Today I’m laying my heart before you.
I’m hurting, sweet sisters, and I know you are too. I’m thumbing through my News app, soaking in one more shocking story. I’m checking the latest Twitter feed. I’m watching images on TV that remind me that deep-rooted evil is alive and well in our nation.
It makes me feel helpless.
It makes me fiercely angry.
It makes me want to do something, anything.
For the first time in my life, I fear driving through a certain part of my own state (for confederate flags wave from homes lining the main highway) with my grandson, who is a beautiful combination of black, white, and Puerto Rican. Despite my new-found apprehension, I am not unaware that this has been a reality for many people for generations.
I think it’s important that we be informed and intelligent about our world. Yet when I’m in this raw place, I realize that thumbing through more news, listening to more debate, it takes me down a path of fear, anger, frustration, and uncertainty. I want to be informed, but I want my response to be one of faith.
Which makes me pause and ask myself, “Where will Jesus lead us, if only we ask him?”
We find the answer as we walk through the Gospels and watch his life.
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.
[bctt tweet=”Jesus’ response to people was relational, rather than reactionary. #livingfreetogether #ComeWithMe” username=”suzanneeller”]
He asked questions. He listened. His response to that person was relational, rather than reactionary.
Once, when a man asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him a story of a man robbed and stripped of his dignity. Several of his neighbors walked right past the bloodied, bruised man. But one man stopped. He was a stranger, but because he saw this man he became a neighbor.
By telling this story, Jesus reminds us that we identify our neighbor as we become a neighbor.
Jesus went against the crowd
For those who say “I’m not a part of the problem,” I think we all have to take a deeper look. Racism isn’t new. It’s overt, like the angry crowd carrying tiki torches, and it’s subtle like the joke that’s told at Thanksgiving that stereotypes one of God’s creation.
When we fail to speak up, our silence is deafening, especially in the church.
I’m not talking about debating on Facebook or meeting violence with violence. Instead, I’m talking about confronting evil. This past week was a very public display of a private evil that has woven itself into our culture for generations. It was evil then. It’s evil now.
We go against the crowd when we deny that semi-racist joke an audience.
We go against the crowd when we push back when someone lumps an entire race in a stereotype.
We go against the crowd when we refuse to diminish someone else’s experience because it hasn’t been our own.
Jesus 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.
[bctt tweet=”Listen to those impacted by racism. Don’t debate. Hear their stories. Don’t ask them to validate your feelings. Just listen. #livingfreetogether #ComeWithMe” username=”suzanneeller”]
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 the children. He knelt with a broken woman while men held stones in their hands, poised to strike her to death.
When we go against the crowd, we lead in love, we ask for wisdom, and we lean into our faith for courage and direction.
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. He invited others to join in.
He illustrated that we are stronger together.
Those early disciples weren’t anything special, not really, but together their work and words still live on generations later. That’s a legacy!
All because of Jesus. He was always in the mix. They didn’t lead with their emotions or their own opinions, but their faith. So, how do we stand shoulder to shoulder?
- Stay informed, but let faith lead over fear.
- Listen to those who are impacted by racism. 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 lacks diversity, get to know people who look different than you. Open your home. Talk over dinner. Appreciate the differences in culture and in the way that God so beautifully created each of us. Worship 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 they refuse to stop, or have an honest conversation about remarks that demean or diminish the dignity of a person or race of 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.
The other morning when I asked myself, “Where would Jesus lead?” it led me to prayer.
I asked him to join me. Right then. Right there. This led me down a different path. The issues are still there, but as you and I follow Jesus, we are changed — even in the midst of chaos — which allows us to become instruments of change.
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