Be brave and fearless in loving one another as we walk forward. Don’t exchange kingdom values in favor of the status quo.
This week has been difficult. I can’t express how frustrated the headlines of fatalities–both civilian and authority figures-have made me, but it continues to force me out of my comfort zone. It has caused me to enter daily conversations with more love and patience, even though inside my blood feels thick with anger and my tears are full of grief. It has caused me to revisit the reality of being black in America-and how I can never truly understand it as a young Latina living in California.
One thing for certain is my need to cry out to God with my frustrations. I don’t know if He gets tired from hearing these sentiments over and over again. I just don’t know what to do in the moment; I just hope my prayers are less of a blanket of protection over me and more of an authentic lament for my brothers and sisters affected by violence.
As I searched for a Psalm to guide my prayer one morning, I came across this:
1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2 Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3 because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5 Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
8 I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”
9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
16 But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
18 He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
19 God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old,
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
Heavy stuff from David in this Psalm. In a commentary online on Psalm 55, it provides an interpretation of verse 5 that I think is applicable.
Verse 5: Not only does our *heart jump when we are afraid. Our whole body *shakes, or trembles. It cannot stop moving.
Everything and everyone is racing when we hear of horrific events. Imagine we are David. We grab our phone and quickly post a status update. No real consequence Except maybe a few angry tweets and mad reactions on Facebook.
Now imagine David as a black citizen of America.Moms are rushing home to make sure their sons are safe. When they are, she reminds them to stay out off the streets and say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ when speaking to them. Activists race to their networks and rally together because #BlackLivesMatter.
Adrenaline is pumping inside the man wearing a blue uniform. Fear riddles the man on the other side of the pistol. And in the twisted heart of the man with a plot to destroy peace.
Fear is what drives us to move, but fear in the heart of white people puts a target on the backs of black folks. Every one should be held responsible for their actions, including those who knowingly and unknowingly contribute to perpetuating systematic racism.
I am not reducing all problems to fear, but it has a part in this conversation.
I wasn’t expecting any mention of the deaths of Alton and Philando at College Community on Thursday night. Let me be clear- this is not to say I don’t think that my church intentionally ignores these sensitive issues of racism, but they aren’t the first on the agenda either. I was afraid we may be too complacent in our privilege. I have hope this will change as more white and even non-black Christians of color in my circle push back against the status quo.
However, love entered the conversation. David, our college intern, spoke on loving one another. In typical David-fashion, he went on a tangent but this one was extremely important. Let’s just say he is becoming a woke white man. He talked about the increasingly difficult nature of having peaceful and loving relationships between diverse groups of people.
It circled back to one common desire: unity.
Let’s get this straight. Division is not the goal here.
1) Black people are not playing the race card. We don’t fully know their experiences. Thus we are further marginalizing their voices when we don’t include their experiences.
2) People argue that BLM activists, musicians and actors on networks like BET are separatists. I am sorry, do you not like hip hop and entertainment from black artists? Did you see any black families on major network television prior to BET? Plus, there’s a culture behind it that’s meant for more than white consumption.
Back to Thursday night. Our community heard from other leaders in previous weeks about unity and humility. This was tied together with the lesson on love.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 15: 12
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
The greatest act of love I saw that night was the dozen of young people and our mentors washing each others’ feet. I witnessed young men hugging each other before and after the wash. I saw laughter and tears shared between young women.
It was humbling to take part in and definitely relieved some of the anger I felt in response to the news. It put things back in perspective.
We won’t all have the chance to wash someone’s feet, but we all are called to love with the same spirit. We can’t live in get for much longer. We can’t be ignorant or unwilling to learn about the history of oppression. The protests are not about pity or violence. Raised voices have come together as one to:
Collectively mourn over the deaths of two fathers and partners, five cops, and thousands more.
Sound the alarm for justice and shalom.
Cry for love to cover the nation.
Allow God’s goodness to seep into the cities across the world.
Carry one another’s burdens, boldly acting as change agents.