My eyes were welling up with tears. Tears of joy, tears of hope, tears of vision and what can be. Holding hands, we sang this chorus “I need you, you need me we’re all part of God’s body. I’ll pray for you, you pray for me. I’ll not say words that will harm. I need you to survive”. It was Jesus’ vision that his disciples would come from all nations and be united in a bond of love under his banner (John 17). In a culture of segregation, mistrust, and devaluing of the very skin colors God created, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. boldly and unashamedly proclaimed over dream fifty years ago, that black boys and black girls would hold hands with little white girls and white boys. We would be judged on the content of our character and not the color of our skin. I thought about this as black, white, and Hispanic, we all sang this together at our annual MLK worship/concert this past Sunday night.
I believe no greater challenge faces us in the United States and especially the South as our continued work against the sinful effects of racial injustice and prejudice; many of those effects still poisoning and tainting our economic and democratic processes today. As a white person, I do not like to admit that the economic and political systems are built in my favor. I have a hidden, unspeakable advantage. My advantage and head start logically become another’s disadvantage. We really do not all start at the same place and my race does not have systemic hurdles and roadblocks. What am I to do with this awareness if I know that God is a God of justice? He expects his children and followers to right wrongs, bring things in correct alignment i.e. “justify”. And He especially is sensitive to strangers, “aliens”, widows, and children without fathers and mothers. He takes special note of exploitation of others and rages against it; exploitation of workers, exploitation of women and exploitation of children to name a few.
What can I do? What must I do?
- It is more manageable to first change my own heart. It must be the first step. God knows my heart and is ultimately my justifier when I am misunderstood by the words I say, actions or inactions. I have been called racist, accused of prejudice, and misunderstood. It is also many times part of the white experience no matter where we stand. And although it is extremely painful, God knows my heart and intention. At that point, He is my justifier. The sum of my actions over time by those who best know me will be the evidence against these assumptions and prejudice. Changing me and leading me is always the first step to ultimate change.
- But, do I have the courage to challenge broken systems that still allow these effects to continue? My conservative, quiet spirit screams against wanting to challenge a political system the right way. It is easy to throw some statements on social media. Can I take the same energy and write a letter to my legislators who steward the democratic process and the laws? Can I invite others into the same process? Am I afraid of being called “liberal” because I believe in social justice? Why has a demand and work towards justice been linked with being liberal in a political system? And, who cares? Why does it matter? In the same vein, “conservative” wreaks of status quo, an unwillingness to change or make better. That is not quite right either. As I wrestle with negative manmade titles, I somehow take my off of the larger issue…Gods justice, fairness, that ALL people have equal access to opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Maybe my fight for someone else’s access to economic and political freedom and justice come at the expense of some negative titles, being misjudged and being misunderstood. But a liberal government system by definition means it is participatory and I get to influence it. Our elected officials work for the people. I feel I am somehow accountable to what laws are being passed or repealed in this system and whether or not they are fair for the common good while not infringing on personal liberties.
- Again, I find myself rambling and wrestling. The Lordship of Jesus means all things are under it and filters it. I cannot separate “politics” and its structure away from my faith because Jesus is Lord. I cannot turn a blind eye to the experiences of my friends of a different color, from a different country, and even from a different religion because I believe in the Lordship of Jesus. My Christian, black friends worship the same Jesus I do and when they hurt, I hurt. When they are discriminated against, I am discriminated against. I cannot say that I have the love of Jesus in my heart if I am not actively helping my brother and sister. Because of my “whiteness” I most likely have more influence and power in the political system to challenge injustice, bad systems, and unethical laws. Do I have the courage to follow through…or will this just become another form of biblical rhetoric with no power?
On a high note, we had two amazing days of service with approximately 175 people coming to serve in Lee/Macon Counties. We served 10 families with home repair, landscaped a cemetery, organized a food bank, and ministered with 14 kids…we had behind the scenes people helping with set up and support. The MLK worship equally had about 175 people from all several churches. Serving and worshiping together- ultimately these acts of being a neighbor is how we live out faithfulness and lives towards justice, righteousness, and mercy.
Musings for the day…
Grace and peace,