others to think beyond #BlackLivesMatter and embrace gracism for a chance at real change and healing.
Gracism: The Art of Inclusion, a great book I recommend, was gifted to me by a friend this past June. Written in 2007 by Dr. David Anderson, founder and senior pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, MD, Anderson responds to prejudice and injustice with the principle of gracism: a “radical” inclusion of the marginalized and excluded. The book’s message is rooted in 1 Cor.12:22-26 which says all members of the Body are important, presenting a biblical model for confronting division and building bridges to include others by extending them special grace. It is having equal concern for others and being a bridge builder to reconciliation.
From 1 Cor. 12:22-26, Anderson extracted these seven, powerful gracist sayings/tenets:
“I will lift you up.” “I will cover you.” “I will share with you.” “I will honor you.” “I will stand with you.” “I will consider you.” “I will celebrate with you.”
A Christian alternative to secular models of affirmative action or colorblindness, gracism is an opportunity to extend God’s grace to people of all backgrounds. Though Dr. Anderson’s book was published eight years ago, given the violence occurring within and against communities of color, I asked him the relevance of practicing gracism today.
“Gracism has never been needed more than now,” says Dr. David Anderson. “We are living in the days of dogged defiance of differences and racial injustice. Gracism, the extending of grace regardless of color, class or culture, is the divine solution to bringing God’s power into the brokenness of race relations in America.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
In Chapter 11 entitled “How Can I Become a Gracist?,” Anderson suggests five steps one can take to become a gracist if they’re not already. The first suggested step is “to receive the grace of God in your life first.” Because of His grace and man’s sinful condition, God has purposefully reached out to build a bridge to the human race and has offered salvation from eternal separation and forgiveness of sin.
With hearts transformed by Christ Jesus, Anderson further says that “we will begin to see people of different backgrounds as ‘us’ and not as ‘them’ and extend more compassion at deeper levels of identification.”
This past August was the one-year anniversary of Ferguson/the Michael Brown shooting death. While many local and national protests occurred within the year, along with firing bad law enforcement personnel and replacing with new staff and a demand for more laws passed, violence still erupted during the anniversary peace rally.
Are we naive to believe that society’s consideration of others will progress if not for a heart transformed by Christ Jesus? If this transformation doesn’t occur within each person, then we will continue to battle injustices as there will have been no transformation of the heart. No amount of laws or public policy will transform hearts. Rather than push for more laws to be passed, pray for hearts to be transformed by Christ Jesus.
May we ask the Lord: Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). Help me to extend to others faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Let me seek another’s highest good. Help us to love one another as Christ loves us. (John 13:34).
Are you a gracist or ready to become one?
A move beyond #BlackLivesMatter, we ask the Lord to #GovernOurHearts.