"We'll become in our lives what we do with our love. Those who are becoming love don't throw people off roofs; they lower people through them instead." - Bob Goff, an excerpt from his book Everyone Always.
I have been a believer in Christ since I was nine (9) years old. In my time with God I have done my best to follow Him and live according to His character. For a long while I thought that meant doing everything perfectly and presenting the most spotless and blameless example to the world - true purity. I could have never been more wrong. I believe the closer we get to Christ the more we are confronted with one of the most challenging aspects of living for God - loving our neighbor. What's powerful about a neighbor, as I was reminded by the recent sermon by Pastor Robert Madu entitled Living in the Tension, is that your neighbor really includes all. His message noted that the earth is the neighborhood of God. So how can we begin to love our neighbor? Especially the ones that don't understand us or who have hurt us? While public opinion on this issue dates back generations there is no greater example than God Himself - Jesus Christ.
I have been mulling over this passage even more since the instances of injustices against African Americans has recently gotten national attention. As a Black woman, how do I extend love to a racist? How can I love my fellow brother or sister in Christ that does not understand the depth of racism or who has dismissed its presence all together? Everything that I have been thinking and feeling since before the devastating mistreatment and tragic end of Kalief Browders' life to the recent murder of George Floyd came rising to the surface. The heavy weight of racial and social injustice began to cloud my peace and my joy. I've been searching to find the peace of God and have struggled to put on the shoes that completed the full armor of God in my life. As much as there is power in God's pursuit of us - it's even more penetrating when we turn around and seek Him out. This is a weight that is not mine to carry. God's bandwidth is extensively broader than my own.
Through tears, the Holy Spirit sweetly reminded me of my savior Jesus who, said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NLT). These words left His lips after his arms and legs were broken so they could nail Him to the cross. As He was propped up, bleeding and dying for the world to see, soldiers nearby gambled for His clothes using dice.
When I think about this passage and join it with the current conversation concerning race and injustice I can't help but to connect the dots. It was three days later that Christ rose from the dead to provide a pathway of salvation for you and me. His death signified God's justice for us all - no matter what I do in my life, sin can never separate me from the love of God. Our salvation is secured not by works but because of His shed blood on that cross. The most detrimental lie and deception in human history (Adam and Eve) brought upon the injustice of their decedents. We would pay for a sin we never committed - a separation from our Father, born into sin. Now here we have our heavenly Father who loved us so deeply that He gave His only begotten Son so that we can be reconciled with Him. He gave in the name of justice. You cannot separate justice from love. Justice itself is an act of love.
In many ways I had to check myself. Not in the sense that my calls for justice were inappropriate or wrong but I had to check and reflect upon the heart behind my call. Seeking justice cannot come at the expense of someone else. Meaning - my seeking what right and just for cannot produce injustice. When that happens, that is called revenge not love. That has never been my aim nor do my post imply this face but it's always good to evaluate. The call of Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves should include both - love for ourselves and love for our neighbor. Our call for justice must then also include justice for ourselves and justice for our neighbor.
Kalief Browder (pictured above): was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent three (3) years in Riker's Island jail awaiting trial. He spent two (2) of those years in solitary confinement. The case was never prosecuted and the case was eventually dropped. He committed suicide not long after his release.
What does this mean for our response to racist? How are we supposed to respond to people who purposefully deny that racism exists? It means that my call to love emboldens me to choose forgiveness. It means that I love myself enough to have boundaries and stand up for what is right. It means that I choose to use the strength (that I believe only comes from God) to pray that their minds and hearts would receive Christ. My belief in God dictates that the birth, death an resurrection of Christ was not just for my sin but for the sins of my enemy should they so choose to follow Him at some point in their life. Restoration and reconciliation are always possible with God.
Loving my neighbor and seeking justice also dictates that I take the time to be empathetic as Christ was with those around him who didn't quite understand. During His ministry, Jesus took the time to speak in parables to help people who wanted to understand but didn't. I am not talking about being empathetic to a brick wall. When someone does not want to understand it's clear. Save your energy and walk away. When you have people before you that are being humble and vulnerable by asking questions and seeking understanding we have to meet them half way.
God cares about justice just as much as I do and He has provided a resolve. I can't say I truly love my neighbor if I am not willing to seek justice for him/her. Seeking justice takes in many forms. It is done through prayer, fasting, empathy, compassion, teaching, listening, learning, sharing experiences and information, peaceful protesting, lobbying, sharing the truth with grace, etc. However God moves you in this season, follow His lead . He provided a road map with the life of Christ that we can all study and follow.
Christine Houston is a believer, wife, and mother of two amazing children. Writing has always been a form of expression where she feels at home. Now she is getting to integrate her faith and her love of history to bring a new spin to the current climate of our nation with the hope to bring understanding and bridge the gap created by racial divides