There is so much division in America right now, and the people who seem to be participating in this division the most, when they have perhaps more power than anyone to fight it, are Christians. The country is experiencing a pandemic of epic proportions, racial tension is extreme, and America is in the throttle of another election season. The stance of many Evangelicals who are still more devoted to order than to justice is unnerving. Many are choosing to take offense when they could choose humility, compassion, or mercy — and in their offense, they turn their eyes and ears from seeing and hearing what fellow Christians are begging them to see and hear. This is disgraceful. Christians have a responsibility to listen humbly, seek justice, and bring healing to a hurting world.
Many, many people are frightened right now because of the rhetoric that comes from the highest office in America and the people who agree. Of course, everyone who voted for Trump is not a racist, sexist, or hateful. Truth is, some are! Instead of being defensive and angry, speak out against hate, show grace and support to those who are afraid. A vote for Trump is not one that should be cast and forgotten. Christians have a responsibility to follow through and take ownership of this administration.
America emphasizes a culture that still, to this day, is less safe for men and women of color, the LGBTQ community, Immigrants, Muslims, and others. This should outrage those who profess Christ, but many still turn a blind eye. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” In King’s letter from a Birmingham jail he expounds:
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Christians must listen humbly, seek justice, and bring healing to a hurting world. There are a lot of problems with the current administration as many will agree, there are with every political candidate. However, after choosing where to place a vote, it means the decision was also made that those problems were worth the risk. Christians must be able to own and address those threats. Trump said in his acceptance speech that it is time for Americans to come together. If that is who and what you support help build a culture of peaceful diversity. Speak out in love towards those you disagree with. Do not add to the rhetoric of gloating, do not allow the pomposity of meanness.
When viewing or hearing of a protest with the hashtag “Black Lives Matter,” instead of becoming defensive and offended, pay attention to what they are saying. When you see athletes kneeling, instead of being angry and saying, “That’s disrespectful!” pause and reflect on the issues they are trying to address. Many Christians have chosen offense on behalf of a flag when they should be listening on behalf of the cross. Some have called them ignorant for “disrespecting the anthem,” when in their own ignorance they have taken their place in a long line of historically white Christians demanding that people of color stand up.
Christians have inherited responsibility. Choose whether to correct the injustices your spiritual ancestors inflicted or continue to ignore the cries for help. You may do so maliciously, or you may do so ignorantly, but the result will be the same: Injustice will continue. Honestly ask yourself, “How would Christ respond?” There are many examples of Jesus himself being interrupted, often quite disrespectfully, as people demand and plead for his help.
When a group of men literally destroyed the roof of a house to interrupt his teachings, how did Jesus respond? He did not comment on whether their method was right or wrong; he listened, and he brought healing. When a woman pushed her way through the crowd to grab his cloak, and he felt power leave him. He did not comment that her desperation could be construed as disrespectful, even though her response clearly shows she thought he would be furious. Instead, he listened, and he brought healing.
He sought those interruptions, those demands, those disruptions — because His heart was and is for healing and connection. Time and time and time again, Jesus is interrupted, we see people demanding and pleading, we see from the reactions of others that those interruptions were considered rude, disrespectful, or even outright wrong, and yet every single time how does Jesus respond? He listens and brings healing.
Tune into the message before speaking against the method. Christians, even the early followers of Christ, often focused on the aspects of the method that could cause offense while spewing controversial questions such as, “How dare you destroy that roof or grab his robe!” Or better yet, “How dare you kneel during the anthem!” These methods are not what matter most, the injustice is. After choosing to let go of the offense, some will find that obligation is not so frightening or difficult as they thought.
Christians have a responsibility to listen humbly, seek justice, and bring healing to a hurting world. Do something to help. Listen more. Build relationships. Look internally and seek to dispel any underlying assumptions or prejudices in the crevices of your heart. Call out those who are perpetuating injustice. Find out how you can help change the system, the unjust laws, and the unjust interpretation of laws; fight for liberty and justice for all. That is, after all, what the flag is supposed to represent; if there is not justice for all, then our rigid honor of a symbol becomes hollow.
It is inconvenient and uncomfortable to deal with issues of racial injustice; it is easier to choose offense or ignore it altogether. But those who experience it do not have the option to ignore it; it affects them every day. They are killed because of it. Refuse the easy way out. If you see or hear of a protest, an injustice, or a cry for help — in whatever form — remember Micah 6:8: Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God, not just your chosen political candidate.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: Birmingham Letter
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