At the end of a hard practice or tough competition,...
Like so many, I’ve watched the outward expression of our country’s civil unrest triggered, this time, by the killing of George Floyd. And like so many, my initial question was, “What can I do?” This one question can be so many things depending on where you sit: an earnest desire to help, anxious readiness to take any action at all, confusion, despondent frustration, and apathy. I’ve asked myself that question in every one of those ways over the years regarding the social inconsistencies I’ve personally seen and experienced. The resolution to most of our world’s most significant problems is well above the paygrade of any one individual.
Let’s be honest. The resolution to most of our world’s most significant problems is well above the paygrade of any one individual. The solutions would require, in the least, a concerted, unified effort on a very big scale. Our big collective challenges are a conglomerate of millions of individual challenges, and many times we are geographically miles away from the problem and a solution. As a result, we say, “All I can do is pray. The problem is too big, the wounds are too deep, and in all honesty, I cannot see what the world’s problems have to do with me! I’m not directly impacted. That’s their problem and not mine. What can I do?”
While re-reading the book of Ephesians in the midst of asking this question, the Word came alive in an entirely new way. I was floored by how applicable the Word is it what’s happening in our America today. It was as though God were answering my question with such clarity.
I was inspired even more by the people in my life who don’t look like me and have been answering that question through their kind actions towards me over the years. They loved me not just in word but deeds and genuineness*. They’ve invested in me because they see me for who I am, believe in me, and made a conscious choice. I wish I could say it’s because I’m special in some way, but I have seen them do the same for others as well – some who look like me and some who don’t. That’s also why their actions toward me are so significant. They didn’t do it because of the color of my skin, and they didn’t choose not to do what they do for others because of the color of my skin.
How do we move from the theoretical concept of fulfilling God’s will and kingdom on earth as it is in heaven to actually doing it? Is it possible? The following is the abbreviated version of where I’ve been challenged in my thinking, and what I’ve felt inspired to do and share. (The complete version is still in the works and will be released later in an appropriate formant.)
I believe the following actions apply to any of our social challenges, but today I want to direct them toward our present racial conflicts. Part I – All in the Family centers around the aspects of our Christian faith, and Part II – From Theoretical to Today gets specific about addressing our social challenges (whether or not you’re a Believer). This is heavily based in scripture, so if you are not a Bible reader brace yourself. I pray that you receive it well, are blessed and challenged in your thinking and actions as well. (Note: The (*) throughout my writing represents a link to the applicable scripture reference.)
In answering the question, “What can I do,” We start by doing all the right things we already know to do …
WHAT CAN I DO?
Part I – All in the Family
Know And Embrace God’s Love For You
- “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). No one, nothing, no action nor lack thereof can take that away from you.
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
- For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-9)
Remember that You’re Part of a Family & That it’s a Gift
- Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
- In love, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:5)
- For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
Understand The Family Makeup
- After this, I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9)
- In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
- For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:8)
You know that saying, when you marry another person, you marry that person’s family too? Well, when you said, “yes” to Christ, you said yes to everything and everyone else that comes along with His Body. (That may have just turned some people off, but it’s the truth). Not all members of your family will look like you. They won’t come from where you’re from, they won’t eat what you eat, vote the way you vote, worship the way you worship, or even see and hear from God the way that you do. But that does not make anyone of them any less a part of you if both of you are in Christ.
Understand His Family Vision
- He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
- Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household… In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesian 2:19-22)
- His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:15-16)
- We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Accept the Expanse of God’s Love
My view of Ephesians 3:18 was expanded by my sister in Christ, Annika Rowland. Learning from her proved (for me once again) the reason Paul urged us not to stop meeting together*. Annika showed me that each descriptor of God’s love can be examined separately and even be applied to various sects of people in every direction. Here is my newest view and application of God’s love based on that scripture:
The riches of Christ are boundless (Ephesians 3:8). His love, grace and favor are not limited to one group of people or another. His love stretches wide across every nation, people, color and language; it is for every person on the globe. His love is with us for the long-haul, withstanding the test of time, and loving us through the entire length of our “rap sheet”*. It’s so high it encompasses those highest in our society in wealth, status, positions of leadership, and authority. No one is so high that they don’t sit beneath the love of Christ. His love runs deep enough to penetrate the depths of our souls and reach the hearts of our friends in the lowest of places. We can’t get low enough to escape His love. Even those we deem unlovable or difficult to love are worthy to Him.
Understand The Family Mission
- God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
- And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jesus, John 6:39-40)
- “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
As my sister in Christ, Minda Seagraves, so eloquently says, “You’ll never look into the face of someone Jesus didn’t die for.”
Recognize the Family’s Reach
- The church is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:23)
Know Your Role in the Family Business
- We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
- “In Him we were also chosen … in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory”(Ephesians 1:11-12)
- From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)
Know and Accept Your Household Responsibilities
- ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Jesus, Matthew 22:37-40)
- Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Know and Accept What are NOT Your Household Responsibilities
It’s not our job to convert others
- He [God] calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. (Jesus, John 10:3)
- No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. (Jesus, John 6:44)
It’s not our job to judge
- “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
- See also Romans 2:1-4. (This is a tough one.)
Embrace the Family Values (Method of Operation)
- Jesus says in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Part II – From Theoretical to Today
Now for the hard part…
Let His Kingdom Come, and His Will Be Done on Earth as It is in Heaven
This is what we pray. What would the realization of God’s kingdom look like in the context of our country’s present social challenges as the body of Christ fills everything in every way? We are in position right now to collectively make a difference, as each part does its work. But, how do we do our part in the fulfillment of God’s plan?
We already know what to do. How from infancy we’ve known the Holy Scriptures*. We only need to do it, keep doing it, and realize that what we know applies to every situation. God’s Word in action, through us, has an impact on any subject matter we direct it towards.
Perform Your Kingdom Job (and actual job) Well and Earn the Right to be Heard
We have these sayings in ministry, “You have to earn your right to be heard” and “No one care how much you know unless they know how much you care”.
As we are careful not to live as unwise, but like those who are wise (see Ephesians 5:15); as we execute our Family responsibilities while embracing our Family values of love; as we are mindful to stay away from that which in not in our kingdom job description, we earn the right to be heard.
- Whatever your industry or whatever your role, do it to the best of your ability as though you’re working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23).
- Be “‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15).
When it is in Your Power to Act, Act:
- Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
- Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10)
- Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27)
- “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)
- Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
- The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Jesus, Matthew 25:40)
- So, do these things, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Be willing to share such things as opportunities, chances, knowledge, access, connections, and so on. This is what I saw done for me. They didn’t do it because of the color of my skin, gender, or ethnicity, but because they saw the potential in me; they saw me as God sees me through Jesus Christ.
Be Willing To Have Conversations With Those Who Do Not Look Like You
Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” The NIV Bible puts it, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” We should make it a point not to be “ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding”* We do this by taking time to listen without judgment to the point of view of others.
There’s wisdom in a multitude of council*. The more you choose to get to know someone as an individual, and the more sides of a story you seek to learn, the more personal your own opinion becomes. You could be like Berean Jews spoken of in Acts 17:11; they didn’t just take Paul at his word, they checked the Scriptures to see for themselves what is there*. Then, you won’t be tossed around by every piece of information you hear. You can have your own understanding and personal experiences. You can ask the right questions and draw your own conclusions. Keep reading to find out what to do with understanding once you have it.
Acknowledge the Pain of Others
There are some instances (racial divides being one of them) in which empathy is just hard. I’m hearing even among college-age people that it’s difficult to see “why” the other side feels what they feel – white students don’t understand why black people are angry, and black students can’t understand why white people don’t “get it.” That disconnect has caused rifts in even long-time relationships. I have to admit, this has been the most challenging realization for me. I now question how far we’ve really come as country when the college-age, college-educated in our society can’t understand the reason behind what’s happening.
Unfortunately, there are some cases in which asking for empathy is just too much. The reality is, we could never truly know what it means to live in another person’s shoes. A better request in cases where we can’t empathize with one another is to simply acknowledge that your brother or sister feels what they feel and love them through it.
You don’t have to understand why someone is in pain to feel empathy for the fact that they are in pain. Take the following phrases for example: “I don’t know why you’re in pain, but I know what it feels like to be in pain, and that sucks,” or “I don’t know why you’re in pain, but I feel sad that you’re upset,” rather than, “I’m angry at you because you’re upset.”
Feelings can be agitated or deescalated depending on how they’re treated. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). We see tremendous examples of this in cities where officers have walked and knelt alongside protesters –officers such as Lieutenant Kevin Knapp, a former Georgia Tech football player.
We won’t always be able to empathize with one another, but we can acknowledge that we all feel. Acknowledge that those feelings are valid because they’re based on our own lives, experiences, or the lack thereof and vice versa.
When it’s NOT in Your Power to Act, Influence:
As we perform our kingdom and natural responsibilities (truthfully, they’re one and the same) on a daily basis, we position ourselves well with those in our immediate circle. We create a safe space and are better able to have the tough conversations when the time comes. See how Ester was able to save the lives of many people (Ester, Chapters 2-9)
Consider Your Sphere of Influence
The church is a collective organism that fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23). We are the yeast in the dough Jesus talks about in Matthew 13:33. Translation – we’re everywhere. There are followers of Christ in boardrooms, schools, neighborhoods and neighborhood associations, government, law enforcement, courtrooms, the grocery store, banking industry, restaurant industry, medical industry, entertainment industry, the highest offices in the land, and homes.
We sit on executive boards, report the news, own corporations, make business-decisions that impact lives, decide court cases, make laws and policies, draw boundary lines, screen applications, build, lend money, lease, provide jobs, create opportunities, sit at dinner tables, say yes, and say no.
Every person who sits in a seat of authority interacts with somebody every day. Given the length of time since the birth of the Christian movement and the number of people in America who identify themselves as Christian, there should be at least one Christian in the social circle of every leader and every individual. I don’t mean a pastor or vocational minister. I mean a neighbor, family member, co-worker, board member, supervisor, buddy, and so on. There are many leaders who themselves identify as Christian and have other leaders within their circle. If you are reading this and have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are the “at least one” Christian in your spheres of influence.
Be Willing to Have the Tough Conversations With Those Who DO Look Like You
This is what we do with the wisdom, understanding and influence we’ve gained. Having tough conversations with individuals who do not look like us impacts us. It expands our minds and opens up our understanding. Having the tough conversations with those who DO look like us, is where change starts to happen. Movements start from many small cells that grow exponentially.
You may not be the one who sits in the deciding seat of an organization (though some of you reading this do), you may not be the one writing, passing, and enforcing laws. You might not be the leader of an organization, but someone within your degrees of separation might.
“Catch For Us The Foxes, The Little Foxes That Ruin The Vineyards” (Song of Solon 2:15)
I don’t think that social change happens through the passing of laws, policies, and procedures alone. (Just take the bootlegging era for example). Laws may force change to the way things are done and how things look on the outside, but laws don’t change hearts. Legislation, policies, and procedures are all important; however they are enhanced when paired with conversations full of grace and seasoned with salt* within the privacy and comfort of our inner circles.
Change happens when we have the courage to ask the tough questions of the people we love – sitting around the dinner table, playing a round of golf, and sharing drinks and a laugh with us. We can effect change when we are able to: call each other out when we’re wrong, “correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). When our friends and colleagues make inappropriate or side-ways remarks* about other people because of their race, gender, ethnicity, and so on, it’s okay to say, “That’s not cool,” or “That’s inappropriate,” or “Please don’t speak like that around me,” or whatever verbiage you choose. It’s a very simple non-offensive way to let those around you know that you’re not comfortable with certain types of speech or behavior in your presence.
When enough of us in the kingdom are doing that, it makes it very difficult for anyone to publicly endanger the life of another person without fear of repercussions. When enough of us raise the awareness within our personal relationships, our unsaved friends in HR may feel less inclined to screen a resume based on the name of the applicant; our associates in the banking industry may choose to reconsider the way they structure policies. The examples of opportunities to effect change go on and on.
Social victories in our country will be won through a combination of peaceful protests that raise awareness, legislations, and most importantly the conversations around the table with our family, colleagues, friends, and inner circles. Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Please, Don’t Be Afraid to Call it What it is
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
The problem with not calling something by name is that the issue will never get treated appropriately. Say a person has a brain tumor. If he tells himself, the physician and everyone around him, that he just has a headache, the individual will seek and receive treatment for the headache. Tylenol and Advil are not a cure for a brain tumor. If, however, the patient is assessed and is found to have a tumor, the physician can administer the proper (more extensive) care and heal the patient.
Yes, sin is the nature of man, but I’m concerned that if we continue to blanket every issue under one label of “sin,” we’ll write the big issues off as yet another thing that Christ will fix when He comes back here. We won’t address it appropriately now.
There are different types of sin, and each needs to be addressed directly. Just ask anyone in your circle who’s received the saving power of Jesus Christ but still struggles with different types of temptation. Each challenge requires its own course of action from accountably to therapy in order to be healed. Racism in America is real, but so is bigotry, prejudice, bias, and just plain preference (note preference does not equal prejudice). Not every action that is not in favor of a person of color is racism. At the same time, the big problem of racism gets impacted when we make it a point to address the “smaller” issues as well. (Laws put a limit on racism. Our conversations at home put a limit on all the other “little foxes” that build up to racism).
Acknowledge the Risk
In case you haven’t noticed by now, this article is a request to help address the current issues plaguing our country. Protests and politics may get a lot of attention and bring awareness, but it’s our personal choices and actions that ultimately make the difference.
I don’t ask this of you lightly. I recognize there’s risk involved. Some people prefer not to have this conversation as all. Others may take offense when you censure their wrong. There’s the risk of losing a relationship, access, the semblance of peace, influence, camaraderie, opportunity, consideration, and so much more. I understand. I too am taking a risk by making my thoughts public.
You are in my circle, which is why I’m sharing this insight with you. You may choose to reject me or my work and never read another word I write. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share what I believe God has been showing me. I have to take this small step of action and choose not to worry. It’s not about me. I have a responsibility to God and the diversity of people I’m so honored to serve. I have a responsibility to you as my brother or sister in Christ to do the same things I’m asking of you. I must practice what I say I believe.
Most all, I have a responsibility to our Father’s glory and the realization of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a risk I have to take. I choose to do as Charles Stanley says, “Obey God and leave the consequence to Him.” After all, what would it profit me to gain the world yet lose my soul?*
We need to trust in faith when God’s word says:
- He will be with us wherever we go; (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 139:7-12)
- That if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness all of these other things will be added to us as well; (see Matthew 6:31-35)
- That Christ Jesus, the hope of glory, is in us today. (Colossians 1:27)
- We are ambassadors of Christ right now; (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- And like Him in the earth when we love. (1 John 4:16-17)
- We are the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way; (Ephesians 1:22-23)
- Through Jesus Christ, we reign in life. (Romans 5:17)
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). We should start revealing ourselves correctly. If we have the courage to receive the truth in His word about who we are, live His word through the decisions we make, have the conversations, and do it all consistently, I believe we can invoke His kingdom come and His will be done on earth now as it is heaven. Isn’t that how we already pray as directed by Christ? (see Matthew 6:10). He could bring about His kingdom through us.
My personal experiences with race relations has been mostly positive. I thank God for that. At the same time, I don’t know if I’ve ever not been extended an opportunity because of the color of my skin or if my resume’ was never reviewed because my name is not racially indistinct. I can’t prove that I’ve been overlooked. I don’t know if I’ve been offered a “pat on the back” in lieu of an invitation into mentorship or open doors because of what I look like. I cannot say for sure whether or not that has happed to me, but I do know that I live in a country where things like that do happen.
I believe we can start experiencing a little bit of heaven on earth today. I believe His kingdom comes, and His will is done when we, His children, take care of each other regardless of external differences that are wasting away*. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
I pray that at least some of this resonates with you. I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to call or email me. Let’s remember to keep praying for our leaders from President Trump, to our governors, our mayors, our business leaders and our pastors. (I would not love being in leadership anywhere else right now). I also pray for you as you lead your homes and businesses. May God bless and keep you and His Holy Spirit guide you in Jesus’ name.
Please, leave your comments below; I’d love to hear what you have to say.
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