I am trying to read my Bible. I really am. But my brain won’t sit still. It keeps running to the violence, the irony, the anguish of a black man, who loved the Lord, was known for being kind and helpful, and whose family now has to plan an unmerited funeral. And a nation that wants vindication and justice.
A friend of mine, who happens to have skin the gorgeous hue of decadent chocolate, and a personality just as sweet, said “I have never had a time in my life that I didn’t hear these stories”. I don’t even know what to say to that. It’s so painful.
When will it stop? When are we going to start seeing people for who they are, not the shade of their skin? Are we going to stay quiet like those standby police officers, who were an accomplice to murder? Are we going to start a debate over whether or not rioting is a proper response? Are we going to tip-toe back into our sheltered existences? Or are we going to look right into that biting wind and wail out a lament that continues until justice becomes righteousness?
I know it’s awkward. I am a white lady. I get it. Sometimes I feel like my hands are tied, and no matter what I say, I lodge my foot in my throat, because I can’t possibly understand. It’s true. But I am sure those cops felt uncomfortable, too. The ones that just watched. And if they would have just done anything to stop it. I don’t want to be guilty of silence any longer. I have overthought it too many times. I have felt as though my ignorance nullified my voice. But I think I was wrong for being too careful.
My fears have always been saying something insensitive to my colorful friends, or speaking up about something I knew nothing about. Finally I began to realize that I needed to listen and ask questions about their suffering. Sometimes the best way to love is to listen, and if you catch a little of that acid reflux every once in awhile (because you said something stupid), remember that you are just caught in the crossfire of a life time of suffering. Hurt people hurt people. Your suffering friend might just need to let off some steam. Maybe that was the way you were able to love and support them… by letting them vent at you and not taking offense. Listen to the vent and learn from it. But don’t be scared to try again. We can’t do anything about our ignorance, but we can choose to love.
The irony is, a couple thousand years ago (and the story I keep trying to read, while my mind wanders to our national atrocities), is about a moment in history that Christians are celebrating this Sunday: Pentacost.
Pentacostals have sort-of butchered this passage of Scripture, unfortunately. They take the story to mean that you have to speak gibberish to have the Holy Spirit (which is NOT what the Bible teaches. If you want to talk about that, we can discuss it later). What gets lost in their translation is what it really DOES mean, which is so pertinent to this national crisis…
The story of Pentecost is an affront to racism. And a reversal of Babel. Looking back at the early chapters of Genesis, we read a story where mankind got really proud and thought they could build a tower to heaven, so God confused their language. He divided the people with a language barrier. We are really so small that something like that can divide us.
On the day of Pentacost, God put languages that unified in the mouths of His people. His disciples began speaking in the native tongues of all those who were listening. Every tribe. Every tongue. Unity! He prayed for it, in those savory chapters of John, where He is looking at His impending death, giving the final pep talk to His posse of the eleven, and praying to His Father that His people would have the kind of otherworldly unity that He and the Father experience.
The next time we see people speaking in tongues in the Bible (and the only other time I can think of, off the top of my head), it is at Cornelius’ house. A Gentile (non-Jew). This was to prove the point that God was indeed building His Kingdom out of more than just the Jewish race. He used the gift of tongues to abolish racism, in Peter’s heart, and also in the hearts of the other Apostles and disciples. Previously the Jews had thought they were the elite. But God uses this gift of tongues to both reach out to other races, as well as validate the salvation of other races. He also speaks to this in John 3:16, when He said “For God so loved THE WORLD…”
When I was in Nepal recently, I was in awe of the beauty of the Nepalese people, their vibrant clothing and houses, their peaceful nature, their gorgeous skin tones and beautiful language. It made me fall more in-love with humanity. I kept feeling a sense of awe. I wanted to visit every nation and figure out what was so glorious in every culture. I came home loving people more, because of seeing a more colorful spectrum. Racism is so anti-Christ and anti-Creator! Racism refutes the beauty that God plasters over all His Image-bearers.
We, the Church, must stand against the injustice and evil, like Noah, who lived in the darkest of days and still stood strong a righteous, God-fearing man, we must push back the darkness of division. We must see the glorious reflection of the Most High in one another. And we must pray against the consuming evil that threatens to destroy us. We must stand against the injustice, like those onlooking officers failed to do.
Shame on us, as a human race, for letting things like the tone of someone’s skin, cause division. Skin has nothing to do with character, and you can’t even take it off to escape the unholy judgments. It honestly makes me queasy, and I don’t really understand how racism can be a thing. It’s like looking at a piece of artwork and cursing the artist for using colors to paint with.
In the book of Acts, it doesn’t tell us that Peter preached a dynamic sermon. In fact, it tells us that Peter strongly rebuked the listeners, and told them how they murdered the One who came to save their souls. I wonder what he would say to us, America, on the wake of George Floyd’s murder, as well as the whole string of other atrocities done on these shores, beginning with the kidnapping and enslaving of Africans? These crimes against humanity were crimes against the God who handcrafted them, loves them, and placed His Image upon them. These are not just temporary stains. There is blood on our hands, and we are guilty before the Maker. We need His blood to wash the stain of it.
May the Church of the Almighty become unified to speak up for the oppressed. True religion is this (James 1:27): To bear the sufferings the widow and orphan (the oppressed and forsaken) and to keep oneself unstained by the world! This world is divided.
Pentecost was not a feel-good sermon with snacks and coffee in the lobby. It was not a pastor who dressed classy, but casual. It was not a 5-piece band with all the right acoustics in the building. Pentacost was a day of the Holy Spirit showing up on the scene. This is my prayer for this Sunday. I am praying for the whole, wide world… that God would show up and we would behold His glory, and it would cast us face down in awe and wonder that such a great God would save souls, and He would build His Kingdom upon unity and grace.
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