Over the previous recent months our nation has been reeling from the impact of a pandemic. People have felt the sting of social isolation, fears about physical safety and health, and uncertainty about jobs and the impact of the global economy. A number of weeks ago, the plague of racial injustice that has been deeply rooted in American society for centuries was brought to the forefront of the lives of Americans and people around the world.
In light of all that we are facing, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts.
Before I do, it is important for me to recognize a few things:
First off, I want to recognize that I am not an expert when it comes to understanding all of the dynamics involved with racial injustice. I have been taking the posture as a student to understand and learn. I am a Pastor who loves the local church and the work that Jesus has entrusted us to engage in.
Second, I’m not offering this as an argument (far too much of that is taking place right now). I am well aware that I can’t convince anyone out of their perspective – that isn’t the goal. The goal is to offer a pastor’s perspective in hopes of bringing clarity for some and encouragement for others.
Third, I recognize that there are many who see this as a political issue. I see it different. As I see it, it is a heart issue (more on that in a moment). As a Pastor – and more importantly, as a follower of Jesus, my allegiance isn’t to a specific political party – it is to Jesus’ Kingdom. One thing I believe that is happening right now, specifically in America, is kingdoms are colliding. We have become so polarized in this nation that to “show compassion” must mean that you are “left”, and to want safety means you are “right”. All of our yelling at the other “side” is only adding to a divide that keeps us from the progress we actually need. If my primary lens that I see things through is always my party of choice, there will be a collision of kingdoms – because Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
With all this said, here are a few thoughts from a Pastor
LISTEN and LEARN
I think it is vital that each of us take time to listen and learn. It is impossible to learn if our priority is defending our position. I have been listening to the first hand experiences, pain and stories of my black friends. I have been listening to the first hand experiences, pain and stories of my friends who serve in law enforcement. The pain is real and the divide seems to grow deeper and wider daily. Scripture reminds us that God’s heart is for unity and reconciliation.
I will never move toward unity if I am unwilling to listen. I will never be willing to listen if I assume that I have nothing to learn.
Listening and learning require humility. Not more volume.
One key that helps us in the pursuit of listening and learning is seeing the imago dei (image of God) in everyone we come in contact with. If you are on the “right”, remember that people on the “left” are also created in the image of God, and therefore we can choose to honor that. The police officer who willingly goes to serve their community to bring about good each day, knowing what is on the line and the pressure that is building in the nation, is created in the image of God. The young black man, who is marching down the street in peaceful protest, raising his voice loud to draw attention to the fact that the lives of people who look like him do matter also carries the imago dei.
I have had numerous conversations over the past few weeks about the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. I want you to consider those three words by themselves for a moment. For those who are uncomfortable with those words, I want you to consider why. If those words were said to you 6 years ago, would you have a reaction against them? Probably not. Because of the polarizing political split, three words that are simple biblical truth have become a dividing line for some. In a moment where the church could come along side of those who are weeping (Romans 12:15), some have had their compassion hijacked. If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that life is created by God. He looked at His creation and called it “good”. Diversity in His creation reveals His beauty and greatness. The point here isn’t hashtags, the point is being willing to see the imago dei – the image of God and honoring that in every person we come in contact with. For those who are still uncomfortable with BLM, maybe adding one additional word will help: Black Lives ABSOLUTELY Matter.
LAWS and LAWLESSNESS
In this moment, some are calling for new laws. Others are calling for and operating in lawlessness. There is no doubt that there is a need for laws to be changed, updated and adjusted. But our ultimate hope shouldn’t be placed in either laws or lawlessness. Neither will be able to accomplish what is actually needed in this moment. Here is why: laws can’t change hearts. They can slow or prohibit some of the issues that stem from a heart – but in order to see true transformation, we need hearts to be changed. Laws, though helpful and needed, won’t accomplish that. Lawlessness won’t satisfy the desire either.
GRACE and RECONCILIATION
Only grace can change our hearts. Only grace will transform this nation. We need the life transforming grace of Jesus! If my goal is to be correct and always win the argument, I will never move toward reconciliation. It is impossible to reconcile unless there is shared truth, understanding and forgiveness. God’s grace makes this possible for us. Our role as Christians is to help build bridges toward reconciliation, not blow them up.
These past few weeks have been hard. Seeing and feeling the divide, not only in our nation, but also seeing it within churches, family and friends is painful to watch. We need God’s grace. We need to listen and learn. We need to see the image of God in the people we interact with and choose to give honor. We need to understand that true and lasting hope will not be found in laws or in lawlessness. We need to understand that grace is available and reconciliation is our assignment.
Here is the video of last weekends message at Life Center, where I shared about “Grace for this moment”.