I don’t know about you, but I find the more I hear disparate (and angrily stated) points of view about politics, values or theology, the more I feel my heart and mind under spiritual attack.
The more I recall this country’s history, understand and see evidence of our division, the heavier my heart is. Still vivid in my memory from 24 years ago is the vicious beating of Rodney King, the subsequent, atrocious beating of Reginald Denny and the riots in Los Angeles. We have not come very far, and I cannot simply let go of the events of last week. I cannot simply forget and move on.
Speaking with a friend of mine early this week, I listened to stories of her upbringing in Mississippi. Her childhood memories still vivid of walking past black men swinging from trees on her way to school, she visits a different world when she travels back to see her mother who still lives there. She tells me,
“Signs on public bathrooms still say, ‘Colored’ and ‘Whites Only.’ And when you walk into a restaurant, it’s understood which section of the restaurant you can sit in. You might legislate integration, but you’ll never legislate the heart.”
This is when I must go back to basics. This is when I go back into the heart of the One who was lynched for all of us. This is when I reread the Gospels for the actual words of Jesus. As I do so, I keep in mind what I have learned in a wide variety of Bible interpretation classes, studies and books:
- Recognize and appreciate the frame of reference – the history and the audience being addressed.
- Understand the context; never read just a verse, read the entire paragraph or chapter.
- Don’t rely on just one Bible version or translation; compare and read parallel versions.
- Repeated statements are the significant principles requiring our attention.
I cannot read the Sermon on the Mount or the Parable of the Two Sons or the Allegory of the Sheep and the Goats without being reminded of the paradigm shift in thinking Jesus brought to us from our Father – the thinking we still seem hesitant to adopt.
Contained in these words are principles of humility, forgiveness, grace, generosity, compassion – and most of all love. This is the paradigm shift of which Jesus spoke, and He put His actions solidly behind His words. He did not raise a hand to anyone; He extended His hand in invitation and empathy.
I don’t know how long this series will span; I will follow where my heart leads and where the Spirit takes me. I just know I must lean in, dig in, and go all in; I must surround myself with His wisdom and surrender to His will. I must rediscover, not the whys, but the Who in all of this, and allow Him full access. I must acknowledge that I am His child, and so are we all.
“You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.” (Matthew 10:30-31)
Black parents across America have been having “the talk” with their children for quite a while. It’s a painful family discussion necessary to have about ways to act – and refrain from acting – if stopped by white police officers with a gun, about how to survive in America unlike Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Maybe we all need to hear this to understand the fear and pain Black parents feel every time their children walk outside their homes.