The following blog was published originally on Seminary of the Southwest’s blog.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13 NRSV
“Do you have time to talk? I would like to discuss something that is really important to me.” The stomach drops. Instinctively, you expect a difficult conversation –the “difficult” conversation with a friend.
The United States needs such a conversation. We need an honest, heart-wrenching conversation about race in America, and yet, it is the very conversation that we Americans run away from the most. It seems there is no way to have a true dialogue, a true sharing of experiences between members of different races in this country.
Perhaps the key to beginning the conversation is to recognize that mistakes are going to be made along the way, and in making the mistakes, we must seek forgiveness.
If we seriously enter into the conversation, we must be willing to forgive each other when the mistakes happen, to remind each other of the purpose of the conversation, and to be present with each other in that very moment of pain and in that very moment of hearing a difficult truth.
The starting place for the conversation about race is in each and every local community. The starting place for the conversation is the here and now. The starting place for the conversation is between you and me. It is a conversation that demands local relationships to provide the strength for unraveling the systemic instances of racism that exist. It is a conversation that demands the commitment of friendship. It is a conversation that needs the love of Christ.
So, let’s find a time to have a cup of coffee and begin that difficult conversation. Let’s embrace the discomfort of listening to a difficult truth. It is the only way that we can become friends. It is the only way that we can love one another as Christ loved us.