It’s no secret that racial tension is a massive issue facing both the society and church today. Sometimes it can feel hopeless and overwhelming.
Enter Miles McPherson, pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. I have been a friend and fan of Miles for a long time. In my view, he is one of the boldest and most prophetic voices in the church today. He is teaching truth and living it.
His most recent book The Third Option—which releases today—is simply a must-read for all Christians. It is insightful, honest, and convicting. Please think about getting a copy and discussing it with a friend. As Miles says below, we can—and must—each make a difference.
SEAN MCDOWELL: At this point in your life and ministry, why did you choose to write a book on racial reconciliation?
MILES MCPHERSON: I wrote this book because of the belief that God had given me the experiences and upbringing to communicate a message of hope to all people. In addition, for my entire life, the racial division in our country has burdened my heart and I want to equip people to build bridges with those they feel distant from.
MCDOWELL: How has your personal experience—growing up and as a pastor—influence how you think about this issue?
MCPHERSON: I grew up in a diverse family comprised of Black, White and Chinese. I lived in a Black neighborhood and went to elementary and junior high school in a White neighborhood. I experienced discrimination from Whites because I was not White enough and from Blacks because I was not Black enough. However, I had great friends in both neighborhoods and heard them speak about each other in ways inconsistent with the truth. Now that I have a church where I see a diverse group of 20,000 people get along and serve our city everyday, I know that it is possible. I wrote this book to provide our culture with insights on how to heal the racial divide.
MCDOWELL: Your new book is titled “The Third Option.” What is this “third” option and how is it unique?
MCPHERSON: Racism has developed an “us” versus “them” culture where you are forced to choose from one of two options. The “third option” rejects being limited to the first two options and focuses on a third option of honoring that which we have in common. Not only are we 99.5 percent genetically identical, we were all made in the image of the same God. His image is not inferior or superior in one person over another. If we can focus on our God given ability and responsibility to live in a loving relationship with God and each other, we will be able to lean into being honoring and loving versus trying to avoid being racist.
MCDOWELL: What do you think is at the heart of racism? And what can each of us do to make a difference?
MCPHERSON: Racism is based on pride and the felt need to exercise superiority over another group based on their ethnicity. It is based on the false idea that in order for someone to win, someone else must lose. People can also express it out of resentment for being discriminated against. We can express “The Third Option” by first acknowledging that our self worth and provision is given to us by God and cannot be taken away by man. Because all of us are biased in some way, we can begin to make a difference by acknowledging our personal blind spots and how we may be racially offensive, even when we do not know it. Even though there are people who are racist, we must accept that a person can be racially offensive and not actually be a racist. This is critical to know, because often people believe that if they admit that they were offensive, they are also admitting to being a racist. If you deny the possibility of being offensive, you will also deny the opportunity to learn.
MCDOWELL: What does the Christian worldview uniquely have to offer to racial division today?
MCPHERSON: The bible clearly instructs us to love our “neighbor” as ourselves but let me point out an important component that often gets overlooked. Because of the negative impacts of racism, we tend to label people something less than our “neighbor” and consequently apply an inferior level of love toward them. In other words, if they are not truly our neighbor, we give ourselves permission not to love them like our real neighbor. It can often be a love void of justice or humility. It can be a love that allows it to be expressed at a distance. Therefore the Christian love that Jesus spoke about in Matt 22:37-40 can wipe out racism if it truly moves us to label everyone as our “neighbor,” thus moving us to love them as we would our own family.