“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves…” (James 1:22)
In other words, let there be integrity between your words and actions. A constant challenge for us all!
These are excruciating days in which the Spirit is calling us to learn and come to grips with our history around race in this country, so that we can understand more deeply what the knees on George Floyd’s neck and back represent, and embrace our part as white Americans and the white church in healing the injustice of 400 years of oppression of African American people. The truth we must own, confess, and repent of is that so often our words have not matched our actions. As we often confess, “We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves….forgive us for what we have done, and for what we have left undone.”
Here’s an example, these stunning words from our founding document, the Declaration of Independence (1776): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal , that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The aspirational beauty of these words are diminished as we realize that 40 of 56 of those who signed, and so said they believed in this dream, were slave owners, owned other people. After the revolution, the constitution (1789) tacitly acknowledged this, guaranteeing the right “to re-possess any person held to service or labor.”
The point is to recognize the blind spots that existed for the founders, courageous as they were, because there was much at stake in terms of their own power and wealth that they laid on the backs of slaves. And the more important point is to recognize that similar blind spots belong to us, and for similar reasons, our own power and wealth. Taking our simple and central call as followers of Jesus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” — if we are to be people belonging to Christ, whose words and lives will have integrity to them, we must finally be clear as white people that this oppression of our black and brown neighbors has continued to this day. I’ll have more to say about that in this Sunday sermon.
That confession, if repentance should follow — repentance, the desire to turn away from racism and toward justice — leads us to the hope and healing possibilities of a new day for us in this country — a day when we might finally be able to celebrate that at least to some extent our actions evidence that we really do treat one another as equals, and that we all have an equal chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We have much work to do, lest we deceive ourselves over and over again. But we have the love of Jesus, and the prodding Spirit of God, and a community to remind us we’re in this together. Most of all, we desperately need our black and brown sisters and brothers to lead us in a long season of story sharing, that are painful, but that we need to hear.
The time has come, friends, for the sake of those we have deeply hurt, and for the sake of the good news of the gospel, to open up to the pain of what has been, so that we can be formed into agents of reconciliation after all.
One immediate invitation. Tonight we are gathering to lament and grieve, share our journeys, be framed by the word of God, and pray together. You need to be there! At 6:30, please join us….click on this ZOOM address, and I hope to see you tonight, Wednesday, 6:30! https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87810271673?pwd=Tmx4RWgwWkpyS3JzRmRYVUZZbnEyQT09