Followers of Messiah Jesus know that the world is often upside down and inside out relative to the Kingdom of God. We expect therefore to encounter hatred not love; selfishness not sacrifice; violence not gentleness; and bearing of crosses not crowns. We expect this because we are followers of Jesus. In recent days, followers of King Jesus should not be surprised. All of us, but supremely our brothers and sisters of color!
What is so challenging for many of us, on the other side of Jesus’ cross, resurrection, ascension and then gift of the Holy Spirit, is we’d like to think that receiving the Kingdom, living as citizens of the Kingdom, and seeing the Kingdom of God expressed and advanced in our world should now be automatic and achievable by different means than Jesus used.
But to think this way is to be deaf and blind to the way of Jesus. Jesus’ cross bearing, loving self-sacrifice on Calvary and resurrection were not simply “one-offs.” That is, they were not his to do so that we can now do something else. No, indeed. Jesus’ entire life, his teachings, his vision of God’s Kingdom, his healings, exorcisms, serving, suffering, dying on the cross and his victory over death on Easter morning—all this is how Jesus achieved victory over the powers of the evil one and guaranteed Kingdom-come. Now, with minds clear of confusion and distortion, with hearts cleansed of sin and filled with love, and with the indwelling and empowering Spirit of Jesus compelling us onward, we can walk with Jesus in our still upside down and inside out world, confident that walking with Jesus is the way of his Kingdom and its expression in our world.
So what shall we do and how shall we live in a world still under the viral presence of racial bigotry, bitterness and vengeance? We must stand up to stand with those who have been and are targeted. And, in doing so, we must follow Jesus in the way of Jesus’ cross. Therefore, I suggest we:
- Listen and learn in silence from those whose voices can no longer be silenced for the pain and hurt of it all.
- Weep with those who weep; lament as they lament; yearn with them for the relief Jesus proclaimed as a blessing in his Kingdom for those who mourn.
- Pray in the Spirit—groaning with the anguish of families who have lost loved ones, who live in fear for the safety and well-being of their children, especially their young men.
- Pray in the Spirit for perpetrators to see their sin, and turn from their evil ways, and for the systems that support or benefit from the evils of racism to be exposed and changed;
- Pray in the Spirit for leaders to see the handwriting on the wall, and turn from defending what is, casting blame in defense of one’s self and group, to defending the hurting, whoever and wherever they hurt, and pursuing relief for all.
Then, we must also:
- Stand up in respect for the human beings, made in God’s image and beloved by their Maker, who are now most vulnerable, or whose insecure and unsafe environs are now mobbed with demonstrators demanding change.
- Stand up to speak words of blessing and not curse—not to win arguments or score points but to express Jesus’ first word to would-be citizens of his Kingdom. Speak words of blessing knowing that words of blessing in response to cursing often makes things worse before anything can get better. Speak words of blessing toward those who have been targeted by curse, who are regularly demeaned, diminished, damned and dismissed. Speak words of blessing upon them because you have been called to be agents of blessing, because in the Kingdom blessing is not the final word but the initial word that enlivens Kingdom hope and life for those who receive them.
- Stand up to stand with those who feel the brunt of bigotry in whatever its forms. Because even a little bigotry betrays the Kingdom of God. Yes, truly, to say that God does not love another (any other, certainly including those obviously different from you) as you believe God loves you is to doubt that God is love, especially the love we see displayed in the tortured, bloodied and dying Jesus on the cross. Not to love the other as you would have God love you is to violate the clear command of Jesus. And, to doubt that this is even possible for you, and therefore is excusable because “no one is perfect,” is to deny the victory of Easter and the power of the Spirit Jesus gives his followers. After all, we died and were buried with Jesus so that we might walk in an entirely new way by the power of the resurrection! And, after all, Jesus has given us clear instructions—if there could be the log of bigotry in our eyes we must avail ourselves of every Kingdom power to extract it before acting on any other thing we might see.
- Stand up to stand with those who have been made to wonder if their lives matter as much as my color-less life matters. Because their lives do matter supremely! God says so in creation. God’s Son says so by becoming a person of color and yet still loving and dying for people like me. And God’s Spirit says so by filling and forming us into the likeness of Jesus.
- Stand up to stand with those who have had enough of the hate, the fear and all that goes with it. They have had enough and to stand with them means that we have had enough! Yet, that means we may now be in danger of adopting the strategies and ways of the haters. This will not help anyone because hate is hate, and always eventually only kills and destroys. What is needed are friends of Jesus who will say what Jesus has said: “Enough is enough, no more!” Friends of Jesus who will say it and then insist on what is right even if sacrificing self—preferences, rights, opportunities, privileges??—is the cost of freedom for all whose voice and presence have not been heard or seen.
- Stand up to stand with those targeted by racial profile, ingrained habit and careless mindsets in the places we live, in all of these ways, trusting that Jesus’ Kingdom will be like he said it would be—seeds planted, leaven kneaded, and lamps lit in dark places. Yes,
- Stand up to stand with them calling on leaders at all levels, in the church and the world, to assure that the law is enacted and enforced for the sake of people (not people for the sake of the law), especially those otherwise without protection and help, that the most basic rights of human dignity and respect are protected and enhanced, and that officers of the law are valued and supported for fulfilling their duty to serve and protect everyone’s rights.
- Stand up to stand with our brothers and sisters in the African American Church, in the unity of the Spirit, and speak with them and for them in pursuit of the King’s righteousness, peace and joy. And, as we
- Stand up to stand with we brace ourselves for cross-bearing, sacrificing, suffering, and perhaps dying as we walk together with Jesus as agents of his Kingdom in a world still upside down and inside out.