It goes without saying that we are living in a troubling and polarized moment in history. We have been locked down because of Covid-19, some have lost people they love and many are now without jobs. Then over the past few weeks we have watched two Black men senselessly killed. These deaths and the unjust acts have been followed by protests, rioting and an endless amount of posturing and comments on social media. Instead of ignoring this moment I want to take a brief moment and layout how I think we should respond as followers of Jesus.
To begin, I want to remind you that this isn’t the first crisis the world has experienced. The world can be and has had seasons that are very dark. Depending on who you are and where you were born you may never have known any freedom, love or prosperity. Our current context a reminder the world is a place full of sin and brokenness as the Bible says it is. Yet, our God entered into this world in Christ and is still at work. We are people who are empowered by the Spirit of this God and should not ignore sin and brokenness but seek to be a redeeming presence.
This means we should not hide even if this topic makes us uncomfortable. I have become convicted that as a spiritual and moral leader I should provide some leadership and guidance. I will admit there is a strong inner voice that I have that says, “Just wait it out Josh so you don’t offend anyone and do what most others in your position would do (1) endlessly scroll through social media giving way to despair, or (2) turning away in apathy.” Yet these ways are not the best way forward for me or for you.
During times like this I am reminded of when Dr. Martin Luther King sat in the Birmingham jail challenging church going moderate Whites to not ignore injustices but to have deep moral concerns for his community. Looking back, churches like ours largely failed to do so. To prevent this from happening I encourage you not to ignore, hide from or to get stuck in anger about what you are seeing. Instead, seek to show empathy, humility, lament and solidarity.
In Exodus God heard the cries of his people and he sent Moses to rescue them. God is one who hears the cries of the oppressed. That event was a foreshadowing of God sending the ultimate rescuer – Jesus. Jesus entered into our world and suffered alongside us so that we might be rescued. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief while we hid our faces from him (Isaiah 53:3-5). Jesus is able to empathize with us because he suffered. As Jesus people we can and should seek to do the same and not hide our faces from those who are suffering.
I do not understand the depth of the anger and of our Black brother’s and sisters right now but I am trying. I will also admit that the response from Black leaders and people are not monolithic. Yet, we should listen to their pain in humility and seek to learn as much as we can. When I think of humility, I think of people who are willing to listen and learn. Here are some places I have been told to start:
- Take an evening this week and watch Just Mercy, which is free to stream.
- Professional football player Emmanuel Acho just launched Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, where he addresses some of the common questions white people ask him. (This one might be good if you have people in your life who ask these kinds of questions.)
- Take a needed break from your social media feeds and start a new reading list. Here are a few books recommended to me by African American Pastors and friends. The first two I am beginning to read at the moment. Jesus and the Disinherited, The Souls of Black Folk, The Miseducation of the Negro, Before the Mayflower, The Warmth of Other Suns, Troubling Biblical Waters, Be the Bridge. Some of these books will be very different and challenging but I am sure you are up to the task.
- Want quicker reads here are a few:
- Our Sunday morning service: I will be posting a conversation I have had with my friends and pastors at SPAN Ministries.
Lament is a way to respond to grief, anger and even confusion. My favorite lament in the Bible is Psalm 13 it begins this way, “How long, O Lord?” I think this is a question we are all asking in a number of ways for a number of reasons. Jesus lamented the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” My challenge to you is to allow your grief to make it to God before it does to Facebook. You can begin this process by praying through Psalms of Lament found in your Bible. Fasting is also a great way to do this. Skip a meal and cry out to God.
I will admit this is the one that will get me in trouble more than the others. However, justice is something we should pursue. God is just and expects us to seek justice and be merciful. We don’t want to be people who pervert justice but we must seek after it and work for it. The Prophet Micah says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (6:8).”
You may find it necessary to protest and to stand with those seeking change. Peaceful protesting is not against our faith. Protesting may not be marching but you may desire to find other ways to show solidarity. We are “Protest”ants who saw the theological, economical and physical abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century and made a change.
Finally, thinking about all of this is difficult for many of us but I trust as I shared in this past week’s message, God is in the midst of the storm and he uses the challenges in front of us to teach us how to be more faithful people. As I am concluding this post, I received an email from a man who was raised in our church who had this to say, “When the civil rights movement changed our country after MLK’s death, I was 9 and vividly remember the mood. It was a time of fear, hate and growth.” Let’s by faith grow in knowledge, wisdom, faith and love at this time.
Jesus is the subject,
*I am thankful for a letter I read from Gravity Leadership that has helped me articulate this and provided and outline for the content.