By David Branker, Chief of Staff – Office of the President, OneHope
My heart is grieved as I see pain, confusion, brutality, and violence growing across our cities. The fuse has been lit and the powder keg has finally exploded! Against a backdrop of deep political division that has added to the growing civil discourse, a number of horrific events have risen to the surface. We’ve watched a disproportionate number of black citizens of these “United States” die from Covid-19, we’ve seen a growing number of encounters with the police that shouldn’t have escalated the way they did, resulting in death. I’ve personally experienced too many instances of profiling, discrimination in life, work, and even in ministry that would make your knees buckle, and what has been a private battle for some has become public and fully exposed.
Our black brothers and sisters have been marginalized and damaged by 400 years of systemic oppression, and it has once again reached a boiling point. It is what’s pouring out on the streets in the form of rampant destruction of property, hatred, and vitriol that seems to grow day by day. I’ve never felt so sad and powerless to come up with answers. Our people, crying out for justice, now fully believe the only way to fix what’s broken in our institutions and communities of disproportionate disadvantage, is to counteract the injustice (which is real) with actions that are unusual and in some cases, brutal, destructive, and violent. I am grieved by the inherent lie in that argument… Violence has never moved us to peace. Un-civil action never leads to increased civil rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
We quote Dr. King and his commitment to non-violence but let’s also remember why he believed and acted the way he did. Simply put, he was a man of faith who had an authentic relationship with God. He understood that a life of faith meant a life of holy action. Where are our modern-day heroes? Who will step up and lead us to a better way?
The book of Hebrews contains one of the greatest chapters on the central Christian theme of faith — Chapter 11 begins with a succinct definition of faith, and then goes on to list a number of Bible heroes and heroines of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (NKJV).
Notice that biblical faith has substance, it is not restricted to a mental assent. It has evidence and produces results. In other words, it is verifiable.
While the chapter is devoted exclusively to the single theme of faith, it also underscores the diversity of faith stories and experiences. The faith journeys of the people mentioned were very different, and their faith produced, as it were, very different results. When we look at the way these different Bible characters are juxtaposed, the diversity that emerges is fascinating and encouraging…
- Abel believed, or had faith in God, and became the first person to die. Then came Enoch who also believed and became the first person to not die.
- Noah received a message from God regarding the depopulation of the world, and by faith the world was condemned and destroyed. Then came Abraham who received a message from God regarding the repopulation of the world, and by faith the world was blessed and redeemed.
- We find Joseph whom God prepared in the desert but used in the palace; only to be followed by Moses whom God prepared in the palace but used in the desert.
What is the point? The personal faith journeys and stories of these people were different. So are ours—and so should they be.
I don’t believe any one hero will have the answer to what’s happening today; we all need to collectively step into our best heroic holy action. For some it may be taking our stand in the line of non-violent protest. For all of us, it means taking our stand at the front line of faith. But what does that really mean?
What’s been playing out on the media should break our hearts and move us to our knees. It doesn’t take long for me to look into the mirror of my own soul and recognize that, the same things I see so clearly in others, I see first within myself. I may not think of myself as a racist, but if I am truthful, I have often loved others less, failing to love as Jesus has called us to love – some simply because of the way they look, how they speak or dress, their culture or nationality, etc. For this I repent.
Whether civil or violent protestors, or whether the few “bad apple” law enforcement officers, I cannot love them less. Nor can I expect any person who lacks faith shaped by a relationship with Jesus Christ and empowered by His Spirit to have the self-control to act with holy action or resist the temptation to act unjustly. Even if I disagree with how they are going about it, I need to pray for and do what I can to take up their cause, but in a manner that honors my Lord. We who claim to have faith in Jesus are compelled by the Word and by God’s Spirit to act justly and display it through our consistent holy action. He calls us to demonstrate a better way.
Famous philosopher Will Smith said,
“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you
and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, ‘cause
hate in your heart will consume you too.”
As a community of faith, we are called to live out the words of Micah 6:8 –
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)
I’ve heard from others who share the same faith, and whom I love, who actually believe that somehow uncivil action will lead to restored civil rights. But this single voice is asking and appealing to those who love Jesus, to first humbly ask God to rip out any shadow of unforgiveness, bitterness, and racism that has become institutionalized in our hearts, and then give us the courage to respond in a way that honors His Word and His character, starting with what we share both privately and publicly on social media.
- For those of you in the legal profession, actively pursue laws that protect the marginalized and hold those in power accountable for unholy action.
- For those in places of community and civic leadership, let us pursue collective action to address the inherent bias in our systems and build bridges for all to have equal access to opportunities in the arena of education, access to health care, housing, employment, and technology.
- For all of us let us ask God to give us courage to live out our days with a determined purpose to serve Him missionally. Let us choose to heal through radical accountability to one another and work together to create a future that honors Him.
Finally, as followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot let a minority of people (who are causing mayhem and acting violently) to silence or distract from the voices of those crying out for healing and justice in our land. Even though restoration is desperately needed, we live for a higher goal than civil rights. The highest restoration of rights comes from having our identity and freedoms rooted in a higher kingdom – we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and all that living for Him brings. May His Kingdom come to our broken world!
Pray for those who act foolishly, but also pray that as Christ-followers, we would do justice (for ALL men), love kindness (to ALL men) and walk humbly with our God – knowing that only “Christ in me” brings glory to His Name.