trying to find sense when it seems we’ve lost our minds (a response to the election one week out)

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a week ago we reached the end of a difficult and particularly toxic election for the united states.  we were hoping to move on. however, when the results were called we woke up to a different reality.  for some it was triumph and feeling emboldened for others disbelief and dissent.  for many anger…at “the other” side (i for one experienced more anger before the election then after).  we didn’t know our divisions could actually get worse.  

(WARNING: this is a long read so feel free to read in parts.)

WHY ARE PEOPLE (AM I) HAVING SUCH STRONG REACTIONS TO THIS ELECTION AND ITS RESULTS?   

there’s all sorts of craziness happening.  there is so much division, even amongst believers.  but, I know that no matter what, we as the people of God’s Kingdom know that only His Kingdom lasts so we must be the people in this world that hold the tension of not giving into despair (whether that’s giving up on people we disagree with or giving up hope of any kind) but not dismissing pain.  it is the pain however that is getting us most riled up.  pain dismissed is what got us here.  there must be space to deal with the pain if we are ever to move to a place of healing.  there are 4 thoughts we’re tempted to have but we must not give in to.    

1. we ought not be so upset, we shouldn’t be crybabies.

yes, we don’t despair because God is in control.  but why shouldn’t we cry?  where does this stoicism come from?  not from God.  the people of Israel were familiar with lament and maybe we can learn something from them.  Job asked God questions in his pain.  Jesus wept (even when He knew it was going to work out for good).  The early church was familiar with tears.   Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.  

yes, we may not need to cry over some things that can be better said in words.  but sometimes we may need to cry because that expresses more than our words could ever say.  the hand of God responds to the cries of his people.  we need space to grieve or else our pain will harden into something worse.  

2. but Romans 13:1 says we should submit to governing authorities God has put in place so we should just accept it

yes, we ought to submit to the government for they have been put in place by God. however, there is ONE case that trumps that verse, which is when the law of the land goes against the law of God who is the ultimate law giver (i.e. in our president-elects case, the need to love the most vulnerable of our neighbors as opposed to insulting them and proposing laws against them. if he has changed, awesome!  let him apologize and set things right).  by dissent, i do not mean violent resistance but civil protest (the early church was not a stranger to civil disobedience, when it went against God’s conscience, as many were willingly arrested and even killed for their stances. Jesus himself confronted the establishment of the temple authorities by overturning the corruption of money-changer tables).  

when God appoints a leader that DOES NOT always mean God anoints a leader.  let us remember God appointed pharaoh with a hard heart to oppress the israelites,  nebuchadnezzar with an arrogant heart to kidnap daniel and his people, and will appoint the anti-christ (i’m not saying we know who the anti-christ is) with a defiant heart to persecute his saints.  but again we are not hopeless because he always has and always will work things out for the good of those who love him.   

3. none of these policies have been put into place yet, and it’s not such a big deal as there are people in the world with greater suffering.

yes, there is a scale of pain but that doesn’t mean that we must then disregard the lesser pain.  yes, the suffering of others gives us invaluable perspective and we are poorer without it but that is the very thing i am appealing to: perspective.  you may not be strongly affected by things that were said but that doesn’t mean others can’t be strongly affected, especially those who are dealing with a real history of real pain.  there is real pain for them, not so much because of legitimate results of our electing system, not because laws have come into effect already, but because the election results can be read as an approval of a president, by this united states, that thinks it’s okay to dismiss many who live in them – a realization of fears these very people have worked so hard to overcome.  in fact, if we pivot perspectives, many were surprised in this election precisely because they did not take into account the pain of working class / poor whites in the rust belt states that swung the vote.  yes, we can not make everyone happy, nor should we, but telling someone their pain does not matter is certainly not a solution.

4. sometimes God subjects people to pain that they deserve…they have brought it upon themselves.

this may be, but this is the judgement for God to make not ours.  even such pain is not pointless. this side of heaven and hell there is still hope of redemption.  we are ALL made in image of God and we ALL fall short.  once we begin to demonize the other side as ignorant, insane, and/or irreversibly immoral we’ve put them in the category of beyond redemption.  we do not know that.  secondly, there are real beliefs and values at play on both sides, to ignore that is for us to be stuck in an endless cycle of greater division.  we may not agree with the beliefs and values of the “other” but they are motivated by what they think is right as we are motivated by what we think is right.  we may not all be right but let us work this out and not give up on each other.    

to my fellow christians in particular, let us keep in mind that neither political party is the party of God.  God is not left or right, liberal or conservative.  both sides, all sides, must answer to Him.  both sides have faults.  both sides also have some truth and issues that align with what God cares for – here are just a few (please keep in mind that i’m not saying either side doesn’t care for these issues or that the application of these values in terms of policy is the best way, but i’m talking more about emphasis of platform as it relates to biblical principles):  

“conservative”

“liberal”      

i long for the Bride of Christ, not to be beholden to either political party but to hold ourselves and our institutions accountable to a more holistic Kingdom vision.  for the time being though, inevitably, with the way our secular party system is currently formed and our tendency toward tribalism, someone is bound to lose.  there are costs to be paid.  this leads to the next big question.    

 

GOD, WHY WOULD YOU ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN?  

whatever “this” is for you, we are faced with this question in the face of real evil and suffering that we witness not just on a personal level but on a systemic level.  as i’ve wrestled with these questions with God in the past week this is what i’ve sensed.  

1. suffering reveals his saints

  • in trial, it shows what/who we really trust in.  
  • in this past week, God’s been causing me to appeal to and put my real hope in his eternal character and kingdom more than before.

2. suffering refines his saints

3. suffering tests his saints

His Bride shines brightest in suffering not in comfortability.  

 

So then, this leads to the final big question

HOW THEN DO WE MOVE FORWARD?   

1. let us take our pain to God first.  

2. let us seek God for what’s important.  

  • let us ask God what do we need to let go?  
  • let us ask God what we must not compromise?  
  • let us allow liberal/conservative adorations and divisions to die.  there are three things that are eternal: God, people, and His Word.  all our answers to what is important must be measured by scripture.  we need a deeper theology of orthodoxy and orthopraxy of what it means to love God with all that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.       

3. let us walk the walk not only talk the talk.  

  • let us commit ourselves to unceasing prayer because the power of a right life in Christ comes from prayer, not people pleasing.  daniel, even under threat of the lion’s den in a broken government, never forgot who he was and continued to do his thing, as was his usual practice for decades, of seeking after God and His Kingdom.  prayer to the Father was the God-given private nexus behind Jesus’ public authority and power that he modeled for us.
  • let us not be afraid to enter into the suffering of others unlike ourselves, without which there is no resurrection.  Jesus tells us that if we are to follow him, we must take up our cross (instruments of death) and follow him.  we are saved by faith alone but a faith without works is dead.
  • let us first be faithful to what God has put before us before we engage the broader discussion.  this one is such a challenge for me because, if i am honest with myself, sometimes the work right before me of loving my own family, my own ministry, my own community is harder then to engage in larger scale dialogues and policies.  not that we ought to neglect the latter but that we must not lose sense of our God given responsibility before us.   as we do that better we are better equipped to have something of more substance to offer to the broader conversation.   

we don’t always understand why there is suffering when God is a good God.  but just because we don’t see a reason for the suffering doesn’t mean there is no good reason.  we don’t know the full story, no one does except God.  but in humility let us trust in His goodness because His goodness will always win.  let’s not give in to despair or hate.  let’s keep on doing good because He is good, He gives us power to do good, and good WILL win.    so no matter what we’re facing let’s persevere in Jesus because HIS Kingdom is already being unleashed and it is indestructible.

stuck between gospel escapism and humanistic justice

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in the wake of our election season, american christianity is being revealed for what it is, for better or worse.   

i am finding in myself, and in our faith communities, two tendencies that are overly represented and NEITHER of which i feel are true representations of our hope for how we ought to live in God according to the full counsel of scripture (as opposed to picking and choosing what we like).  this goes beyond the labels of conservative/liberal and republican/democrat.   

church family, please hear me out.  i’m not saying i have all the answers.  i do know that i am troubled by our division (and even the attitudes and anger rising up in me) – how we’re treating one another, let alone people outside the church – and i don’t think i’m alone in this.  we do ourselves, our witness, and ultimately the desire of Jesus no good by being so entrenched in our divisions.  Jesus knows, some hills are worth dying on…and some are not.  let us make every effort at peace.  i want to start by addressing our two root tendencies or the opposing sides that we often find ourselves in.  then i would like to propose a way forward that overlaps the strengths of both sides.  let’s not be so quick to point out the speck in our siblings eye and miss the log that may be in ours.  let us be the first to admit where we fall short before we insist on change from the other.     

1) on one hand i see the tendency of gospel escapism (in me and the church in general).

what i mean by gospel escapism is…

a faith that focuses on loving God at the expense of loving our neighbors where they’re at (not expecting them to have it together before we love them).  a belief in the good news of God that neglects the engagement of this world, where this good news of God unfolds (the gospel is not just that he forgiveness us but that he unites himself with us to walk in this world). a theology that accepts salvation now but waits for the kingdom of God later and somewhere else (otherwise we fall prey to the lawlessness that we can go on sinning so that grace abounds all the more….we need to remember Jesus tells us to daily pray for His kingdom to come HERE on earth).   a Jesus without justice (a pursuit of a Jesus that is sterilized from his cries for justice).

2) on the other hand i see the tendency of humanistic justice (in me and the church in general)

what i mean by humanistic justice is…

a faith that focuses on loving our neighbors at the expense of loving God directly (the one who is our daily source of life).  a belief in humanity that neglects the engagement of the God of humanity on His terms (He does have standards that we must not compromise to the world and will make us quite unpopular).  a theology that accepts the kingdom of God as expanding now but waits to work out salvation later (not only does this lead to burnout but puts us in danger of being legalists of a different kind).  a justice without Jesus – a pursuit of justice that is fine to use Jesus as a rallying point but that asks him step aside when it’s time to do the work (yes, Jesus is for the marginalized but it is not at the expense of his reign nor his spiritual power).   

church family, my dear brothers and sisters whom Jesus has died for, i long to see a third way of Gospel Justice.  

what i mean by gospel justice is…

a gospel that has it’s face turned to God but feet planted on the ground.  a gospel that doesn’t forget Jesus’ inaugural address was good news for the poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed.

a faith that is informed by the epistles AND the gospels.  Truth AND Grace.  conviction AND compassion.  a Jesus that will call out sin but sups with sinners.  orthodoxy AND orthopraxy.  conversion AND discipleship.  justification AND sanctification (Romans 1-5 AND Romans 6-16).  loving God AND loving our neighbor.  that we are not saved by good works but rather we are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-9 AND 10).   

 

let us not be gospel escapists who throw in the towel, disengaging from spheres outside of our own and policy that affects our most vulnerable neighbors from the womb to the tomb.  let us not be humanistic justice seekers who put our ultimate faith in human systems of governance, as if there is no God sovereign over all and whose kingdom is the only one that will stand.  

will you join me in seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness to break through here on this earth, not our kingdoms and our righteousness?   

How Do You Know the Bible is True?

With so much in doubt these days of what is true and who we can trust, it is of great significance to know if there actually is an objective standard of truth by which we can make sense of the world.  

It is claimed that the bible is such a document to guide us, even making the outrageous assertion that it is inspired by God himself “and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness.”  

Now, I am not ignorant to the fact that the bible has been used to justify all kinds of madness but I believe that is the fault of people that selectively handle the bible, not the bible itself.  In fact, research indicates that, even when adjusting for education, the more someone ACTUALLY reads the bible the more they will have socially just views (even correlated with leaning “politically liberal”…*gasp!).  And if you think science and religion are incompatible that is NOT what frequent bible readers believe.  Keeping this in mind, how then do we know if the bible is true (as in a reliable historical document as well as something worthy to help guide our lives)?  

THE SHORTER ANSWER

I know that the bible is true because it is like a LAMP* that guides me in the dark.  

LIFE = the bible is true to life, transcending differences.

ARCHAEOLOGY = archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative

MANUSCRIPTS = manuscript copies confirm the reliability of the Bible

PROPHECY – no book comes close in fulfillment of predictive prophecy, demonstrating the bible’s supernatural inspiration

THE LONGER ANSWER

Here is an expansion of each of the four points above.  

1. LIFE – the bible is true to life, transcending differences.

The bible still speaks to us today even though its contents were written thousands of years ago. times and cultures may have changed but what it says about the human condition has not changed.  God has been inspiring people through the words of the bible, resulting in transformed lives throughout history even to this very day.  

There is a remarkable unity of ideas in the bible even though written by/in

  • different authors (kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, shepherds),
  • different places (wilderness <Moses>, dungeon <Jeremiah>, palace <Daniel>, prison <Paul>, while traveling <Luke>, in exile <john>)
  • different times (war, peace)
  • different moods (joy, sorrow, despair, confusion, doubt)
  • different continents (Asia, Europe, Africa)
  • different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek)

 

2. ARCHAEOLOGY – archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference…the almost incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible, and particularly so when it is fortified by archaeological fact” – Nelson Glueck (renowned Jewish Archaeologist)

Old Testament (OT) – some examples of biblical places and events confirmed by archaeological finds

  • City of Sodom and Gomorrah (bituminous pitch – brimstone plentiful at site)
  • City of Jericho (walls that usually fall inward here fell outward)
  • King David (wall past the pool of Siloam)
  • King Solomon (pomegranate temple ornament w/ inscription of God’s name)

New Testament (NT) – archaeological finds confirming the book of Luke for example

  • The Pavement (where Jesus was tried),
  • The Pool of Bethesda,
  • the Nazareth Decree (Imperial Decree not to disturb graves),
  • The Pilate Inscription (Pilate’s name and title),
  • Erastus inscription (Erastus that Paul mentions),
  • New Testament coins (mentioned in gospels indicating values)

 

3. MANUSCRIPTS – Manuscript copies confirm the reliability of the Bible

“to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” – John Warwick Montgomery from History of Christianity

How can we trust that the bible that we have now is what was originally written?

The bible passes the test of the “3 Principles of Historiography”:

1) Bibliographical test (reliability of ancient texts are tested through: # of copies, time between copy to original, and variety of documents <languages, material on which it was written>)  

2) Internal Test – no major contradictions in text

3) External Test – other historical materials confirming testimony of the documents (other sources outside of bible that attest to Christian movement writings): from non-Christians

  1. Tacitus (Roman Historian of 1st century)
  2. Suetonius (chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian who reigned AD 117-138)
  3. Josephus (Jewish Historian AD 37-100)
  4. Pliny the Younger (Roman author and administrator wrote in AD 112)
  5. Lucian of Samosata (Greek writer of the 2nd century)
  6. Mara Bar-Serapion (Syrian writer between late 1st and early 3rd century)  

The Old Testament is reliable too.  

  • Accuracy of coping texts in the Jewish culture was part of their religion
  • The OT was translated into Greek before the birth of Christ (the Septuagint) so even more comparisons can be made for inconsistencies
  • Biblical texts, called the “Dead Sea Scrolls”, dated about 150 BC to 70 AD and representing most of the OT, were found in the 20th century that match much of what we currently have.   

Well, how was the bible put together and who decided what books to include?

There are 5 Principles to Recognize / Test What to Include in Canon (the standard)

“The church did not determine but rather discovered (recognizing divine authority) the cannon”

  1. Was the book written by a prophet of God? (In NT Jesus or Apostolic authorship/apostolic approval <John 16:13 Spirit’s promise, 2 Pet 3:16 Peter acknowledges Paul>)
  2. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God (Moses, Jesus, the prophets, apostles)?
  3. Did the message tell the truth about God? (rule of non contradiction)
  4. Does it come with the power of God? (transforming power)
  5. Was it accepted by the people of God? (people who knew the prophet or writer)

NT books as we have them today:  

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 367) gave us the earliest list of books that is exactly like our present New Testament.  However it is important to know these books were already recognized, established, and quoted from by various early church leaders (ex. Polycarp AD 115, Justin Martyr AD 100) The councils merely put it into writing.        

OT books as we have them today:

The Jewish community had acknowledged it and we know of the discipline of the Jewish scribes through their Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called the Septuagint (250-100 BC)

 

4. PROPHECY – no book comes close in predicitive prophesy, demonstrating the bible’s supernatural inspiration

“Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the Hindu Veda. But none of those books contain predictive prophecy.” – Norman Geisler and William Nix

Notable Examples of Predictive Prophecy:

Destiny of OT Cities “Every major city and virtually every nation within a thousand miles of Israel had its entire future prophesied by the Bible”  

  • Destructions of Tyre (Ezekiel 26 fulfilled in specific invasion by Nebuchadnezzar and later fulfillment by Alexander)
  • Destruction of Edom
  • Curse on Babylon
  • Destruction of Nineveh

Jesus Christ

  • the time, city, and nature of Christ’s birth as well as life, death, and resurrection, many beyond a person’s control were written centuries before he was even born (about 300 prophesies of the messiah) and fulfilled!  

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER STUDY

The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

Truths that Transform by D. James Kennedy

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

*LAMP acronym courtesy of Rijin Lee

IMPLICATIONS

(2 Peter 1:16-21, 2 Timothy 3:16, Joshua 1:8)

If the bible is true, let us actually READ it and let it guide our lives.  

You’re the only one

*a little poem inspired during my silent retreat last weekend

You’re the only one i can tell everything to
You’re the only one i can go to with every desire underneath my desires
You’re the only one who always keeps their word
You’re the only one who never leaves me
You’re the only one who knows my every brokeness and still loves me daily
You’re the only one that becomes more lovely to me in the knowing
You’re the only one from whom i can never ask too much
Jesus
You’re the only one in whose love i am so filled i want to love others better

why we’re afraid to pray for healing

too often we find our prayers infrequent and frail.  when we hear that someone is ill or not well our automatic response is more “that’s too bad” rather than “let’s pray.”  if we actually do pray for healing for another person we keep it general and not too specific.  and we are sure to add on to our prayer “if it is Your (God’s) will” to get God off the hook…or ourselves.

why is that?

it may be that we’re not sure what his will is, especially when it comes to healing.  yes, there are certainly inscrutable things about the Lord’s will in specific cases.  however, there are things about God’s will that are relatively clear.  healing, surprisingly, is one of them.  again, there are instances where he may not provide healing for some reason but in general it is reasonable to think healing is his will.

  1. when Jesus inaugurates his kingdom he proclaims the gospel AND demonstrates the gospel through healing. (matthew 4:23, 9:25)
  2. when Jesus sends his disciples on their short term mission trips he sends them out, commanding them to proclaim the kingdom AND to heal (the 12 in luke 9:6, the 72 in luke 10:9)
  3. we never see an account of Jesus in which he turns people away from healing or says it is not the Father’s will
  4. Jesus instructs us to pray for “His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” if heaven is where God’s kingdom and will is fully established and in heaven there is no sickness or pain, then we ought to ask for healing to be unleashed here on earth.
  5. lastly, our actions betray us. when we do not see healing then we conclude it must be God’s will that we not be healed…but then we continue to pursue medical treatment.  aren’t we disobeying God then if we truly believe that?

 

it is not a matter of IF healing is God’s will, it is just a matter of WHEN.  this leads us to the second reason why I think our prayers may be so weak willed.  as americans, we’re terrified of disappointment.  we’ve twisted our theologies of prayer to protect ourselves and limit God.  we’ve found believers in other countries, especially those not cushioned with wealth, to be of tougher faith who don’t give up on God and prayer at the first sign of disappointment.  often they do not have the luxury of health care so they go after God in ways that we can learn from.

in fact, Jesus teaches us, through the story of a widow who keeps going to an unjust judge to get justice (Luke 18:1-8), that perseverance in prayer IS faith (v.8).  when full healing didn’t come to a blind man after Jesus laid hands on him, Jesus just did it again (Mark 8:22-25).  He was fine to acknowledge that healing is a process.  if Jesus had to pray twice for the same healing we could surely pray twice (or more).

just so you know that the kingdom of God isn’t just a matter of talk, i’ve experienced more breakthrough as i’ve kept asking of God in my life.  one night a couple months ago at our discipleship school, right after a teaching on healing prayer, we prayed for anyone who was feeling any physical ailment.  each person we prayed for was not healed instantaneously.  however, when we pressed in to pray a second time, without fail, people felt a significant decrease in their physical symptoms.  i took the teaching challenge to enter into any opportunity to pray for people’s physical healing for the following week.  again, when i didn’t stop with one prayer, i witnessed healing.   one sister with chronic pain in her knees went from barely being able to walk to me to joyfully walking down the stairs.

even if the answer does not come right away he may be shaping us for the better in the asking.

let us persevere with God beyond what we’re comfortable with.

 

*special thanks to chris rattay for many of his insights concerning physical healing

heaven breaking though to earth…

DR view

two weeks ago a team of 25 others and i, from the inner city of LA’s eastside, went down to the dominican republic for about 9 days for a mission trip. we went in hopes of being used of God to bless others and see him at work in another country…and in turn, as it always turns out, we were blessed by the people we met there.

it was indeed an amazing time. the locals led us and we learned from them as we did various outreaches in neighborhoods in santiago.  we dug some trenches, listened to life stories, prayed for people, participated in healings & exorcisms, and shared Jesus. we met some brothers and sisters of our heart, even though not of our blood, and made eternal friends in Jesus.

one experience in particular comes to the forefront of my mind, especially relevant in light of the tragedies and tensions of our nation in this past week. at the mission house where we were staying there is a little haitian man who only speaks creole, named luis, that takes care of the house (to give you some background, the domincan republic is not a wealthy country as it is but it shares a border with haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. even with centuries of conflict between the two countries, many haitians have come to the DR seeking work to send money back to their families.  needless to say, there is much discrimination and oppression against this darker skinned marginalized people group).  luis only knew some words in spanish but would greet us every day with smiles as he closed the doors behind us and cleaned up after us.

our last night we had an amazing time of receiving words of blessing and prayer from the DR team.  as we were taking pictures with each other and saying our good-byes, luis hugged me…for a long time.  but it didn’t feel awkward.  then he moved into placing his hands on my chest and back and began praying for me in simple spanish….a language that is not native to either of us as i am a japanese-american man.  he was the last person to pray from me in the DR.  i who went to DR as the missionary, the pastor and literally the servant of the house we were staying at was praying for me.  yet, in his simple prayers the Spirit of God was moving so powerfully.  i felt in that moment that all else faded away, God was reminding me of the good that he is doing, and i felt like i was in the very loving arms of God as i was in the arms of this small haitian man that society thinks is worth nothing and no one would suspect would be a mighty vessel of God’s presence.

if i didn’t open up because this person was different than me, i would have completely missed what God had for me.  any difference between us whether it was what language we spoke, what race we were, or what social class either of us were did not separate us but rather highlighted the power of God that could bring us together in understanding and peace at that moment.  i sensed God telling me not to miss this moment as it is a piece of heaven happening right here on earth. only the Kingdom of God can break through ALL barriers of separation.  

Father, may Your Kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.  

why black lives matter matters

hold up! don’t just skip past this and assume everything that comes next.  please.  i know you’ve heard it already too many times. but this isn’t going to go away if we don’t engage.  

 

because of the climate of our nation that is polarizing so deeply that the “other” side (which ever that may be) is immediately labeled “crazy” and people disengage from dialogue, i’ve got to start with some clarification.

WHAT I AM NOT SAYING

  1.  i am not saying that all other lives don’t matter: i am in no way shape or form advocating for violence against ANY individual or people group.  nor am i saying that other lives matter less. albeit crudely, one fellow succinctly put words to this misunderstanding by tweeting: “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Like people who say “Save The Rainforests” aren’t saying ‘F**k All Other Types of Forests’”.  the statement brings to the fore what is being ignored.  if some individuals use that phrase as a justification for violence, it doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.  
  1. i am not saying that everything associated with black lives matter is all good: it is so important to recognize that those who use this phrase are not all associated and organized together.  the phrase can refer to the principle, the movement, and/or the organization.  if i agree to one it doesn’t mean i agree to all. for example i can use the hashtag #prayfortrump and i could mean we need to pray for our enemies, we need to pray for a presidential candidate to make wise decisions, and/or we need to pray for him to win.  if i agree to one statement it doesn’t mean i agree to all.  I agree with the principle of black lives matter but I do not agree with everything that the organization stands for.  if we are waiting for perfection we will not find it this side of heaven.    
  1. i am not saying that i speak for all black people: i am not a black person.  i won’t pretend that i experientially know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.  yet, my fellow black brothers and sisters have challenged me to speak up.  as a non-black person i am speaking to my non-black friends.  i don’t think i have to convince my black friends that their lives matter.  i am haunted by the words of mlk jr. when he shared “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

WHAT I’M HOPING WE CAN ACKNOWLEDGE

  1. unarmed black people are disproportionately killed by law enforcement.   when adjusting for most recent u.s. population, in 2015 unarmed black people were nearly 4 times as likely to be killed by police than unarmed white people.  i am not trying to villainize the police but rather to reveal the troubling response of us as americans, that there is something lurking in our hearts where this is considered permissible.  if we find ourselves thinking “well, they must have done something to deserve it”, doesn’t this reveal a prejudice within ourselves to not give the benefit of the doubt to a person because of their race?  and even if it were the case, is death the verdict deserved?  is an entire race guilty until proven innocent?  this is not even to focus on blacks being killed by other non-blacks while unarmed and doing normal non-criminal activities.  i won’t even spend time on the effects of entrenched racism (we don’t even have to go all the way back to american slavery but can look at housing policies from the 20th century) that our fellow black human beings must endure to this day.  
  1. black people are made in the image of God just as every other person is made in the image of God.   save Christ, no one person or group has the monopoly on the reflection of his image.  the body of Christ ought to reflect his image more clearly but that may not be the case these days.  each part of the body is not the same but we all need each other.  this does not mean that we are not also all broken with sin.  but this does not take away from the dignity of human life no matter how different from our own.  
  1. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors no matter who they are and no matter how much it will cost us.  Jesus not only told us this, he modeled this…to us who treated him like an enemy.  He interacted with and loved on all people – cross gender, cross culture, cross class, cross creed.  He paid the ultimate cost of his life on the cross to love us.  we have neighbors who are literally dying and in need of tangible love.  

this is why black lives matter should matter to each of us.  

 

HOW THEN CAN WE RESPOND?    L.I.V.E.S.

  • Listen: we must be quick to listen and slow to speak.  especially to those with whom we are unfamiliar, where the temptation is to dismiss without understanding.  let us give one another the benefit of the doubt that this person is not just plain crazy but has reasons coming from their experience. let us treat one another the way we would want to be treated.  
  • lnvestigate: this takes listening a step further to actually check if what is being said is true and not jump to assumptions and conclusions for which we have no evidence.
  • Validate: this is so important and what i am not seeing enough of.  i’m not saying you have to agree with everything a person is saying but we cannot invalidate a person’s experience (and especially not of a whole race) or the pain that they feel…especially if you are not of their race.  who are we to say “no, you didn’t experience that” or “no, you didn’t feel that”?  it is especially unfair for the person in a position of relative power (or associated with power) to tell the person who has experienced pain (at the hands of this power) to lay down their pain while they themselves are unapologetic of the pain inflicted.       
  • Engage: this is where we move from mere lip service to action.  james, the half brother of Jesus, reminds us that it does no good to see a person in need and say they should be filled but do nothing to meet that need.  what does this wronged brother or sister need?  maybe it is to stand up for them where they are not given a voice. maybe it is to empower and encourage them to stand. maybe it is to stand with them in a difficult situation. let us ask them and respond where God has given us the grace to be able to meet that need. where we are unable, let us grieve with them and ask God for more grace and faith to hope for better.          
  • Speak: this should be last as it is often what we are prematurely drawn to do first.  also our words have less integrity the less we have done what comes before this.  but speaking is eventually what we will need to do to confess and confirm what God has put in our hearts.  we must spread the word of God’s kingdom to the unengaged.        

 

ignoring black lives matter won’t make it go away.  our fellow human race is speaking.  we need to listen and engage.  what we can not do is ignore race and hope this all goes away.  

let us remember that in the kingdom of heaven (i hope to be there one day with you) we will be worshipping the One we were made in the image of…and every nation, people, tribe, and tongue will be there.