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
Thanks for this, Suzie. I think we’re all looking for ways to respond that will bring healing into the room. This dark season is a good opportunity for us to practice our listening.
I have been so encouraged from your post on Facebook this week as well as your email today!!! We moved to VA almost 4 years ago now and have made this our home and to see what happened Saturday was sad and scary. Even though I knew racism was still here I never imagined we would be here at this point as a nation. I am grateful for my faith and that I know none of this came as a surprise to our Father.
My prayer the last few days is that God would give me courage to speak up to get involved and to love! Again thank you so very much! I am so encouraged by my church for acknowledging what is happening. My family is 1 of a very small few who attend a prodominatedly white church and I know it’s difficult to have these conversations but I’m thankful we are.
Suzie, I have so appreciated your responses to the news that I’ve read on social media. I’ve been reading them to my daughter as well. I love your suggestions here to diversify our own lives. And yes to listening to others. Loved that hashtag #thiswillnotbeus.
Responding in faith is where it is, Suzie. I am reading the book Disruptive Generosity right now and wow! It just goes to show how prayer really does work, no matter where you are located. I highly recommend it for a faith booster in these times we live in. Though I know it has been going on since the beginning, we still need to be reminded from time to time — that God is big and there is always hope. Thank you for sharing this in such a gentle manner.
Well said, Suzie. Thanks so much for speaking to this. May we walk in faith not in fear.
This is a listening week for sure. Thank you, Suzie.
I love it that you were led to prayer, and then, down a different path. I wonder we don’t pray because we are nervous about a different path that might follow. Great post and will share, Suzie.
I think you are right, Sue, but I also think it’s a natural tendency to nurture those feelings of frustration. I’m fighting that. I’m not afraid to admit that. Yet I’m looking for “the hem of his garment” too. I can’t do this right without him.
This is very rich! Thank you for this!
Suzie, this is powerful and just absolutely beautiful. Your response to this confusion and hatred is so grace and truth filled. I’m grateful for you and the message that you stand for.
I’m so sorry for what you’re feeling, and what you’re having to experience. It is wrong. Very. I’m sad for our entire nation. There is a fire burning across the entire world. It’s not simply the fires burned on tiki torches. It’s a fire brewing in the hearts and minds of people. My husband is a police officer. I fear for his safety each and every day. I fear Muslim extremism. I fear being a white Christian in a state with a very large and growing Muslim population (several of the 911 terrorists lived and trained here!). But can I lump every Muslim into a group and call them evil extremists? No – God help me if I did! But even now, I know some are minimizing my fears, my reality, the things which hurt my heart. I push back too. It’s a different push for me. It’s a different hatred I feel from others. They hate me because I am white. They hate me because I’m married to “a trigger-happy, racist, white cop.” They hate me because I am an Evangelical. They certainly hate me for being one of those “stupid” people who voted for Donald Trump. God help us. Truly. God help us. People have become absolutely blinded by opinion, by labels, by things of this world which have absolutely ZERO bearing on eternity. We were commanded to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. I fear what most of us have started doing is sharing our opinions about every earthly matter under the sun — no matter the consequence or harm to others. It’s so incredibly sad. And the only solution? Jesus!
Suzie, the truth is I feel small and afraid when it comes to racism yet I am willing to be brave and speak for the Lord. Additionally, for the first time, at the end of my career I was accused of being a racist in my role as a case manager nurse. I know in my heart it is not true but the comment can still be heard even though I retired in June. I helped this patient as I helped other patients but from afar so as not to upset him further. We need to treat others as we want to be treated even when he/she is having a bad day. I am choosing to let go of that person’s perception and forgive him and pray for his salvation as I did that day one more time. Blessings to those of you that deal with this topic on a daily basis. Diana
Thank you Suzie for your beautiful words. My heart has been breaking over the hurtful words and deeds happening. You put into words what I haven’t been able to. Blessings
I have to agree with post #3 and must say, while we worry about statues and the like, no doubt our enemies are contemplating their next move. Some of these rallies have protestors who are brought in to cause disturbance. It happened in our own city during the elections and thousands of dollars in damage ensued, and people and police were attacked. This is proven, no question. Further my husband’s background is also the target of the group involved in VA. We are weary of both Christians and Jewish friends trying to tell him how to act, or who to vote for. No, while we sit in a huge mess over all of this, who knows what Isis planning or North Korea etc. 9/11 showed us what a united front can look like. It is nowhere to be found in the current environment. We need to pray for our leaders, pray for our country and focus on the Lord. As it stands, I fear the enemy of this world is delighted by us being off track. American history and statues can be used to have meaningful discussions. Incidents like this should lead to us showing love and listening. But this current state of frenzy has us so focused in one direction, who knows what is coming from the other side. Or, who was sent in to cause the disturbance in the first place.