Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself

A Guide to Closing the Space Between Us

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June 4, 2024 | ISBN 9780593861356

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About the Book

Discover a boundless love for your Black Neighbor with this inspiring and actionable guide to moving toward racial healing.

“Griffin’s work invites us to embark on a transformative journey toward a more inclusive and loving Christian community.”—J. W. Buck, PhD, author of Everyday Activism


Jesus calls you to love your neighbor, and in the fight against racial injustice, that call includes your Black Neighbor: your Black colleagues, the Black congregants at church, the Black family in your neighborhood. Yet maybe you’re unsure of how best to show your love, or maybe you fear either saying or doing the wrong thing. 

In Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself, Chanté Griffin equips you to see and love your Black Neighbor with God’s deep, holistic love. Using Black Love Lenses birthed from African American cultural values, you’ll learn meaningful ways through which you can see and care for your Black Neighbor:

Intimacy: cultivate intentional closeness and community
Honor: show overflowing respect and love
Stand Up: use your voice and influence to advocate
God’s Gifts: allow God’s resources to flow through you
The Spirit of Love: love lavishly through intercessory prayers

Through guided readings, prayers, and heart checks, you’ll undergo a spiritual and relational transformation that grows a deeper love for your Black Neighbor and yourself. Are you ready to answer Jesus’s call?
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Praise for Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself

“In this wonderful work, Chanté Griffin helps us develop a transformational vision of anti-racism and consistently equips the reader to take concrete steps in living this out. But what made this book most unique for me was the way she takes us into the deepest of all mysteries: the ability to love. She shows us that, at its core, love is a multidimensional reality and that any ability we develop to live an anti-racist kind of life will always find itself built on the foundation of multidimensional love.”—Daniel Hill, pastor and author of White Awake and White Lies

Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself truly eliminates any and all excuses for the race-related chasm that exists between white and Black believers. Readers will inevitably end each chapter with ‘Selah as Chanté offers Christ-centered lenses to those who are willing to wear them and see their Black brothers and sisters anew.”—Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts, author of Then They Came for Mine: Healing from the Trauma of Racial Violence and the forthcoming Black Joy Playbook

“Chanté Griffin demonstrates clearly that love and justice are strands of one thread in the work of racial wholeness. She shows white Christians who love Jesus how to manifest that relationship in the daily ways we live as we walk with, beside, and for Black people and their sacred flourishing. There is no abstraction here. The material conditions of our daily ways of being are called into account in this profoundly wise book.”—Dr. Jennifer Harvey, author of Antiracism as Daily Practice and Raising White Kids

Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself is more than just a book; it’s a movement toward a more loving, understanding, and inclusive society. At its core, this guide is about closing the space between individuals and their Black neighbors. It’s a call to action, a road map to a better world, and a testament to the power of love to bridge the deepest of divides. Read it, live it, and be a part of the change we all wish to see in the world.”—Dr. Elizabeth Rios, founder of Passion2Plant church planting network

“Love isn’t just the subject of this book; it’s woven throughout every page and paragraph to create a tapestry of the beauty, flourishing, and joy that comes from loving our Black Neighbors as ourselves.”—Dr. Amy Kenny, author of My Body Is Not a Prayer Request

“For fellow white Christians like myself who desire to broaden our understanding of the African American experience in the United States, this book is an invaluable resource. Griffin’s work invites us to embark on a transformative journey toward a more inclusive and loving Christian community.”—J. W. Buck, PhD, author of Everyday Activism

Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself is a glory and a gift. An instant classic, Griffin’s plea is thrumming with wise hope—lighting the way to knowing and loving Black Neighbors so bravely that we know and love God and ourselves even more. A practical and powerful journey; it’s worth every uplifting and honest step.”—Patricia Raybon, author of My First White Friend
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Excerpt

Loving Your Black Neighbor as Yourself

Chapter 1

Love Yourself



Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.


—Psalm 51:10, NLT

I ran into walls as a toddler. And into sliding glass doors. Turns out I needed glasses, like my father, his mother, and her siblings. And not the cute, stylish kind you can buy from a hip brand like Warby Parker. Imagine a two-year-old with a small body, a big head, and lenses so thick her eyes doubled in size!

True to my four-eyed persona, I was kind of a nerd in school. I loved to get good grades on tests, assignments, and pop quizzes—plus, I was doing all the extra credit because the only thing better than an A is an A+. Case in point: When I was around ten or eleven, I was determined to ace the eye exam at the optometrist’s office, even though I have astigmatism, and let’s not forget—I used to run into walls. When I arrived at the eye doctor’s office that afternoon for my annual exam, I started to memorize the eye chart: “D, C, T, P . . .”

“What are you doing?” my mom asked as she caught me reciting the letters. My mouth remained silent, but my face clearly communicated that she had caught me.

“Don’t do that,” she warned. “The doctor needs to know what you can and can’t see so he can give you the right lenses to see clearly.”

When dealing with difficult racial issues—be it racism, unconscious bias, the sin of partiality, racial prejudice, microaggressions, or anything else—everybody wants to ace their eye exam. No, I didn’t say anything racist! you declare. No, I didn’t do that racist thing! you insist. And no, I’m definitely not racist! you protest. It’s easy to hold shame for not seeing your Black Neighbor clearly. It’s also easy to avoid admitting there’s a deficiency or to cover up the deficiencies in your vision by reciting “D, C, T, P . . .”

But when someone calls you out for saying or doing something racist, you can choose how to respond: Do you allow fear, pride, and shame to wrap themselves around you like a protective blanket, refusing to confess, furthering the pain you’ve caused? Or do you love yourself, trample shame under your feet, and eagerly undergo an eye exam so you can receive new lenses?


Love Yourself Fully

When we were children, our parents or guardians regularly took us to the doctor and dentist to make sure our bodies were functioning well. They did this because they loved us and they knew we wouldn’t go on our own. Think about it—how many eight-year-olds are like, “Mom, you know what I want for my birthday? A trip to the dentist!”

But today as adults, we take ourselves to the doctor, the dentist, the optometrist, the cardiologist, and more. We take ourselves to appointments because we want to be well. We also recognize that when we aren’t well, it affects us and everyone around us. For instance, if we don’t realize that we need new lenses to see clearly, we will go around running into walls and people. If we stay in denial about the fact that we need lenses, we will continue running into things, hurting ourselves and others. Loving ourselves doesn’t stop at doctor visits, though.

In contemporary American culture, we commonly define loving yourself as taking good care of your physical and emotional health by eating well, exercising, carving out “me time,” visiting a therapist, and maybe retreating to the spa with your friends or to the man cave with your buddies. Yes, loving yourself can include all of this, but loving yourself also means tending to your spiritual and relational health just as you would your physical and emotional health. Loving yourself requires a multidimensional, holistic love.

The concept of multidimensional love isn’t new. In Deuteronomy 6, when God’s commandments were given to the Israelites, he said to love him multidimensionally, “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In fact, loving God multidimensionally is so important that Jesus called it out again.

In Luke, a religion expert attempted to test Jesus on the law, asking Jesus what he must do to live with God forever. Jesus agreed with the expert’s answer to the question, including the addition of loving one’s neighbors: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

God’s love for us, and our love for God, is the foundation from which we love ourselves and our neighbors. Loving ourselves multidimensionally, in partnership with the Spirit of Love, is one of the truest ways we love ourselves.

If you love yourself, then you are willing to look at the parts of yourself that need a doctor’s tender, loving care. You are willing to receive the wellness package the Spirit of Love has for you, which includes being honest with yourself, God, and your Black Neighbor about the full condition of your heart.

Hearts have eyes—if not literally, then definitely metaphorically, according to Paul Baloche, who penned the popular worship song “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” Our hearts hold our innermost beliefs, and they reveal how we see and resultantly treat our Black Neighbors. If we allow our hearts to be examined, they reveal how much (or little) love we have for those neighbors and the ways our love needs to be purified. Our hearts house our fears, our insecurities, our pride, and the parts of us we don’t wanna acknowledge. In fact, we don’t always know what’s in our hearts until someone shows us the results of our eye exam.

Beloved, love yourself by being honest about any ways you haven’t viewed your Black Neighbor properly. Allow yourself to be wrapped in God’s forgiveness and love. When you seize the opportunity to confront the sin of racism as an opportunity to love yourself, then despite how horrible getting called out may feel, you will embrace it as a gift from God. A gift that can close the space between you, God, and your Black Neighbor.


Prayer Pause

Confronting any racism in your heart is no easy task. You may think, Chanté, I don’t need to do this—I’m fine! Or your physical heart may be racing a little because you’re afraid of what you may see. Either way, I encourage you to be open to what the Spirit of Love may show you. Whatever it is, it will be good for you and your Black Neighbor.

Before we move forward, let’s pray for guidance and support from the Spirit of Love. First notice the posture of your body: Are you tense? Holding your breath?

Take a deep breath, in and out, allowing any tension to leave your body. Then pray this breath prayer. (Breath prayers promote calm and can help your physical body connect with your spirit. As you inhale and exhale, pray the words silently.)


Breathe in:

Spirit of Love, talking about racism is hard.


Breathe out:

Remove any fear or shame I may have.


Breathe in:

Give me courage for an eye exam.


Breathe out:

Give me grace to love myself anew.


Love Yourself: Recognize That Your Heart Could House Racism

In 1906, a Black preacher named William J. Seymour led the Azusa Street Revival in California. Blacks, whites, and their Chinese, Mexican, and other neighbors worshipped God together freely during the event.

Bishop Ithiel Clemmons, a historian for the Church of God in Christ, wrote, “The interrelatedness of holiness, spiritual encounter, and prophetic Christian social consciousness attracted people of all races to the Azusa Street revival. It was an egalitarian, ecumenical, interracial, interclass revival that for about three years defied the prevailing patterns of American life.”

A white preacher, G. B. Cashwell, excitedly traveled six days from Dunn, North Carolina, to Los Angeles to experience the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street and to receive the supernatural gift of speaking in tongues. But when he arrived, Minister Cashwell felt uncomfortable during the multiracial worship service. Although he wanted to receive this new spiritual gift, he didn’t want a Black leader to lay hands on him so he could receive it. He turned to prayer to address the discomfort he felt.

As he prayed, the Spirit of Love revealed the racism in his heart that was preventing him from receiving more of God’s love and power. He had to choose: Would he submit to God, or would he submit to racism? Would he submit to being under the spiritual leadership and authority of the Black leaders at Azusa Street? Would he allow his Black Neighbors to come close physically and spiritually?

Ultimately, Minister Cashwell submitted to the Spirit of Love, and in turn, the Spirit of Love gave him new heart lenses. Society’s dividing wall—which insisted he and his Black Neighbors remain separate and maintained he was in some way superior—fell in his heart. As Pastor Seymour laid hands on him, Minister Cashwell humbly received a rich spiritual gift through his Black Neighbor and spoke in tongues.

About the Author

Chanté Griffin
Journalist and natural hair advocate Chanté Griffin’s socially conscious work focuses on the intersection of race, culture, and faith. She’s a contributing writer for The Washington Post and Faithfully Magazine. Her articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in leading publications, including HuffPost, Los Angeles Times, EBONY, Good Housekeeping, and Parents. An emerging thought leader on race, Chanté is interviewed regularly and frequently cited in magazines, newspapers, and podcasts. More by Chanté Griffin
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