Racism and My Testimony
There’s been a lot said concerning race, racism, racial injustice, and many more associated topics in the last few weeks. I’ve been discouraged by some of the things that have been going around, but I’ve been encouraged by others. I’m glad it’s getting talked about. It makes people feel uncomfortable, but that’s a good thing. Uncomfortable conversations lead to change.
I didn’t see racism growing up, because I wasn’t raised by racist parents. I was taught against it as a child, even though I didn’t really know what all was being said. I just heard my parents telling me to love everyone, and treat everyone like you want to be treated. They told me not to look at the color of someone’s skin but at the content of their character, or something like that. I realize today people are saying not to be color-blind, but back then (in the 80’s and 90’s) my parents meant the same thing. They were just telling me to love everyone no matter what they looked like, and they practiced this. It was a great example.
I had a best friend in grade school named Devonte. He and I just clicked. That’s back when I was oblivious to most things in life. As a kid, you really don’t know what’s going on, you’re just having fun. Devonte and I got along great. I never saw him as “my black friend.” He was just my best friend who happened to be black. I didn’t know that was a strange thing to some people. It was the 80’s, not far removed from what happened in the 50’s and 60’s, but again, I had no clue. I was just a kid who had a best friend.
Fast forward to high school. Basketball was my life. I played for a small, Christian school in Georgia, mostly unknown, but I didn’t care. We had a good program, good coach, practices throughout the week, and Friday night games. We had one black guy on our team, Jemia, a super nice fellow and friend to me. He and I got along great, and he‘d come over to my house sometimes to hang out. We were friends who enjoyed each other’s company. I didn’t really see this friend as black either. It wasn’t because I was trying to overlook that, I was just raised to love everyone. My mind began to be awakened to the concept of racism during this time, but due to my upbringing, it was never an issue.
It wasn’t until I had grown up enough to understand more things in society and culture that I realized racism was a problem. Some people don’t think it’s a problem, and if we’re talking about racially motivated fights and riots in my home town, I haven’t seen much of that. From the late 90’s till now I have ventured out into my city and the surrounding area most days for work, and people interact with each other without there being a big issue among blacks and whites (and other ethnicities) in the community.
Here’s the problem though. Racism exists in private, at least around here, much more than it does in public. Someone cuts a white guy off in traffic, and he mumbles, “They’re probably black.” Someone gets a cashier at the gas station who is tired and stressed out from a long day of work, that cashier happens to be black, and the customer thinks that’s the reason they weren’t nice to them. Or, someone decides not to go into a certain line at Home Depot because a black person is running the counter.
Many white people will immediately go, “What about black racists?!” I’m not black, I’m white, so I’m trying to look at me and those that look like me. I’m trying to better myself, and get those who look like I do to start thinking.
I know for certain all of this happens, because each of these examples have been me at one time or another. As an adult, I began listening to more racist ideologies, and they began rubbing off on me. I wasn’t taught that way, and I had really never even heard of such things growing up, but they existed.
For me it began by looking into a concept known as the Christian Identity Movement. A group of Bible believers who claim that the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the earth are the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that the modern day Jews in Israel are either (1) imposters from another ancestry, or (2) the seed of Satan from the garden of Eden. I never accepted the serpent seed doctrine, but I did (for a time) believe the other.
There were so many racist people that I met in this movement. Some to a high degree and others to a low degree. I still remember a high degree racist (just after he played a song on a radio program that talked about a “big-black-spook”) saying in a conversation that he would “still change a tire for a black woman that was broke down on the side of the road,” as though that okayed his belief system. Maybe it gave him some solace in his way of thinking, I don’t know, but that just stands out to me.
This guy and others like him invited me on a radio program to talk about another subject in the Bible. It felt weird but I went on anyhow. During the conversation there were some racist things said. I didn’t say anything on that subject myself, but my heart was hard at the time, and I told them in private that I agreed with what they were saying. Something deep down inside me told me I was wrong, but I ignored it. It makes me embarrassed and sad now.
I never got into the open, militant, racist stuff. It always made me uncomfortable. But I did get into the idea that white people are the superior race, and the other races were created as less, or may have even been classified as something other than human. It’s not easy for me to type this out now that I’ve been delivered from this way of thinking, but I have to in order for my testimony to be true and impactful. I actually believed this way at one time.
This part of my life started from about 2003 and lasted till around 2012. It didn’t start all at once, but it increased as time moved on. It didn’t stop all at once either. I’ll talk more about that later.
During this time I would tell my young children, “Be nice to black people, but don’t make close friends with them.” Or, “if one of them tries to get to close to you come and tell daddy.” I put those thoughts in my children’s heads, because of my studies in the White Identity Movement. I began to think that we were special, simply because of the color of our skin.
The entire time I believed this way there was a battle going on in my mind. The battle existed because I would still run into black believers that I liked to be around, and I would treat them one way to their face, but believe things in my mind and say things in private to others that were contrary to the way I was acting. I might make a joke in private, or even use the word nigger casually to describe something a black person did to me that day. Yet, when I’d meet up in town with a black person I liked, I’d treat them kindly and with respect. I think it stemmed from my upbringing. How I was raised impacted me greatly, and I never could let go of the love I had for people, for the simple reason that they were people.
So... I lived this way. Some days it was heavy, other days it was light. Some days I would blame all the world’s problems on black people. Other days I would lay down at night wondering why I felt the way I did, and ask myself if I should change. But I’d dig myself deeper into this racist ideology, so deep at one time that I didn’t think there was a way out.
I think what some white people have done is gone to the Bible with their prejudice already in place, and then searched for Bible verses to back up their preconceived notion. I’ve preached on this use of the Bible before, where people don’t really believe what the Bible teaches; they already have what they want to believe in place, but they want the Bible to justify it. And it’s not that hard to do if you take a few verses out of context, paste them together, and come up with something that makes your flesh feel better.
I could hide my feelings pretty good. I could do a job for a black person and act cordial and smile, but the entire time I’d be waiting for them to do something wrong. The weird thing is that part of me didn’t want to be this way, but I kept smothering that part for some reason. It was my pride that made me do it. I was too proud to admit my wrong, and change.
The first step in healing from a sin is to admit that you have a problem. If you never admit it, get it out in the open, confess it, and openly repent, the healing process will never take place. I’ve heard people saying something like this, “Well, I’m not racist, but...” What comes after is low-key or sometimes high-key racism. It’s like when someone starts a statement by saying, “With all due respect,” you know that the next thing that comes out of their mouth is going to be disrespectful. These are statements that come from us when we aren’t fully willing to let go of our sin because of pride. Pride keeps us from saying, “I’m sorry. I have sinned. I’ve done something terribly wrong.” We want to save face, because we hate admitting we are flawed.
If I want Yahweh to forgive me, the Scripture is clear that I have to admit my sin, confess my sin, and repent of my sin. If I don’t do those things, Yahweh will not forgive me. His hand is there waiting to pick me up, but my unrepentant sin separates me from having a relationship with Him. If I confess my sins, He is there with open arms waiting to give me a hug and say, “You are forgiven my child, no strings attached.” He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesses and forsakes his sin shall find mercy.
So what changed me? How was I delivered from racism? First of all, I do believe this is a sin that people need deliverance from. It’s like alcohol or drug addiction. If you’re an alcoholic, you’ll be the last person to admit it. You will tell people you don’t have a problem. You’ll cover it up. You’ll be in denial, all because you want to continue to do what you want to do. It’s no different with racism. People don’t want to give it up. It’s a drug that even in private makes them feel superior about themselves.
What changed me was of course Yahweh, but he used certain people, and a New Testament epistle to do it.
So much changed in my life in 2012. I look back now and think about how I was 30 years old when 2012 began. That’s the age the Aaronic priests began their ministerial duties and that’s the age our Messiah began his ministry. I began ministering when I was in my early 20’s, and even some in my teenage years. If I had it to do over again, I’d patiently wait until I was at least 30. I now see that my brain was still developing, and I was still learning about life. I had my fifth child shortly before this time, and I was beginning to understand some things I had never seen before.
During this time, Yahweh was gracious to me by allowing me to deal with certain sins in my life I had been ignoring. He could have taken me out and been just, but He chose to instead show mercy. He did not deal with me as my sins deserved. I went on a seven day fast around this time, did a lot of repenting, and wrote a song about mercy. It was one of those great spiritual awakening times in my life, and one of things He dealt with me about was my racism. I began to change because He began to change me.
In 2013 I had the opportunity to go on live television and talk about a book I had wrote titled, “Learning to Love His Law - Training our Minds to Think like the Creator.” This was on a local station to Atlanta, and the program was called “Atlanta Live.” I had actually sang on that station before, and I had watched other interviews being done live with other authors and speakers.
My dear friend TJ Martin went with me for the interview. TJ was my next door neighbor for around 10 years, and is still my best friend and the person I enjoy discussing Scripture with the most. TJ and I have a long story to tell about our friendship to start with, but that’s another post, lol. I had asked him to go with me, and he was excited to go. We both loved talking about Biblical law, but I was nervous, so TJ was a great support.
When I walked into the station, I expected to see the man that normally did the interviews. I can’t remember his name now, but he was a short, red-headed, white fellow. He’s the one I had coordinated it all with. I didn’t see him at first, but then he walked out and started talking to all those who’d be singing or speaking that night. He walked up to me and started telling me who would be interviewing me. He pointed over to a black lady and said, “Her name is Cherise.” I don’t know if I’m spelling that right, but that’s how I remember her name. I smiled, and thought, “Okay Yahweh, I see what you are doing.”
When I sat down with Cherise on live camera I felt peace. She was so friendly to me, both on and off camera. She had a big smile that just lit up her face while I was explaining the Scriptures, and the content of my book. I was talking so fast at one time that she made a facial expression that came across like, “Where in the world is all this information coming from?” Hahaha... It was a great 15 minutes or so. The best part about it for me though was that Cherise ministered to me in a way that she knew not of. She may never know it, but Yahweh knows. She helped open up my heart.
After the interview, I had another lady (that was there that night to sing I think) pull me to the side and tell me she wanted me to come and teach at the church she ministered in. She told me she had never heard teaching like that before, and she was amazed and felt the Holy Spirit through it. She too was a black lady, and was so kind to me. The thing is, I don’t remember anything else she said, because all I could think about was two super friendly black women who listened intently to me as I explained the Scriptures, and treated me with nothing but respect. I didn’t say anything about this to TJ on the ride home, and I’ve never said anything about this to anyone until now. The live TV interview that I went to do to help others was actually orchestrated by the Almighty to help me.
After that I began noticing all the nice, kind black people I had never noticed before. I meet a lot of different people in my line of work, so this is something that had been going on for years, but my heart was hard to it. I would only see the mean, black people, but I never realized that they were just mean people, lol... it wasn’t because they were black. Some of the best customers I have are black, and they keep using me for service because they like me and the quality of work I give. I’ve built up some good relationships with my black customers over the last 7 years, and I just love this!
Okay, let’s fast forward now to late 2015, when I began studying the book of Galatians. I didn’t start preaching on Galatians until 2017, but I began looking at it towards the end of 2015, and got deep into it through 2016. My reason was that I had so many believers in the Torah Community ask me questions about Galatians. I knew that one day I would teach through it, but I knew it would be a task. Some task it was. I ended up teaching around 60 sermons and writing hundreds of pages of notes. I breathed, ate, and slept Galatians for a while. It was all I thought about at times.
Through my studies I would read, re-read, and cross-reference this epistle. I also had several commentaries I’d comb through as well, from all kinds of angles. I always tell people that it never does you any good to just listen to people who agree with you. You learn by listening to people who don’t agree with you, and seeing where they are coming from. Through the process you’ll either change for the better, broaden your scope, or fine-tune your position.
I was listening to a teaching on Galatians while mowing my grass one day. It takes me 4-5 hours to mow and weed-eat my property, so this is prime-time podcast or sermon time. I still remember where I was at in my yard when I heard a Pastor say something that made me pause. I stopped the recording, cut off the blade, turned down the motor, and just sat there idling. After a few seconds I shook my head in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that Galatians dealt heavily with the area Yahweh had been working on in my life. I was focused on law and grace (which Galatians does deal with), but I didn’t realize that this epistle had so much to teach me about prejudice and ethnicity.
I’m not going to repeat all my notes here in this post; you are welcome to go listen to my sermons. Let me just say that Galatians 3:27-29 is the hub of the book. That’s the one section that explains the book better than any other verses therein. The main issue in Galatia was that there were Jewish believers that did not believe Gentiles could have salvation, or the same status as they, because of their ethnicity and upbringing. The only way they believed a heathen could be saved was through proselytizing to become a Jew; changing their ethnicity so to speak. Many people don’t ever see this, because they just read a few verses here and there, and don’t spend time studying the cultural context of the epistle, or its entirety.
This changed my whole life. I began to see things I had never seen before, and I began reading the Bible with fresh eyes. Instead of reading to try to prove something I wanted to be true, I started to read to understand what was true. I’d done this before on other subjects, but this was a big one for me because I was being delivered from a sin that I at one time didn’t want to admit I had: hatred and prejudice towards a people group because of their skin color. It was an exciting time in my life, and continued to be the entire time I taught through Galatians. My first lesson was in May of 2017. My last lesson was in February of 2020. I took breaks here and there, but that’s how long I continued to study this epistle.
In July of 2018 I began getting into the section of Galatians I mentioned above. I spent four sermons on Galatians 3:26-29, and on August 4, 2018 I taught a message that I titled: “Galatians Cured My Racism.” I was nervous, I was scared, I’d been fasting so I was weak, but I was ready to speak about my problem and deliverance in public. In several sermons up to that point I had dropped a few nuggets, but I hadn’t come out specifically about my change until I got to this section. There were a lot of people in our fellowship that day, and even some visitors. I didn’t know if people were going to hate me or love me. I cared about that, but I cared more about openly confessing my sin and repenting in front of my wife and children. I had put thoughts in my children’s minds that I shouldn’t have, and I wanted them to see that their daddy was sorry, and that Yahweh changed his heart. (Thankfully my wife was supportive of me as she has always been, through the good times and the bad times. Yahweh blessed me with the best woman on the planet.)
When you have small children, you don’t think much of them one day becoming adults. You live in the moment you are in at each time. That’s just how it happens. Even now as I have grandchildren I look at them the way they are. I don’t think about them being my age one day, but it will happen. The older your children get the more they will develop thinking skills. They’ll begin to see things they couldn’t see before, and they will begin to realize that their parents aren’t perfect. When they are little, they think you hung the moon. Once they get older, they see all the faults, frailties, and sins that exist in their parent.
One thing I’ve tried to do is spend a lot of time with my kids, and ask them to forgive me when I do something wrong or sin against them. Parenting is super-duper-hard, and we are called by Yahweh to train and discipline our children. But that doesn’t excuse our anger or harsh speech as adults. Sometimes we abuse our authority as a parent, and lash out at a child, causing more harm than good. There have been times when I’ve disciplined in anger, later realized it, and then apologized to my child, asking them to please forgive daddy. Well, in this particular sermon of 2018, I had grown children. I had two that had already gotten married, and then two more teenagers at home. I still had a 9 year old, but for the most part, my kids could see things now that they couldn’t see before, so I had to openly repent to show them I was serious.
I had already made my peace with Yahweh. I can’t remember an exact day, but it was sometime in 2015 when I got serious with it. It started around 2013 with Cherise, but I got intentional in 2015-2016. What a relief it was after I taught that sermon in 2018. It wasn’t long, only 20 minutes or so, but it felt like a lifetime when I was talking.
After the sermon I dismissed everyone in prayer. I had two people approach me that night telling me thank you; they had the same problem I had, and the sermon struck a chord with them. Others over the last two years have contacted me about the sermon too, expressing gratitude and telling me that they needed to hear it. Praise Yahweh for this confirmation.
In 2017 when I was preaching through Galatians, my sister-in-law found out she had cancer. Her name was Denise, and she was a great person. She loved Yahweh and had a heart for all people. Her and I would talk sometimes (after church or band rehearsal), and she would tell me about people she had met and witnessed to. Sometimes the people would be black people, and she’d tell me they were hungry for what she was testifying about. I hadn’t come full circle yet in being ready to share my testimony publicly, but I was soaking in what she was telling me. I even told her to keep up the good work. She inspired me in being so kind to everyone and not judging people by their outward appearance. She passed away in November of 2017.
On the way to her funeral I was praying and crying. I felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart and I made a phone call to a black fellow I knew. I had mistreated this person in my life years ago. I had ignored texts and phone calls, all because I didn’t want to be around him, but he hadn’t done anything wrong to me. I had never told him I was sorry since Yahweh began to change my heart, so that day, on the way to the funeral, it was time. I called, he picked up.
Through tears I asked him to forgive me for how I had treated him in the past. He immediately forgave me and told me he looked up to me and I had always been nice to him. Ha... I had tried hard to put on a facade in the past, but I know how I had felt and what I had done. I explained some things to him, and it felt good to get it off my chest. My sister-in-law Denise was the cause of this. I had seen how she treated others that weren’t like her, and on the way to memorialize her life I was motivated to do the same. She wasn’t there in 2018 when I gave my repentance message, but I wished she could have heard it. There are things I had told her in the past that I wanted her to realize I was wrong about. I will see her again one day. Maybe I’ll get to tell her then.
Here we are today in 2020. So much is going on that breaks my heart. Racism still exists, and will continue to exist in the minds and hearts of people. I just heard some racism from someone a few weeks ago. I’m able to have compassion and approach those in this sin with gentleness, because I see myself there not too long ago. I try to plant good, little seeds in hateful hearts when I can, and I try to be intentional in how I interact with people of color now.
There are people who do not understand some of my actions, maybe because they haven’t been where I was, or maybe because they don’t want to understand. The other day, I went to a peaceful protest that supported black lives. I don’t belong to the Black Lives Matters Organization, and I don’t support all the things they stand for, but I can be for the cause without being for the organization. That shouldn’t be hard to grasp. I marched with everyone there that day, mostly black people, and I prayed for racial reconciliation while I marched. I cried. I repented again. I smiled at everyone. For me it was more open repentance. I feel bad for things I said and did in my past, so I’m trying to bring forth fruit now that is consistent with repentance. Repentance is not just asking for forgiveness and stopping the sin, it is also doing positive works the opposite of said sin. I want the black community to know I love them, and support them as my neighbor. I am trying to love everyone where they are at, because Yahweh loves me where I am at, and I am not yet as I should be. (Heck, I don’t believe in everything Target stands for either, but I don’t walk in there with a chip on my shoulder.)
I am seeing things now that I’ve never been able to see before. Yahweh has opened my heart in such a way that I am able to look at things through the eyes of other people. I want to somehow feel what they feel, even if a little. It’s been a blessing. I’m reading things I would have never read before, and I’m listening to Christian black men and women gently explain how they feel, and how we can help bring about change for them and the betterment of us all.
Last week I did a job for a lady in my home town. My son-in-law exited the work truck and went to talk to the customer while I made a couple phone calls. When I got out and walked up the driveway, I heard the lady (a black lady about my age) say something about her Mama going through a tough time right now because she lost her husband. This lady started crying right there in the drive-way, telling me she missed her daddy. I told this lady I was so sorry, and it hurt me that she was hurting. She kind of looked at me funny, and I think it was because I was just a random septic tank man that came to work on a problem they were having.
We worked on the septic tank, fixed a problem, showed the lady what was going on, and got to the end of the job. While I was writing the receipt I felt something tug on my mind and heart... “You need to talk with the lady who lost her husband and tell her that I love her. Go comfort her.” I don’t experience things like this much, so I wanted to shrug it off. Thankfully I didn’t ignore the Almighty. That’s who was talking to me.
I was around at the back door and I had the young lady sign the receipt. After I gave it to her I said, “Ma’am, can you please get your Mama. I’d like to speak to her.” She did, and a few seconds later this little, old black woman walked up to the door. You could tell she had been crying. Come to find out she had lost her husband two months ago and was still hurting and mourning. Her eyes looked tired from crying. She looked frail. She had been married for around 60 years.
I reached out and grabbed her hand and said, “Ma’am, I know you don’t know me, but the Lord has told me to give you a word from Him. He wants you to know that He loves you, cares about you, sees your tears, and has compassion on your pain.” This little old lady fell into my arms and cried on my chest uncontrollably. I continued through my own tears, “It’s okay to cry and mourn. The Lord understands. Don’t let anyone tell you to get over this. You spend as much time as you need to mourn your husband. I know he loved you and you loved him.” After she gained the strength to stand back up, she told me, “I talked to God this morning, and he told me someone was coming. He sent you.” I grabbed her hand again and looked her right in the eyes and said, “You are a beautiful person. You are special. I love you so much.” At that point her daughter behind her was crying too and told me she needed a hug, lol. We all hugged. Yahweh had sent me there for that reason, and the neat thing is that they didn’t realize it was part of the healing process for me.
I have been delivered from racism. I am not proud of my past, but I am excited about my future. I praise Yahweh for His work in my life. I take none of the credit. He put people in strategic places in my life. He opened up an epistle in His book to me. He sent me to a woman’s house. He‘s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be. I love all of you who have read this. You are all special. Please love your Creator, and love all of your neighbors.
My Atlanta Live Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4AEC43PoMk&t=857s
Galatians Cured My Racism: http://mnc.buzzsprout.com/17852/773218-609-galatians-cured-my-racism-gal-pt-39
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.