It seems inevitable now. Things are slowly going back to the way they were. We are returning to some sense of normalcy. For some, this brings relief, but for me it brings added frustration. I had hoped, that with all we had gone through in the last year, this time, significant change would result. The series of events which exposed the nation’s ugly underbelly, I believed was providentially designed to force us to deal, finally, with racism; if not in the nation at least in the church. It seems now I was wrong.
It seems we do not have neither the desire nor the stomach to see the “dialogue” we began continue beyond words to substantive change. It appears a few zoom calls, pulpit swaps, and a statement was the extent of our capacity or of our endurance. Meanwhile, we are drifting back to our separate and ethnically homogeneous churches, which is not only indicative of the problem, but also the ground out of which the problem is allowed to grow. Back to normal.
I met with a friend this week in our first chance to talk about some of these things. I carried my frustration into the meeting and I came away with a question that would not let me go until I had an answer. The question stuck in my conscience and only an honest answer would free me. What do I want?
What Am I Willing To Concede?
I have to change. The fight is consuming me. I feel it dragging me farther and farther into the darkness. There must be a better way; a more righteous way. A way that doesn’t blind me to what’s happening to me.
There is something very unrighteousness about my perceived righteous place in the struggle. Believing I’m right, and I do, makes me smug, prideful, and lacking in grace.
In this way the struggle is consuming, poisoning my soul. Only God can be righteous in Himself. I get a strange feeling of satisfaction from being morally right, and the feeling is made better when I can make them know it. There is a morbid satisfaction when their arguments don’t stand up to mine; when I stand on good historical ground. But none of this works for my good. Self righteousness consumes the soul. I must remember that it is Christ who is right, not me.
What Do I Want?
Please know there were days between this paragraph and the last. But here goes. What I want is for them to get it. I want, by my influence, them to see it, be startled by the ugliness, stunned by the amount of time lost in denial, silence, and complicity. I want them to look around their own churches and see the absence of people of color in their pews and in their leadership and recognize that they have not been straightforward in the truth of the gospel, and grieve; lament.
Then I want them to be restored and lifted by the grace of God and His people to the great place of humble service for His kingdom; service with and alongside us. And yes, I want to participate in that happening. I want my pain and frustration to find vindication in their transformation, so that it will not have been in vain. I want a direct connection to the change; to the better place. I need it so that I don’t simply bury the pain. I need my own story to matter in this great struggle to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
But it appears racism will slink back into the shadows, where it will again gain strength from the darkness, until it rises again to plague the next generation. And the Church will remain the last segregated institution. The last place to reflect the growing diversity of the nation. The place birthed in the unity of the Spirit by the the cross of Christ will be bringing up the rear. There will be exceptions of course, but they will be just that, exceptions. The saints are tired and we will be asked to settle again for “dialogue” and occasional pulpit swaps, while we proclaim “it’s about sin not skin.”
What do I want? Well, it looks like what I want will just have to wait.
I probably should sit with this before responding, but time is of the essence here. I might come back and amend this, but for the time being I will say this:
I struggle to “LIKE” your post this time. There are complications and paradoxes at work which I can’t completely account for, I am sure, but I don’t see a sin in your confession. I see a hard feeling, maybe, but when did you call down fire from heaven to consume anyone? When did you take up a weapon (verbal or otherwise) and wield it on God’s people?
I didn’t see it.
What can I do to help? I’m in Texas, but I have THIS connection. Any other? I am interested. I am not responding ONLY to you, but almost primarily to you and your blog with soul-searching thoughts of a white man. I seek your help with it too. I need you to make sense before I just willy nilly heed your judgment, but I want to get your feedback and to listen carefully for God’s shaping hand in it for me and my life.
The who IT-ALL-BEGINS-WITH-ME thingy is a small step for mankind, but a large step for man. I am looking into it. I am seeking change in ME and in my world – what little I get to influence – and seeking it in part to touch your personal pain. I CARE. I want to CARE BETTER.
God help us!
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This one was difficult to write. I feel the paradox too. That the church would reflect the kingdom and that the people of God would live out the character of the kingdom is a righteous cause. I have no doubt. But too often the struggle becomes personal with me and the kingdom slips into the background. It shows up in an anger, sarcasm, a meanness in me. It leaves me feeling bad; affecting me negatively. It’s hard for me to identify the particular sin in it, but these kinds of sins often go unnoticed.
I the short time I’ve known you X, it’s obvious you care. What can you do to help? Honestly, I think you’re already doing it. You’re calling Christians to live out the character of the kingdom too. That’s what drives you to care and fight for the homeless. What can you do? Keep encouraging those in your sphere to not look away. Tell them to face the problems; homelessness, racism, sickness, and all the things we are called to care about.
I think the pain is supposed to be there. Suffering brings pain. If you enter it with me and I will enter yours with you and we will weep together.
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Did I read sometime back that you are in Florida?
Can’t remember clearly. At any rate, if you were to come anywhere near Lubbock, TX, look me up. If I come near you, I will do the same. Would love to go worship with you. Some time in prayer, confession, encouragement, and a meal. Would do me good.
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I’m in Pearland, a suburb south of Houston. I’ve never been to Lubbock, but it’s a plan. Blessings.
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Houston is not a likely place I would visit, normally, but I have been there before. Loved it. Stories I should tell, actually. But, it’s not impossible that I would go again. Will keep you in mind. (I have met bloggers before over long distance. Kinda cool.)
I would really be jazzed to meet. I will keep the idea in my hopper and watch for opportunities.