I seriously doubt I have anything unique/new to add to this conversation and lament over the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Sadly, many other names could be added. I trust those who read will forgive me for that all too ubiquitous social media plague of “virtue signaling”, where our posts are too often expressions of self-righteousness where we let everyone know what good people we are and how terrible are those folks who disagree with us on any issue. With that said, as I check my own motivations for writing what I hope to be a brief piece (!), they are twofold. First, I don’t want to contribute any further to our societal ingrained racism by my silence. While I may not have anything “new” to say, what I share here is obviously what I will say! With all its foibles and own ingrained fallenness, it’s my voice. Not knowing what to do/say and then not doing anything is not acceptable. And second, I hope that my own voice will be used by God to add to the other collective voices of lament, forming a weighty “prayer” of sorts that will descend back upon the earth in “reversed thunder”. This is a phrase borrowed by the late Eugene Peterson, who poetically coined the term from imagery found in the book of Revelation, chapter 8:4-5. There, we see the prayers of God’s people rising like incense before His throne, prayers “collected” (paid attention to) over time. Earlier in the book, we see in Revelation 6:10 martyrs crying out to God, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” . . . They were told to wait a little longer (Rev. 6:11). And we still wait for the full expression of His justice. And so, we see in Revelation 8:4-5, at a time known only to Him, God will take this censer of incense, filled with fire, and has it hurled back to the earth in judgment. God does hear the prayers of His people. It has been said that all people, on judgment day (yes, I’m one of those “crazies” who believe in a judgment day!) will either receive justice or mercy. We must be careful what we pray for! Yet, for centuries, His children have prayed, “Our Father . . . Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven”. Can His will be done though, on earth, if we have not prayed and truly desire the fulfillment of the first petition in the Lord’s prayer, which says, “Hallowed be thy name”? That’s a whole other post (!), but let me suggest a few ways, in this sad context of the unjust deaths of our brothers and sisters of color, of how we can hallow God’s Name, and so add weight to our ascending prayers, trusting in God’s time, these prayers will descend back upon this earth in the forms of His justice.
First, God’s Name (who He is and what He stands for) is “hallowed” (given utmost priority in our lives) when we vigorously speak out on any kind of prejudice/prejudging, especially if it is found in us. ESPECIALLY if it is found in us. I’m suggesting we all have our prejudices. We all pre-judge others. We especially pre-judge the “other”. People who are not like us. If you catch yourself doing this, whether it is prejudging blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, Republicans, Democrats, the rich, the poor, gays, straights, and even pre-judging evangelicals like myself (!), repent of this. Repentance happens when we accept the grace God gives us to turn away from our sin and then to turn to God and find mercy and grace in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Repentance is a beautiful life giving balm for the ills not just of “society”, but for the microcosms of society, meaning you and me as individuals. Change starts with the individual. Change starts with me. This humble and ruthless honesty of first speaking out/repenting of any prejudice in ourselves, will add moral weight and authority to speak the truth in love to others who are ignorantly (or not so ignorantly) wearing their prejudices on their sleeves.
Second, befriend another “other”! That is, if we are honest, we are all another “other” to someone different than ourselves. I realize this term “other” has mostly a pejorative connotation, but as I use it here, I mean to describe something beautiful. “Otherness”, seen in the fact that we are different from “others” is a beautiful thing. If we were all the same, how boring this world would be.
Warning, here comes my “virtue signaling”! Some of what I considered my best friends growing up were black. I think of Joe, Dana, and Curtis. Many of you were my protectors when my big mouth got me into trouble with other kids! I will always be grateful for a Mom and a Dad who would not allow prejudice to foster in our home while growing up. Presently, I meet weekly with a diverse group of Pastors. We pray together. Do some life together, go on retreats together. Cook and eat together. Many of my black brothers and preachers have supported me and continue to support me through some difficult times. Our prayer times are often tear-filled, joy-ridden expressions of confession and repentance. Also, for the last year or so, we have had a delightful African American young man living with us. It’s no big deal. It’s just what we do. He was my son’s college roommate who had moved here from Chicago and needed a place to stay until he gets settled. We absolutely love having him here. While none of this makes me good and necessarily empathetic to my brothers and sisters of color, it HAS made my life more rich and I believe real. I have been immeasurably blessed by these relationships. God’s name is hallowed by such relationships. I also believe, when we have “other” friends who are not like us (whether you are a person of “color” or one of the “lighter hue” like me!), we are beginning to see answers to our prayers for justice.
I didn’t want this post to even be this long (!), but I DID NOT WANT TO STAY SILENT, and, by so doing, I wanted to add “weight” to all the other prayers that are ascending to the throne of God. Until we see the descent (the answers) to our prayers, let’s keep working and praying for God’s Name to be hallowed, and, for His kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Sorry for all the biblical references and imagery, but I’m a Pastor. What did you expect?! Blessings.