Speak up for Jesus and Stand up for Justice!

7/22/20 Glenda Simpkins Hoffman

I have written earlier about how I am thankful to be in the Psalms and focusing on 100 days of prayer. Like many, I have been lamenting the losses many are experiencing due to COVID-19 and the awakening to the racial injustice that so many have suffered for so long. There is reason to lament, and that is a good place to start. But more is needed.

There is so much understandable frustration and pain, and our tendency is to react by either pushing our pain down in denial or pushing it out in anger, hostility, even violence. While these human reactions may be understandable, they are not often helpful. When it comes to racism, white people like myself have dismissed or denied systemic racism for too long.

And we need to be careful not to judge our black brothers and sisters who may be angry having suffered so much for so long. As someone close to me once said, “I have to stay angry because the sadness and hurt is unbearable.” Compassion and understanding are needed.

We have to move beyond lament to find ways to act that are helpful and lead to the much-needed change of healing and transformation.  Meaningful action requires wisdom, discernment, energy, intentionality.

It begins by listening first to God through his word and through prayer. James 1:19-21 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (NIV).

It is imperative that we seek God by listening to his word and wrestling in prayer through confession and intercession so that we can let go of our limited perspective and personal agendas. We need to become indifferent and detached from anything but the will of God praying, “Thy will, not mine be done.” In the words of Ruth Haley Barton, “I want God’s will—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.”

Listening to God is of first importance. But there are hard issues like race, human trafficking, poverty, economic inequality that require us to listen and learn from others, and not just those who see things as we do. All of us live with the truth that we know what we know; but we don’t know what we don’t know. That is actually a very comfortable place to be. It keeps us feeling safe and secure and grounded as we unconsciously accept the adage “ignorance is bliss.”

But for believers in Jesus, truth is what matters. It takes courage to face the truth and to hear from others who have a different perspective, a different experience that does not align with what we might like to believe or have experienced in our own lives. We need to be willing to listen and learn.

I am appreciating participating in the Christ and Culture conversations on many and varied issues related to race: Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/463246442 (Sunday mornings at 10:10 am). I have also appreciated the Racial Reconciliation Prayer meetings on Fridays at noon that provide time and space to listen and learn from others combined with prayers of lament, confession, and intercession : Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86593017148 . All are invited to listen and learn as a part of these significant and timely conversations.

We need to make time to lament. We need to listen to God by reading and studying his word. We need to listen to others who have experienced racism and other kinds of injustices that we may not have personally experienced and to learn from them. Personal conversations, classes, and books are important steps but only means to an end.

Sadly, many of us, including myself, like to stay in this place of observing, studying, analyzing receiving. There was a recent newspaper article that verified this: “When Black People Are in Pain, White People Just Join Book Clubs.” Ouch. Some of us have to admit we have been called out.

It’s time to heed James’s words: “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselvesin a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing” (NRSV, James 1:22-25).

There comes a time to act. There comes a time when we can’t sit back and watch what others are doing. There comes a time that we have to have the courage to step into the fray to say something, to do something. We have to dareto speak up boldly for Jesus and to courageously stand up for justice! I don’t know what that looks like for you. I’m only beginning to understand what it means for me. I’ll share about that more in a future post.

But two things converged for me in the last few weeks. At a recent Racial Reconciliation prayer time, the facilitators challenged us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And then a pastor friend sent out a Benedictine Blessing. I’m committing to reading this every day and praying that God will indeed bless me and transform me and make me the kind of person who dares to speak up boldly for Jesus and to courageously stand up for justice. Please join me!

A Benedictine Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

by Sister Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB, 1985.

July 22, 2020
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