Today I want to calmly, and peacefully, step into the fray. If that’s possible…
But, before I begin, you need to understand a few things about me. I am originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I attended George Washington Carver Middle School, and Booker T. Washington High School. Both schools are named after incredible leaders in the black community. I spent many of my formative years being educated on black history, and witnessing racial injustice first-hand. I am incredibly grateful of my time spent there, because those places allowed and encouraged me to purge racism from my thinking. Even more importantly, they encouraged me and my fellow students to make every effort to purge racism from our communities. They instilled in us the desire and freedom to speak out when needed, and to push against (at times) the status quo when we disagreed. This is why, perhaps, while in the midst of racial turmoil in America, it has bothered me so that the church and its people have remained relatively silent. Why aren’t we addressing these issues with Biblical truth and compassion?
Let me set the framework for where we will go today with some theology. As believers in Christ we believe in the Imago Dei, which comes from Genesis 1:27. Imago Dei means image of God, and it is the theological truth that we were all created equally in dignity, value, and worth. We were created in the image of God. As Christians, we also believe that sin has ruined all of mankind. Fortunately, there is salvation from sin for everyone through Christ. What makes the Gospel so ludicrous is that as broken, as idolatrous, and as foolish as we are— God loves us, cherishes us, and sees us through His perfect son. However, the reality is that our conversion, or belief in Christ, is very much the starting point of our faith. We are not made perfect instantaneously, and salvation is not the end. God is still moving our hearts to be more and more like His, challenging us as we grow in Him, and completing in us His purpose and plan for our lives (See Philippians 1:6). Now, because there are no perfect people and we are all works in progress, this means that all systems and structures created by man are broken, in some form or fashion. This is often most noticeable when those systems attempt justice.
Let’s look at Micah 6:8:
“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?”
What’s happening in this text is an explanation of justice. According to Micah in order to actually perform the action of justice, one must love kindness, and one must walk in humility. If one does not walk in humility, or one does not love kindness, justice will never happen. So the question becomes, in light of all the current events, how do we become a reconciling church? What does progress even look like? How can we, as Christians, be light in dark places? How can we help progress society towards Biblical justice, rather than American injustice?
Our progress must start with empathy, which means, as believers, we must grow in our empathy. To be empathic we have to be humble. We cannot be empathetic if we are filled with pride, constantly viewing our personal worldview as the only legitimate experience.
Empathy also requires presence. Please, please, understand me when I say this— you cannot grow in your empathy via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media. You can only develop empathy by having deep, meaningful relationships. I think this is the biggest hindrance to our empathy. People in the comfort of their home, with no relation or proximity to the circumstance, immediately take their opinions online for all to see. It always produces a lose-lose situation.
Finally, empathy requires sacrifice. Entering into pain, sorrow, joy, or any other emotion requires personal emotional sacrifice. I want to look briefly at Jesus. Jesus had a friend, Lazarus. While Jesus was out of town Lazarus suddenly fell ill, so ill in fact that it led to his death. Jesus during this time was traveling back to meet Lazarus and to heal him. Upon Jesus’ arrival to Bethany He has an interaction with Mary:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
Jesus was deeply moved. For those of us who know the end of this story we know Jesus then raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew He was about to do this; He knew that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Yet in this moment He sacrificed that knowledge and allowed himself to be deeply moved by those mourning around him.
The loss of life, as human beings, should move us deeply. It should move us deeply because these are image bearers dying by the hands of other image bearers. These are not the lives we were meant to live. If we can begin to approach this conversation from empathy, humility, and kindness, it will change things entirely. It will make us better listeners. It will allow us to set aside our pride, our assumptions, and our anger. It will help us to seek out the ability to understand things that are unfamiliar to us.
Let’s be a church who is dedicated to reconciliation. May we be empathic, may we love kindness, and may we walk humbly. All so we can do justice.
May we cause the world to envy our love for one another.
Director of Contemporary Worship