"I think you're racist...."

I was taken aback at the stranger's message in Facebook Marketplace. A potential buyer made an assumption about me based on my profile photo. Truly, someone else had requested the free items I listed in the Marketplace first. My response back to him, "I'm sorry, the items are unavailable" had nothing to do with his race. He was an African American man. 

Unfortunately, he didn't believe me. He assumed the worst. 

Out of a wounded heart, false accusations flowed. He accused me of racism—something I've committed my life to fight. Although I didn't do anything wrong and I'm not racist, it hurt. The sting got even stronger when he rated me as a bad "seller" (although he'd not purchased anything!).

Anger. That's what I felt at first. I wanted to fight, to set him straight and defend myself, notifying him that I'd read anti-racist books and wasn't as ignorant as he might assume. But then, flight kicked in. I wanted to disengage, ignore him, and let the situation fade away. I figured he was on social media looking to stir up trouble and make mean accusations. Hurt people hurt others, right?

A familiar whisper soon came, encouraging me to press in: 

"Learn what provoked this anger and apologize."

Listening to the whisper

I didn't want to apologize, I had done nothing wrong, but I knew the voice to be the Holy Spirit. It was wise to obey. I returned to social media and typed out a longer message to the man, explaining in detail how the other buyer had requested the items first. Then, I asked if he had faced racism on the platform. 

"Deal with it all the time," he replied.

Suddenly, I felt compassion; I'd never dealt with anything like what he described. Nobody had ever canceled my order or refused to sell to me because of my profile picture. My race had never been a barrier when using Facebook Marketplace.

As we exchanged a few more messages, I found myself sharing about my diverse family and apologizing for the racism he'd experienced. I wanted him to truly know that his race had nothing to do with the items I was giving away.

I made mental notes about over-communicating when buying and selling online, especially with people of color. He'd assumed the worst about me, and in my offense, I'd assumed the worst about him. But as we exchanged mutual "God bless" messages and our conversation ceased, I walked away more understanding and informed. The situation was uncomfortable, but I was glad we'd ended things on a positive note.

I've often thought about that man who accused me of being a racist and our tension-filled encounter. I wanted to fight back and beat my anti-racist chest. And then I wanted to run away. But, the Holy Spirit had something else in mind. God does that, and especially when we're fighting racism. He knew my heart was after reconciliation and repair, and He offered a way to build stronger bridges between me and a person of color. 

We may have our way when it comes to fighting racism, but I learned that God often has a better way. In this encounter, it involved laying down my defenses and seeking to understand, not assuming the worst but finding compassion and grace.

Prayer: Lord, help me pause and not react out of hurt when I'm treated unfairly. Help me to not assume the worst in others, but to find the good. I want to seek to understand and treat others like you do—with grace, empathy and love. Help me hear your gentle whisper that's working to repair relationships between people of all racial groups. Use me to be a bridge builder. In Jesus' name. Amen.

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

This devotional first appeared in the Monday Morning Survival Guide. Subscribe to get next Monday's devotional emailed to you.

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