“Who is the colored guy in my driveway?” I went into shock — my fingers froze and the whole room got quiet.
Let me rewind the story a little for you. I used to do bridal makeup as a side hustle. A client had hired me to do her engagement pictures. Her parents lived on a secluded property with a beautiful backyard, so she wanted her pictures taken there. My husband dropped me off at their house, since I wasn’t familiar with the area. All the family were laughing together, sipping wine, and getting excited planning for my client’s big day. We laughed as everyone shared childhood memories and quirks about her. This was actually my favorite part of bridal makeup; it wasn’t just the client I worked with, but I often would get to meet the whole family.
As I was getting my final touches on her makeup, her dad yelled from the hallway, “Who is the colored guy in my driveway?” It didn’t even phase me at first because I had actually never heard that term used in a conversation in my life. But the laughter and chatter grew quiet around me. He stuck his head into the room and repeated his question, “Anyone want to tell me why there is a colored guy in my driveway?” That’s when I went into shock, my fingers froze in place, and the whole room held their breath. In that moment I felt so many emotions. I was embarrassed of being the other in the room. I was angry for being belittled to a racial slur. I was afraid for what this stranger would do next.
I spoke up, “That’s my husband. He just came to pick me up.” I quickly finished her makeup and gathered my things to leave. We all pretended like nothing happened, even though it was very awkward. I got into the car and told my husband to drive away fast.
I shared with him what happened and I processed my own feelings. The next day, I texted my client and told her that I would not be able to do her wedding makeup as we had planned. I expressed to her that I didn’t feel comfortable or safe working with her family after hearing her dad use racially derogatory terms and having no one speak up for me. She responded back that she fully understood my decision and apologized for her dad’s behavior.
Here is what I didn’t do next: I didn’t get on social media and rant about it, nor did I post her family’s address and name to tell everyone how they had treated me. I think we live in a culture that would rather cancel a person or a group of people than have a hard conversation. But conversations can actually change people; cancelling simply condemns them.
I could’ve just let the whole situation slide and continued to do business with her for her wedding, or I could have laughed it off as ignorance. But I knew that I had to speak up and actually talk to her about it. I don’t know if she ever shared any of it with her dad, or if her dad changed — that’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is to shed light where there is darkness and to call out sin. Jesus never overlooked sin; in fact, at times He would see what was in the heart and minds of people around Him and He would call them out on it. But He never alienated or rejected anyone.
It is easy for us to cancel people that hurt us as a way of defending ourselves and trying to prevent more pain. Especially with social media, we can quickly rally people to join us in canceling those we dislike or disagree with, but that is not an option for a follower of Jesus. Jesus calls us to do the hard work of loving those who hurt us, and that often looks like calling out sin and having an honest conversation with them. This allows them to have the opportunity to understand the injury they caused and repent, rather than continue in their sin. Isn’t that the same love that Jesus offers us?
Perhaps one of the most amazing examples of this is Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew who was on a mission to eradicate Christians.
Jesus appears to Saul not to condemn him, but to have a conversation with him. Jesus calls Saul out and shows him that what he was doing is wrong. Then Jesus goes onto call Saul to Himself. Saul, of course, is totally transformed by this beautiful gift of grace; he is renamed Paul and goes on to write more than half of the New Testament as an apostle of Christ.
Like Paul we are also ambassadors of the grace of God, calling out the sin in the world but calling people to Christ. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT). The next time we’re tempted to cancel someone, let’s come back to this: speak the truth in love.