Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
If we sow violence, we reap violence. If we sow finger-pointing, we reap finger-pointing. If we sow anger, that’s what we reap. If we sow peace, we receive peace (in the Spirit, if not in practice).
We don’t get this. If we raise a Bible outside (or inside) a church, we think God is automatically on our side. If we defend every lifestyle under the sun, we think that defines love.
If we actually opened our Bibles and tried to understand its meaning, we’d see that both sides have missed the point.
All is not lost, however. Many of us do get it.
Especially in the past week or so. As George Floyd is laid to rest, we as a nation are taking a collective breath.
Perhaps for the first time since the Civil Rights Act was passed after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, we are learning to listen to each other. Equality, justice and mutual respect are gaining traction, but we still have a long way to go. A very long way.
We see violence on cell phone and store camera videos, but racism goes much deeper than that. An offhand comment here. A derogatory word there. A promotion not received. Educational disparities. Housing discrimination. A look in a donut shop or grocery store.
I attended a listening event last week in my city, where I heard about two dozen people share stories, many stories, including young people facing racism from peers, teachers and administrators at school; parents who did not receive justice in the courthouse next door; people who suffered silently from random events around town …
I’ve heard stories from friends with a different skin color than mine, people who are successful in life, people full of caring hearts and kind words. Even they have stories. I had no idea.
Recent stories. Current stories.
We have such a long way to go.
We focus on institutional changes, and those need to happen. Accountability in our police departments. Changes to our educational systems. Prosecution of looters and vandals – and how to prevent those people from showing up at future demonstrations and riots. Hires and promotions earned regardless of skin color.
These are big-picture, long-term issues that our nation must address.
We reap what we sow.
And yet … we cannot legislate morality. Changing laws will do only so much.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away, see, everything has become new!
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Even more than new (or better) laws, we need new (or better) hearts.
The human point of view is selfish, me first, I’m right and know what’s best. This goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. Every human, man and woman, who has ever lived understands this. Myself included. Every time I run a red (or pink) light I’m saying that my values and purpose are more important than society’s values, that the light has to turn green for someone else and I have to stop and wait while other drivers pass through the intersection.
I roll my eyes, get impatient. Especially when traffic clears and the light stays red.
Selfishness is that easy. I need a heart change.
Time to breathe.
Society does not revolve around me. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and still I don’t learn.
We wave the Bible in public, making a mockery of God’s written word because we won’t open the pages and actually read what’s inside it.
Those who condemn our president’s recent Bible-toting photo op in front of a Washington, D.C., church often aren’t modeling Christian values either.
There’s plenty of anger and finger-pointing on both sides. The anger and, yes, hatred on both sides have simmered for years; George Floyd’s horrific death was the lightning rod that triggered our hearts to act on our anger.
Righteous anger? Yes, far too often.
As a white man, it’s not up to me to analyze what’s going on and decide how to fix it.
White men have run this country since it was formed. Let’s be honest. In all other societies throughout history, the only way a minority group takes power is by force – figuring out how to overthrow the ruling oppressors.
We in the United States are working to share leadership, power and authority. It’s not natural, and it’s certainly not coming easily.
It requires a heart change. We can’t legislate morality. We can write in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal …” but until we actually treat each other that way, such statements are nothing more than pipe dreams.
This requires humility. The willingness to listen. To let others lead. To respect opinions and decisions different than ours.
None of that happens without a heart change.
I am encouraged. In the midst of police brutality and destruction of small businesses despite our not-quite-over-yet isolation from COVID-19, I see many people listening. I see police chiefs and officers marching with protesters, not against them. I see many people helping clean up broken windows and stores. I see blacks, whites, Asians and others talking, listening, meeting together, seeking to find similarities instead of differences.
In the midst of struggle and pain, I see hope.
We have such a long way to go.
But we have to start somewhere.
Will history look back at this moment as a turning point in our country?
This is my prayer. Let’s make it happen.