My brothers and sisters,
I can’t begin to describe the heartache I feel over the death of George Floyd and others who so recently have encountered the use of deadly force by police officers and other citizens. Last week, the bishops were working on a letter that would call all of us to prayer, and while doing so, the Archbishop released it. He has followed up this week with a Call to Fasting and Prayer. I am asking you to take this seriously, not because of the notoriety these events have received, but because as God’s people, we must allow the Holy Spirit to search our heart and then show us what He finds there within us.
While this has been framed often in political terms, I appeal to you to consider that this is a matter of the heart. The history our country has with regard to black people and white people reveals our hardness of heart toward those who are different than ourselves. People who lack compassion for others are dangerous and when they are given positions of influence and wear uniforms, their failures to demonstrate compassion are magnified. George Floyd stands in a long line of people who were not protected or served. The demonstrations that have followed have been largely peaceful, but there are people who lack the love of the Lord who have damaged property and looted honest business-owners. It is heartening to see that police officers in every police department are burdened by what happened in Minneapolis and many are effectively communicating their compassion by how they work with those in the streets. The violence and looting can easily distract us from what is going on in our hearts and when our hearts are not large enough to embrace someone who is different and demonstrate love toward that person, then we have not the heart of Jesus.
When Abraham was called by the Lord, He called Abraham to be a blessing and to bless the nations (Genesis 12:2-3), people groups that look different and express their culture with tremendous variety. When Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, entered into ministry, he told Nicodemus and through him, others who were in authority, “unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The birth that Jesus describes, through faith in Him gives human beings a new heart. The work of Jesus, entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit, is meant to complete what He had begun, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) In our worship services, we recite the Summary of the Law, because we grasp the core of God’s heart when we do, so we hear over and over again, “and love others as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10) If this had been the way of the police officers in Minneapolis, we would be giving glory to God today and not swept up in a national lament. Yet, when the love of God compels us, we act in faith as sons and daughters of God everywhere we are and however we go, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27) The change that people want and need; the change that leads people into the streets, is a change of heart which must begin with us, and then through us, others: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29). So, my brothers and sisters, children of the Most High God, and those who bless the world in the Name of God, what breaks your heart today? For whom does your heart have room because Jesus lives in you and you live in Him?
Would you pray with me:
- to love those who you do not now love the way Jesus loves you? Let the Lord deal with any indifference or ethnocentrism that lies within that hinders your compassion for others.
- to reach for those who are from a different ethnic background nearby and start a relationship with her or him? Be intentional.
- to advocate with our Vestry and clergy leaders to establish a commitment to serve a culturally different group than you might be, at least predominantly, in your local church. In your serving them, listen and learn from them as you seek the voice of the Lord through them?
There is always more that one or more of us can do, but whatever you do, let the Lord do it in you and through you so that others may see His goodness incarnated in your body. Beloved, we are His witnesses when we are clothed in power from on high (Acts 1:8).
Your brother and fellow servant,