Penalties, Racism and Healing

The chants rose from football fans in England
this past weekend. England had reached the finals of the European Championship
against Italy, the first time in the final of a major tournament in 55 years.
After 120 minutes of regulation and extra time, it came down to this: the fate
of a dramatic penalty shootout. Three young English stars, taking the last
three of five penalty kicks; Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and 19-year-old
Bukayo Saka. All three missed. These misses delighted one nation and ended the
dreams of another. A national defeat again, but rather than celebrating
reaching the final, some turned to vitriol and racism. The three young players were
targeted for the colour of their skin, with hateful images and racial slurs. Some
told Saka to ‘go back to Nigeria’. He was born in London.

As I have reflected on the events since the
defeat, I found myself being reminded of what I always knew. For those within
the black community, our identity in regards to being English is dependent on our
success or failure: put simply, ‘when you win, you’re English; when you lose,
you’re black’.

In my moment of retreat, I was led to
Colossians 3:5 (NLT): “So put to death the sinful,
earthly things lurking within you.” Lurking.
When I hear that word, I think of a shadow hiding in a dark alley or a sinister
plot waiting to be exposed. Lurking is described as “being concealed, but
capable of being discovered”.
Paul uses this word to remind us of the sinful, earthly things within us.

We all have sin hiding away which doesn’t show
up every day. We are capable of masking it. The craftiness of Satan means
sometimes he knows how to trigger these things and remind us of our depravity.
As a follower of Jesus, I could be doing so well in how I love and serve
others. Then suddenly, I respond to a situation in a way that is at odds with
my faith, and I am reminded of just how sinful I am.

In the last year, racial tensions have been
heightened. We have seen the senseless killing of black people and in the last
few days, the fallout of the tournament has further highlighted the issue of
racism. We should examine our hearts and reflect on how we see those of other races.
We should pray for what is hidden to be revealed and seek God for racial
healing. The problem with racism, prejudice or bias is that the shame and pain
it produces means people are often reluctant to confront it. Racism is a
disease that is ‘lurking’.

Many of us have been raised to love and be in
community with each other. We may have friends, family and colleagues of
different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and we try to express love. However,
the world is broken and fallen. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (James
1:17) and uses every opportunity to divide us. Admittedly, there have been
times when I have allowed seeds of prejudice to be planted in my heart, and it
hurts to admit it.

We should be encouraging healing at all levels.
We have a responsibility to pull these hidden feelings from the shadows to
enable us to see each other as Jesus sees us. To communicate and speak out
against the lies of racial superiority and discrimination because that is what
they are; well-crafted lies told for centuries. Football is incredibly powerful,
but hasn’t got the power to heal the social divisions
in play, because
regardless of whether those three young men missed or scored, it wouldn’t have
changed the colour of their skin. We ought to see people as God says in 1
Samuel 16:7: “Don’t judge by appearance. The Lord
doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”


Gracious God, we thank you for the wonderful
diversity of people and cultures that enriches our lives and allows us to
expand our fellowship to discover your presence in all people. Deliver us from
the bondage of racism in our social, economic and political institutions, that
denies the humanity of some people and deprives all people of the blessings of
the diversity you have created. Dear God, grant us racial healing and unite us
in love. Amen


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