This is our wake-up call!
Last week there was a part of me that wanted to write concerning the upheaval of our country but to be totally honest, I simply couldn’t. I had so many mixed feelings - first because another African American man was killed by the people who are paid to protect them, and us.
The manner of death of George Floyd is not defendable regardless of his crime or background and the protests of his death were legal and understandable. However, what followed was also not defendable as the country came under siege by opportunists setting out to loot and destroy property in many of America’s major cities.
Let me start by saying that I am old enough to remember seeing photos of African American men being lynched. Even as a child I was appalled and couldn’t make sense out of what I was seeing. There was no way to comprehend people doing this to other people.
I have some memory of the significant riots through my years of growing up such as Watts in 1965, Detroit in 1967, Chicago 1968, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968, Rodney King 1992, and so on.
While the details that incited the rioting can always be debated, the outrage from the black and underprivileged communities was always an indicator of pent up feelings and experiences of people living in the US who were treated as “less than” in so many ways.
Not A Recent Issue
Cindy and I watched the 4-hour long movie “Gettysburg” the other night and were simply overwhelmed at the loss of 53,000 lives in three days of absolute brutal warfare and this was just one of many, many battles. This war was over slavery and the social, economic and political implications of its practice.
All told, the number of total deaths in the Civil War ranges from 618,222 to over 700,000 – an astronomical number of deaths on both sides over whether some human beings could continue to “own” other human beings.
As the movie ended, we simply sat there in silence. This issue of equal rights for ALL has been at the center of our country for a Very. Long. Time.
I began to become very uncomfortable as the question arose within me, “where was the Church?” Where has it been for all these years of unrest and inequality and how did it ever allow the atrocity of slavery to become part of the fabric of America in the first place? Further, disturbing scenes in the movie depicted how deeply spiritual both sides were and how entrenched both sides were on this issue, all the while claiming a deep belief in the God, in whose image we ALL were created. Both sides praying for victory.
The Church Must Step Up
The church will always, and should always be postured as “those who should have known better.” If not God’s people, then who? The driving force for social justice should always be the people of God. We are the people who claim the reality that ALL people are created in God’s image and all find their true value and purpose only in Him. And while our Declaration of Independence begins by stating that all men are created equal, that has not been the reality for many in America.
Sweeping change takes time but surely a hundred and fifty years should have brought us to a place of greater equality than many currently experience.
Even today, you can say that we are all created equal but we obviously don’t enjoy equal opportunities. We still have a long way to go. And the church must lead the way. We must work through our denominational and racial differences. It’s time we come together as the people of God and commit to the conversations and hard work that will be required to move our country forward.
Early last week as I watched the protestors, the rioters, police lines and mayhem, my primary question became – “Where is Jesus in all of this?”
As I pondered this, I realized that indeed I saw Him, over and over. He appeared in the form of an African American nurse, still in her scrubs, strategically positioning herself boldly between the protestors and the police line calling for peace and order. Amazingly, the crowd listened respectfully to her – surely God was with her.
I saw Him again in photos of police and protestors taking a knee – together – perhaps both sides realizing that this situation was larger than all of us. But we could reach out to each other and to God in a moment of silence.
I saw Him again in a protest march in Camden. Leading the march were the march organizers along with the Chief of Police, Joseph Wysocki. The march was peaceful as the police and the public stood side by side to proclaim that George Floyd’s death was as abhorrent to most police as it was to the African American community.
The Mantle of Peace & Justice
Jesus calls us all – no matter our race or status, to pick up His mantle of peace and justice and go into the world to help solve the deep issues of injustice. He calls us to be the voice of unity in the spirit of love. This is how Jesus announced His ministry,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)
For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, His ministry now becomes our ministry. We can do no less.
My advice is that we limit our time watching the news and reading social media. Instead, spend more time in prayer, confession and repentance.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT, emphasis added)
The responsibility clearly rests upon the people of God – of every race and nationality. All who claim the name of Jesus. Let this be our wake-up call. Let’s determine to get this right. Together.
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
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