Today I’m laying my heart before you.
I see you sister.
I see you listening to the news and wondering where Jesus is in the mix. I see you scrolling through social media and wondering how in the world Jesus got so tangled with hurtful words and actions. I see you looking over at your sister, and you can’t help but notice how this is affecting her as her world gets more dangerous.
I see you sister. You are weary of reading memes and arguments that support things and people that hurt your heart. You hold your husband, your son, your brother a little tighter. You look at people you really like and have done life with and you may even understand why they are choosing what they choose, but you wonder if they understand that your life is of value too. You wonder if they know how all of this is landing in your heart. You wish they could walk in your shoes for one day.
For each of us, this leads to spiritual exhaustion. We hold on to Jesus with everything we’ve got. We want to do something.
Justice and the oppressed and the hurting always mattered to God. It is woven through the Old Testament, and then Jesus lives it out in the New Testament. When asked what his mission was, Jesus was clear (Luke 4:18-19). So perhaps as we ask “what can we do,” our first step is to see how Jesus lived this out.
Jesus saw people
He was an instrument of peace, but in doing so he never hesitated to speak up for those who were oppressed. He never failed to see them, or listen to what they had to say. Whether a blind man crying out from the side of the road, or a woman surrounded by men carrying stones, he saw them.
He asked questions. He listened. His response to that person was relational, rather than reactionary.
He also answered the questions of those who were privileged, and perhaps blind to that privilege. Once, when a man asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him a story of a man robbed and stripped of his dignity. Several people walked right past the bloodied, bruised man. But one man stopped. By doing so, he became a neighbor to this hurting man. By telling this story, Jesus reminds that man (and us) that we identify our neighbor as we become a neighbor.
- Ask God to help you see people like he does.
Jesus went against the crowd
Jesus was a peacemaker, but also an advocate. He never debated for debate’s sake. There were times he slipped through an arguing crowd and kept on going, because he didn’t have time to listen to people who argued just to hear themselves talk. Yet there were many, many times that Jesus went against the crowd — in word and in action, and wrapped in love. He pushed back against arguments that had no validity, or were steeped in arrogance. He rebuked his own disciples when they told the little children to stop bothering Jesus, and showed the what he meant as he opened his arms to receive them.
We go against the crowd when we deny that not-so-funny “joke” an audience. We go against the crowd when we push back when someone lumps an entire people in a stereotype. We go against the crowd when we refuse to diminish someone else’s experience because it hasn’t been our own. As we do, we lead with love, we ask for wisdom, and we ask the Holy Spirit for courage and direction.
- You are not alone. The Holy Spirit knows the heart of the Father for you and that one standing in front of you. Invite him in.
Shoulder to shoulder
From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus drew people around him and shared his mission. He came to heal, deliver, release, and restore people. He laid out that plan as he sat on hillsides and stood before the people in the temple. Those early disciples weren’t anything special, not really, but together their work and words still live on generations later.
There aren’t small and large acts. There are movements as we pray together, move closer to each other, and always let God lead.
So, what are practical ways to stand shoulder to shoulder?
- Listen to those who are impacted by very real issues. Don’t debate. Hear their stories. Step into their shoes for a moment. Don’t make excuses. Don’t ask them to validate your feelings, what you’ve done or not done. Just listen.
- Broaden your circle. If your circle of friends looks, thinks, and believes about issues just like you, get to know people different than you. Open your home or sit in the front yard and talk. Appreciate the differences in culture and in the way that God so beautifully created each of us. Worship together. Pray together.
- Speak up. You don’t have to be in-your-face or argumentative; in fact, that’s not helpful. Gently push back, walk away if someone refuses to stop, or have an honest conversation about remarks that demean or diminish the dignity of a person or people. Don’t be afraid to call evil by its name. Don’t get caught up in debates. Speak truth. Live truth.
- Pray. And then pray some more. In faith. Knowing that God is good, and he cares. Trusting that He’s listening.
- Act. Open your home. Go to a community prayer meeting. Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal what you cannot see in the natural. Stand shoulder to shoulder with women of faith all over the nation. Get involved in your own community in ways that show you care.
- Learn. There are things we all don’t know, and they affect the way we think or respond to others. Let’s be open to learning and growing, and seeing a bigger picture than our own experiences, our own background, or what we’ve been taught.
I know you are tired, but it’s not all on you. We are promised wisdom, direction, hope, and more. The issues are real, but as you and I keep our eyes on Jesus and each other, we are changed which allows us to become instruments of change.
Maybe you aren’t sure what you believe or how to sort through all the messages you’ve received. I want to share some resources with you that I know will help.
On the issue of racial equality, Be the Bridge is a site (and a book) that moves us toward each other rather than away. It’s a powerful, challenging, and God-led resource to help you walk with your sister.
The Spirit-Led Heart is an invitation to get to know more about the gift God gave us to help us navigate our faith and to make a difference in the world.
And last, I share a few of my favorite books on justice and advocacy. It’s a small list and I’d love to add to it. I want to vet any books that I recommend, so if you have a favorite share that with me and I’ll read it to potentially add to this list.
Check out these helpful resources.
- Be the Bridge Website – Moving Christians toward Relationship and Deeper Understanding
- Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison
- The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders by Suzanne Eller
- Suzie’s favorite books for Justice and Advocacy