In this moment, things are being revealed. Ugly truths so long ignored are on display for all to see. The underbelly of our society is being exposed. People are speaking up, sharing things they’ve kept silent. People are hurting. People are mad. People are coming together. People are being driven apart. We may not agree on everything, or for that matter on anything, but I think we can agree that we are in a moment.
My heart’s cry, and the reason I am writing this blog, is this: I don’t want us, God’s people, to miss this moment. The definition of a “moment” is a “very brief period of time.” I fear we will miss this moment. I beseech us not to miss this moment. Perhaps you are with me. You don’t want to miss this moment either. You know we must do something, but what? What is the responsibility of God’s people in this moment? Hopefully we know it is not to defend a political party or perspective, to defend the history (ancient or recent) of our country, or to convince anyone of our opinions.
The purpose of the church (the people of God, not the place they sometimes gather) is the restored purpose of humanity: to live in such a way individually and corporately that the world around us get as accurate a representation of our God and his kingdom as possible. In other words, the purpose of the people of God is to bear his image to the world.
In this moment, the church must return to the simple purpose of representing God in this world. This is simple to say, but difficult to accomplish. It is difficult because it requires us to die to ourselves, take up Christ’s cross and follow him. It requires us to live like him and do things his way.
I am glad to hear so many confirming the value of human beings (ALL human beings, BLACK human beings) with the affirmation of Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Yes, this is true. This is good. It is powerful. It is liberating. It is transforming. The world has no such foundation on which to build its ideas of equality and human rights. It is long overdue that we not only affirm this, but SHOUT it. But while we affirm the value of humanity this verse speaks of, let us not forget the other truths found here: our identity and our purpose. Bearing God’s image not only defines who we are, but what we do. Let this purpose be our driving force in this moment.
In this moment, the church must lay down its idols and in humility pray as Jesus taught us, YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done. What idols, you ask? The ones keeping us from seeing our purpose and living it.
The “everyone is entitled to their own opinion” idol. This is not only an idol; it is a stronghold, a way of thinking contrary to our Father’s kingdom. If you are Christ’s ambassador (and 2 Corinthians 5:20 says all believers are) then you are not entitled to your own opinion. Ambassadors do not have opinions. They do not represent themselves, but those that send them. We represent the living God. We must lay down this idol and ask God to deliver us from this stronghold so we can clearly see his will.
The idol of nationalism. This is the thought that our country is synonymous with our Father’s kingdom. It is not. God has been building his kingdom long before the United States was founded and will continue to do so, long after it has slipped from the memory of this world. “YOUR kingdom come!” This must be our plea, our cry, our driving purpose. Just as we cannot serve two masters, and we cannot build two kingdoms. We must choose allegiance to our Father’s kingdom alone in this moment.
In this moment, the church must rediscover our compassion displayed in action. At the top of my “saddest moments in the Bible” is the account of Jesus in the region of the Gerasenes. He delivers a man who has so many demons they call themselves legion. What is so sad about it you ask? Read how it ends, “Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” I don’t know of anything more sad than a people visited by God in the flesh, come to set them free from sin, flesh, and the devil, whose response is to plead with him to leave their region. Why did they do this? What motivated them? Was it just too overwhelming to see this level of transformation? Was it the financial loss of the pigs? Was it the thought that their livestock could be next? I do not know. I just know, whatever their thinking, the well-being of this man was not as important to them as that which fueled their fear.
You can tell a lot about a person by what makes them happy, what makes them angry, and what makes them sad. We know Jesus was angered by the money changers who were using the temple courts for financial transactions, instead of its intended purpose, “a house of prayer for all nations”. A good question to ask ourselves is, “what is making us angry in this moment?” Are you angry to see those made in God’s image treated with disdain and little value? Or are you angry at financial loss? I do not for any moment condone the destruction of property or of violence in general. But I do think we need to search our hearts and to see why something makes us angry. If we say we value people above all things, (and as Christ’s ambassadors, we should) then to see people hurt, oppressed, and murdered should anger us above ALL. Our value of people must drive our compassion. Compassion is sown in mourning and lamenting and grows into action. We must act in this moment.
In this moment, the church must search for truth. We cannot act without knowledge. The racial problems in this country are long, complex, and difficult. Anyone who says, “we just need to change this one thing,” is being incredibly short sighted. It’s taken us hundred of years to get where we are. We cannot undo it with a few simple measures. The overwhelming nature of the problem can lead to hopelessness and paralysis. Often folks talk about crossing the street but the space that divides us is more to the Grand Canyon than a road.
So, what do we do? Well, before we can decide on changes, we must listen and learn. We must do a good bit of learning on our own. There are lots of books and articles we can read, podcasts we can listen to and movies we can watch. There are stories we must become familiar with like Emmett Till, the Central Park Five and others. We must also listen to the stories of those around us. Love demands that we listen with an open mind and a teachable heart. Ignorance is no longer an option in this moment.