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Open Your Hands

Open Your Hands

God and Race


Perfect love drives out fear. — 1 John 4:18


The most common question we hear about the conversation between black and white communities of faith is how do we move forward from here? The desire to move beyond racism — defined in our book as prejudice plus power — is real, and so is the lack of understanding about the best place to start in the conversation. A powerful place to start the conversation about race is by understanding two key symbols.

Symbolism is where we find the significance of black fists and white knuckles. The black fist is a symbol made famous at the 1968 Olympics when two African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists during the medal ceremony as the Star-Spangled Banner played, symbolizing solidarity with the black community. Ever since, the black fist has become a symbol of standing up against the residue of segregation, slavery, and the systemic oppression that was, and still is, happening against black people in our country.

White knuckles are symbolic in this study of white Americans who are gripping to a long-standing paradigm of privilege that holds an advantage over people of color. When people try to hold on to the past, it is because something is actually slipping away — and they don’t like change. So, they “white knuckle” it and try to hold on to the “good old days” because they are afraid of new things on the horizon that will not be as good as the things in the past.

But here’s what we know to be true — we have to move beyond just white fists and black knuckles. We can’t afford to have the race conversation from just one perspective. We need open-handed conversations about race and opportunities to discuss relevant issues in the church from both a black and white perspective. Our call as Christians is to love all people, and we can’t do that with closed fists. Racial diversity in the church is an opportunity to open our hands instead of an obstacle. We need to learn how to open our hands and surrender.


If you or any of your fellow group members do not know one another, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to get things started, discuss one of the following questions:

  • What opportunities have you had lately to talk about God and race?

— o r —

  • How has your church recently addressed conversations about race and faith?


Invite someone to read aloud the following passage. Listen for new insights as you hear the verses being read, and then discuss the questions that follow.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us….

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. — 1 John 4:7-12, 1 John 4:16-21

What does this passage say about everyone who is in the family of God?

What does this passage have to do with how we approach the topic of racism?


Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.

God cares about race. We have different skin colors, speak different languages, enjoy different cultures, and yet the Bible says we are all human beings made in the image of God.

What is standing in our way of getting to where we need to go? Clenched fists. We hold onto the past, but we must be willing to receive with open hands.

The black fist is a symbol of standing up against the residue of segregation, slavery, and the systematic oppression that was (and still is) happening against black people in our country.

White knuckles is the other side of that equation. Many white Americans are still gripping to a long-standing paradigm of privilege that holds an advantage over people of color.

There are three big problems that result in us keeping our fists clenched:

The pain problem: the pain of racism
The paralysis problem: the failure to stand up to racism by saying that’s enough!
The perfection problem: perfection as a prerequisite for progress as it relates to racism

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were the original cancel culture. There is a story in John 8 where they catch a woman in adultery. They demanded perfection from her, but since she fell short, she sat paralyzed in fear in the temple courts — until Jesus entered the picture.

One day every tribe, tongue, and nation will be worshiping together. Until that day comes, our job is to work to make that a reality today. And we can’t do that with closed fists.


Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched, and then explore these concepts in Scripture.

  1. What stood out to you from listening to John and Wayne today? How can you identify with the stories they shared?
  2. In what ways have problems caused by clenched fists — either black fists or white knuckles — shaped your own story? Which problem is most prevalent for you—the problem of pain, the problem of paralysis, or the problem of perfection?
  3. The Bible gives us a beautiful picture of the beginning and end of the human story in Genesis 1:26-31 and Revelation 7:9-17. What stands out to you in these verses and gives you hope about the beginning and the end of our story?
  4. Read Luke 10:25-37. There is a poignant reason that the story is called “The Good Samaritan” rather than “The Good Person.” How is this story a challenge for us today? Can you think of a modern-day example?
  5. Why do you think it is so hard for us to open our hands when it comes to the conversation on racism? What do we miss by keeping our fists clenched?
  6. What will you do to stay engaged and open to challenges throughout this study? What specific commitment will you make to your group today?


Review the outline for the video teaching and any notes you took. In the space below, write down your most significant takeaway from this session.


One of the most important things you can do together in community is to pray for each other. This is not simply a closing prayer to end your group time but a portion of time to share prayer requests, review how God has answered past prayers, and actually pray for one another. As you close your time together this week, thank God for creating every tribe and nation in his image and for loving all of us as his children. Ask him to search your heart and give you that kind of love toward others, especially when they look different than you. And ask God to help you keep an open mind and open hands regarding this conversation on God and race over the next few sessions. Use the space below to record prayer requests and praises.

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Your Turn

Come share your thoughts on God and Race. We want to hear from you about moving from racism and loving one another.