Race, Family, and Winning At Home

Our church is in the midst of a “Win at Home: Wisdom from the book of Proverbs” sermon series. With only a few weeks in the sermon series, there’s much we won’t cover. Even the truths that we do address, we’ll only be able to be think about briefly. But I wanted to take a moment to offer a few more thoughts on a topic that needs to be addressed in our homes if we want to “Win at Home.” That topic is race.

A guilty verdict was handed down to Tuesday in the George Floyd case. Many professionals are talking about the various aspects of the case, of race relations today, and everything else related to these issues. But I wanted to offer a few thoughts as a parent to parents, specifically in our church. Our church longs to see the day when people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation are united fully and finally in Christ, when Christ returns. And for years we have prayed and fasted for more of this future reality to be a present reality in our church, and other Jesus loving churches. 

But if you know us and our area, you know that Redemption City Church is a predominantly white church in a predominantly white area. I also know that many of y’all would like to talk about race issues in your homes with your kids but don’t know where to start. 

As your pastor, I wanted to encourage you to have imperfect conversations about important topics with God’s help. Be a home that talks about the issues and problems of the day, as best you can, with God’s wisdom—wisdom that comes from his word and through others. Your kids don’t primarily need a professional to talk to them about these things, they need their parents to talk to them about these things. 

These conversations will differ depending on your children’s ages, awareness, and more. That’s why it’s important to talk about these things in an ongoing way. Where my family currently is, my wife and I talked through the following 10 areas imperfectly with our kids this past week. Many of these topics have been discussed before, along with other aspects of the race conversation. Perhaps these 10 statements can help you and your family “Win at Home” by talking about important issues in your home. 

Racism is evil that needs to be defined and opposed.
We simply defined racism as failing to treat people with the dignity that people made in the image of God deserve because of the color of their skin (Gen 1:26-28), or, more simply, treating or viewing people negatively based on the color of their sin. We talked about how this can happen in obvious ways and more subtle ways, like walking into a room and thinking less of them because their skin is different than yours. As we talked about racism, we talked about a number of ways that people are currently defining racism that isn’t actually racism. We want them to know what it is and what it isn’t. As we did this, we also made sure we made it clear that they know that racism is evil and it should be opposed. We told them that racism isn’t just a problem between you and that person, it’s a problem between you and God. So, we told them, if you ever hear your friends doing something racist, you oppose them. You make it awkward. And you let us know. Racism can come from anywhere, so be aware. Racism is evil and it needs to be defined and opposed.

Many white professing Christians have used the Bible to justify racist things like slavery, while some used the Bible to convince people that slavery is wrong. Just because someone quotes the Bible, doesn’t mean they are speaking for God. We want to raise kids who are like the Bereans, who check out everything they hear with the Bible. We don’t want them to be naïve about church history, cowardly Christians, ways that white Christians have misused the Bible, still misused the Bible, and the ways our hearts can twist Scripture. We also want them to know that there were people like Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, and many others who opposed the evils of racism with the Bible. We want them to know that people like Martin Luther King Jr., appealed to the Bible to show the evils of racism. We want them to be in the minority like those people were, even if it costs them in the days ahead.

Justice is important and complex, as anyone who has served on a jury like I have would know.  Justice is important because it’s a part of God’s character and he says it should be important to us. That’s why one of the ways we show that we are following Jesus is by caring about what’s “just” in our home, church, school, community, and the world. Justice is important, but it can also be complex. I talked to them about different definitions of justice (equal opportunity vs equal outcomes, etc.), different types of justice (procedural justice, etc.). We talked about what I learned this past year serving for a week on a jury, that it’s important to consider multiple viewpoints and all the facts, before we draw a conclusion. Jury duty also teaches you how important it is to take time to “consider” the evidence. Justice often moves painfully slow. We also talked about issues where brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed to doing the right thing in all of the world often disagree over specific issues of justice that are less clear. We want our kids to know that justice is important and complex.

Some cops are bad, but most cops are great, just like some pastors are bad, but most are great. We wanted our kids to know that they can acknowledge the reality of bad cops AND the fact that most cops are not just good, but heroic. Our hope is that they have categories for both as they grow up. But we don’t want them to think the cop problem is better or worse than it is. But we didn’t want them to be afraid for their friends who are people of color, so we let them know about how out of over 10 million or so police encounters, where about 10,000 people violently oppose police in those encounters a year, around 500 white people were killed and around 250 black people were killed—a few of those did not have weapons like George Floyd. But, based on the amount of white and black people in our culture, that means black people are 3 times more likely for this to happen. There will always be work to be done in improving any area of our culture’s life, including police work. But I think it’s helpful to let your kids know that they can affirm both that some cops are bad but most cops are heroic.

Many people working in the “Right” and “Left” media make money off misrepresenting reality and making things worse. We told them about traditional and social media on the “Right” and the “Left” are more committed to doing what advances their perspective, than the truth. They want to grab our attention, not necessarily present the facts. That’s why they often are only interested in certain types of stories and ignore other stories that don’t help their purposes. And we wanted them to know that the media’s misrepresenting efforts skews people’s perspectives in significant ways. We talked to them about recent studies showed that showed that the media’s handling of the news related to COVID, Voting Laws, caused Republicans and Democrats to misunderstand the facts significantly. So we emphasized what I learned on the jury duty and what we all learned in school, that we need listen to many perspectives, evaluate them, research, and verify where we can. We talked about how there are good people in the media as well. We don’t want them to be overly cynical, just aware of the world in which we live.

A lot of progress has been made with race relations in America, but there will always be more work to do. We have talked about life for people of color before the Civil War, after the Civil War, the Compromise of 1877, the “Golden Age of Black Business” in the early 20th century, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other ways things have become much more just in America. But we also talk about how there is much work to be done. We share stories that we’ve heard from some of our friends who are not white, undeserved bad things that have happened to them, how they see things, and more. We talked about ways that the justice system was unjust to people of color. We want to do the best we can to help be aware of both the progress and the need for progress as we move forward. As long as sin is present, it will cause problems around every issue, including this one.

No society is a perfect society, but we should be thankful that we get to live in America. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to travel all over the world. One of the things that I’ve taken away from all of my travels, is that America is the best place to live in the world. We want them to be thankful to live here and not take for granted the privileges we all enjoy in this country. We want them to know that tens of millions of people are still in slavery around the world, in Asia and Africa. We want them to be aware of the injustices we saw and endured in different parts of the world. BUT we also want them to know that there will always be work that needs to be done to improve America. Until Jesus returns, there will be no perfect society, no perfect system. So we’re thankful for the good, but doing our best to change the bad. Part of this change includes changing policies, laws, protocols, and more.

We make things better when we work over the long haul and at different levels. We talked to them about how the best change often takes the longest to bring about. And in order for significant change to happen in areas dealing with race, there were a lot of levels that we needed to work on, not just one. Part of the answer will come from dealing with personal issues, family issues, political issues, church issues, legal issues, and more. Politics are important, but only a small part of the answer. We talked about studies that show the home life of a person has a significant impact on a person’s ability to do well in the world. We talked about laws that have changed and need to change to help make things better. All of these things are connected. We wanted our kids to know that in a world where many people pick and choose their “justice” issue and ignore others, a multi-faceted approach is needed to bring about the needed change.

We should be slow to speak, quick to listen, and care enough to learn over the long haul, especially from people who have different experiences than us. We didn’t want our kids to think that just because they’ve had a few conversations with their parents that they know enough to be a “know it all.” We want them to know that we don’t think we have all the answers and that we are still learning. We also want them to know that one of the active ways they can be a part of making things better is by taking a learning posture to these things. But we also want them to know that there is a time to speak. Christians are called to speak the truth in love. And sometimes it might cost us. We want to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves as we do it. We want to ask for God’s help to know how best to speak where God wants us to speak and be silent where he wants us to be silent, learning all along the way. And we want them to know that it’s important to listen to people who have had different experiences from us. We want our kids to know that we love people who are different than us, and listen and learn from them.

We all need to receive grace and extend grace. We want them to know that we have messed up at times, needed grace, and received grace. We want them to know that we are messing up know in ways we aren’t aware of, that others are, and people are probably showing us grace right now. We also want them to know when they think others fail them, they need to extend the grace God has shown them in Christ. We want them to know that the ultimate answer to our problems, even the race problems, is the gospel of God’s grace found in Christ. Only Christ’s blood can break down walls and build a new humanity (Eph. 2). But once we receive that grace, we need to be ready to extend it to people we think need it. Nothing can improve meaningfully in a broken world without grace.

My wife and I don’t want our kids growing up in a house that never talked about the issues that we are facing. But we also know, like every other area of parenting, we haven’t figured it all out. That’s while the conversation will continue to grow over the days ahead. Let me encourage you, wherever you sit on a whole host of issues, to have imperfect conversations about important issues with those in your home. Perhaps, by God’s grace, these conversations can be a part of making things better in our broken world.


Pastor Jed Coppenger






no tags