It’s been quite a few weeks, hasn’t it? The murder of George Floyd sparked a long overdue movement to end racism and police brutality in the United States. As it got going, our covid-19 lockdown intensified with city-wide curfews for the riots in our streets. There were worries about the violence of the riots as they damaged some neighborhoods and even our thrift store. Uncertainty and fear were in the air, mixed with hope.
In the midst of that, I have been called to more prayer. Notably by Black pastors around the city who gathered us together to cry out to God. We want the killing to stop, and we know that God does too. We need all kinds of policy change and reparations to end racism in the United States, and we also need healing from the evils of white supremacy. The lies and divisions have distorted our sense of humanity and belovedness on all sides, and we need God’s help.
Tend to the wounds
The movement toward change is stirring up long-held pain and trauma for many Black loved ones. For 400+ years, the pain has had nowhere to go. Finally it needs to be seen and grieved.
For me and many white friends, the movement is revealing a deeper need for understanding and change. We have benefited from the sin of racism in this country in costly ways, even as allies. Our healing won’t come until we consciously recognize the experience of those who have suffered from these ways of living and being, and turn from those ways.
Yet Rev. Paul James reminded me yesterday that the Body of Christ is united even in this moment by nature of who Jesus is. It was like pastor Sherry Jones telling us last week as we prayed under her wing, “I love you all and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The apostle Paul was also writing about this spiritual reality from the beginning of the church: If one part (of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it. We are connected through Christ by our very nature. If we deny that, or try to avoid the part of OUR body that is hurting, we will never get better. The injury will only worsen and spread. We must gently and intentionally tend to the wound in our body. We must talk about racism and listen to the body in order to heal.
The apostle Paul also gives a great response to the dismissive quip that “all lives matter” in Corinthians chapter 12: “But God has put the body together, giver greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Black lives have been denied the honor that is inherently theirs in this country; that calls Jesus-followers to show greater honor to our neglected parts now so that we can be whole. This is not paternalism or patronage; this is not charity from white people — this is God’s idea of JUSTICE so that the Body can be restored! The church has been given to heal what the government can’t or won’t, because we are part of each other and necessary to each other through an inseparable Love (Romans 8:31-39.)
Imagine the future
The prophetic image of the lion and the lamb lying down together has long captured my imagination, so much so that I painted a mural of it on the wall of the nursery for my kids before they were born. That image of unprecedented gentleness, peace, and trust was a welcome relief to the armed-up military and nationalist ideology of my childhood. The prophet Isaiah (in chapter 11) was describing the flavor of life when Jesus would come and establish justice. There would be a transformation from fear and hatred to safety, rest, and play. I believe that as we acknowledge the deep trauma of our Black brothers and sisters and ask questions and listen, as we divest of the construct of whiteness and give up our reliance on materialism and militarism, we will taste the age to come. We will know some of that gentleness, peace and trust in the prophetic image. Let’s be led by the Lamb, because the revolution happens now as we care for his body as our own, as it is. Black lives matter.