Over the course of America's history, the nation has rid itself of slavery and then wiped out all the laws that segregate the races. Racial divides, however, still seem to haunt the US.
Pastor Miles McPherson of San Diego's 20,000-strong Rock Church insists it doesn't have to be this way. And he says Christians can be part of the solution. This former Los Angeles Rams player reminds believers that if you're a person of faith, you already believe in a loving God who didn't create racial divides.
"There's one race: the human race," McPherson told CBN News. "We're 99.5 percent genetically identical. We all want to have a family. We all want to enjoy food and sleep. So we have so much more in common than we are different."
McPherson suggests in his book, The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation, that believers start looking at EVERYONE as their neighbor.
"The greatest commandment is to love God with your heart, mind, soul, and the second is like it: love your NEIGHBOR as yourself," he stated, emphasizing the word 'neighbor.' "If I re-label you something less than neighbor, I don't need to love you as myself. So I have to start with 'you are my neighbor.'"
Look for People Not Like You
Then search out people not in your race, culture or group.
McPherson urged, "I would challenge people to talk to people not like them."
It was made to show people how such discussions can make it fun and easy to learn about others not like yourself and also to see if you offend or appear prejudiced.
"You can be racially offensive and not be a racist," McPherson pointed out. "We do owe it to our brothers and sisters to find out if we're offensive."
The skit started out light, with McPherson narrating: "Stacey, an African-American woman, said: 'Hey, my name is Stacey. How y'all doing?' Then Taniqua, an older white lady, jumped in and said: 'Hello, my name is Taniqua." Stacey was like: 'Taniqua? Go ahead, girl!'"
Then the four people in the skit work their way through a brief sharing session about race. You can watch the skit and get questions and guidelines to have your own such discussions by texting DISCUSS to 52525.
Let Color Be an Opportunity, Not a Barrier
In the video featuring the skit, the participants take a couple of minutes to talk directly to viewers at the end of it.
Margaret shared, "My hope is that you honor others by, instead of ignoring their color, you celebrate it. Give people the benefit of the fact that each color has stereotypes and burdens placed on them by others. So be that person who lightens that burden by loving them the way they are."
Tai said, "My hope is that you honor others by not blaming the person in front of you for what the person behind you has done. Go into every discussion thinking the best, not the worst, prepared to speak life and not death over someone."
Gus shared a personal incident, recalling, "When I was seven, I was at a department store with my aunt. My aunt was speaking to me in Spanish when two women walked by and said loudly, 'These Mexicans come to our country illegally and don't even bother to speak our language.' To which I responded, 'I speak perfect English.' They both looked appalled and walked away angrily."
Then he said, "My hope is that you honor others by being quick to listen, slow to speak. And allow what others disclose about themselves to challenge your thoughts and assumptions that you have about them. The safest assumption you should make is that there's more that you don't know about them than you do know. Be a learner, not a judge."
Tammy shared, "My hope is that we honor others by eliminating the term 'those people' from our vocabulary, and place the label 'neighbor,' 'brother' or 'sister' on them. Anything less dehumanizes them. Instead of ignoring how they were made, celebrate their uniqueness and the added richness their experience and culture could bring to your life."
Honor All: 'Acknowledge the Priceless Value of Every Human Being'
Pastor McPherson implores folks to honor each person they meet or know.
"Honor would be placing and ascribing priceless value to something," he explained. "Acknowledge the priceless value of every human being. Everybody is made in the image of God. Everybody's loved by God. Everybody's fearfully and wonderfully made. And I need to look for that in you. I need to know that it's there, that God is glorified in you. I need to see that and invest in that."
McPherson is quick to admit the nation still suffers from racial divides.
As he told CBN News, "Things are bad. I think the racism that has kind of been hidden for a while now is coming out. But I think it's pushing people to make a decision where they stand on the issue. And that's a good thing."
The San Diego pastor insists we can each have a part in healing the nation's racial divides, starting with our own heart – or as he put it, "I can't fix you. I need to fix myself."
Then, he suggested, "Be a model of unity and love and acceptance and honor. If everybody just did that, then the problem would be solved."