How My Squad Pulled Up

Regular fishermen. Business owners. Tax collectors. Anarchists. Thieves. If I read you a list of these professions, the last thought you would probably have was that the people in these professions were buddies. And yet, these guys were not only a squad, they were part of the original twelve disciples of Jesus.

My parents used to tell me that the company I keep will set the trajectory for my life. And I am guessing that Mary and Joseph would have given Jesus this advice too, but as He often did, He went a different route to set an example for us to follow. In John 15:15, Jesus calls his disciples “friends” instead of “servants”. He was also friends with many women, including Mary Magdalene, in a time where women were nowhere close to being seen as an equal to men, even in the early churches that would soon emerge.

I do not believe that Jesus chose the people He did to surround himself with without intention. And I emphasize the fact that He chose them. He chose to be friends with them. He could have hung out with the rich, the successful, and the prestigious. I say this because when it comes to racial reconciliation and justice, it starts with a choice to branch out and understand others who are different than ourselves if we truly believe that “we are all one in Christ Jesus'' (Gal. 3:28).  There is a saying that I love: “What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. And what we cannot control...we attack.” I don’t know the minds of leaders of this country who thought to enslave Africans, but I am willing to bet that they did not understand Africans as people. Did they understand the God that they proclaimed their nation to be under? So when it comes to Jesus, He knew the negative whispers associated with tax collectors like Matthew and women like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He knew Judas was a thief and not only made him a disciple, but He let him handle the group’s money (HUHHHHHHH????!!!!). Jesus demonstrated that to truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we have to know them, actually know them.

To really know people brings a new level of care, doesn’t it? Because while I study the history of African Americans in this country and continue to see the problems that plague us today, it is not hard to get angry, especially at white people. But if Jesus demanded that I treat others as I would want to be treated (Luke 6:31), that means that I cannot expect others to want to understand me when I have no interest in understanding them. I would be no better than a racist if I chose not to understand a white person simply because of history.
 
So where does that leave me and you? I would say to look at your squad. How many of them look like you? Sound like you? Do the same things you do? In no way am I saying that it is wrong for you and your friends to share many characteristics. However, I believe that in the pursuit of racial justice and in most things in life, it is hard to care about someone or something that you have no real attachment to or experience with.

In coming to UGA and in joining Wesley, which are places where minorities are not incredibly common, I sought to understand and grow, and God gave me a squad of people from all backgrounds that I can’t believe I had not known before. I do not think that I would be who I am now without the variety of friends God has blessed me with in the last three years. The good times I have shared and the wisdom I have gained from them are irreplaceable. At the bare minimum, I know that I can love people better through God because I understand people more. The more people I have interacted with, the more comfortable I feel when I meet someone new. It has come with misunderstandings, thoughts of “people actually do that???”, and hard self-reflections, but the friendships I have now and who I am today made those uncomfortable moments worth it. All I did was give them a chance, and they returned the favor. Jesus gave his disciples a chance to be friends, and they gave Jesus a chance to lead them, and all of them were forever changed. If that isn’t squad goals, then I don’t know what is.

Author | Emmanuel Fortuchang

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