(see below for some helpful links)
Hello Grace Family. The past few months have pushed many of us to our limits, and then last week has pushed many of us beyond. I wanted to take a few minutes to try to wrap the cyclone of violence, fear, racism, hatred and polarizing in the hope of the Jesus. This is not about politics or which news channel to watch (I’d really rather us minimize our news intake and abandon most social media); it’s not about sides or throwing stones. What I want to do is get to the heart of the Gospel which tells me that Jesus became an outsider to come resurrect us rebellious outsiders, empowering us to sacrificially love other outsiders. The Gospel revolves around Jesus, on the cross, paying for the justice that we deserved so that we now pursue love and justice for others. It’s a misunderstanding of the Gospel to minimize or even ignore the outrageous pain and injustice spreading throughout our country.
One of my favorite theologians and pastors is Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote “The Cost of Discipleship,” one of the all-time-great Gospel books. He put his life on the line during WW2 by helping create the “Confessing Church” movement which stood strong against Hitler’s insistance that all Protestant Churches unify as pro-nazi. He was later tried and found guilty of being part of an assassination attempt against Hitler. He was hung April 9, 1945 three weeks before Hitler committed suicide. His words are just as applicable in our time as they were in his: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Now, just to be clear, we are NOT at all living in Nazi Germany and fighting against an evil regime. But we are living in the midst of a some violent and racist people, and our duty is to lovingly stand with one another in pursuit of reconciliation and justice. We need to put down our throwing-stones and realize that the vast majority of people working in law enforcement are truly there to serve and protect all people without exception; and the vast majority of protesters truly want justice and are against rioting and these violent reactions.
As I try to do this, I quickly realize that my theology can’t fit neatly into any political system or party, which means I need to put away my red and blue boxes and begin praying and acting within the mosaic box of the Gospel that simultaneously tells me to respectfully submit to The State (Romans 13) while also sacrificially seeking justice and standing up for the oppressed and poor (Micah 6:8).
Let’s look at the words of the prophet Amos who spoke during horrendously violent injustice and abuse:
Amos 5: 23
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
See the pairing at the end…justice AND righteousness. God will not listen to our worship if it’s just religious, not penetrating our hearts and manifested in loving our neighbor as ourselves; loving the oppressed the way Jesus loved us. In so doing we live out His Righteousness by caring for the downtrodden and marginalized.
So what does that mean?
1) Listen and try to understand. Have actual conversations with a real diversity of people where you just listen to them talk about their experiences. Respect others’ viewpoints. Assume that other people are also intelligent and have a valuable perspective.
2) Go Local. Ask people locally what reconciliation and hope would look like right there at home. Go to those that consistently work with a marginalized and vulnerable population, asking them for wisdom and advice, and how you can be part of a solution.
3) Pray. Please pray for all of our hearts, especially the leaders (political, social, spiritual etc), that they would be overwhelmed by the Love of Christ and desire true love and reconciliation across all boundaries. Also pray for your own heart, that you would better understand the love of Jesus and what it might look like to enjoy his love for yourself as you express his love to our neighbors.