Saturday, June 20, 2015

In Pain, Feeling Loss, Hit By Prejudice

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Howard Arnoff, from Flickr
I know I said we'd spend the summer resharing some of the things inspired by Google+ photographers.  But real life has given us a situation where I'd be remiss if I ignored it and didn't say anything. Wednesday evening, the Emanuel AME church in Charleton, SC held its usual midweek Bible study.  A young man visited that Bible study, stayed for an hour, then started shooting.  He killed nine.

That's the church to the right.  In the light of day and more peaceful times, it certainly doesn't look like it should be the scene of a massacre.

The young man has been caught.  And he's been quoted with statements that indicate racism, but a mental state that seems far from normal.  And he wasn't even from Charleston.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

When I originally started writing this, I had some things in mind.  Some to do with some irresponsible leadership likely to try to make this more volatile to validate their self importance.  And there was my disagreement with President Obama's use of every horrendous situation to squash the second amendment.  But, as the story unfolded, the forgiveness displayed by the relatives of the victims highlighted a side note that's not really so side.

I've had online conversations with young men I'd met in Christian contexts who now were so focused on being black and feeling the prejudice against them that they were losing sight of their Christian values and resources.  They were certain I couldn't possibly understand.  I was certain they were wrong, ignoring what could solve the problem.  Then came Wednesday night, after many months of reports of anti-Christian activity all around the world.  And there I was, feeling the loss of a pastor and fellow Christians, feeling myself in my own minority, and feeling a bit of the same kind of anger that those young men had.  And, at the same time, knowing it was wrong.

From when I was a teen and old enough to be aware of such things, I've always recognized that there was always some segment of society angry about some real or perceived wrong.  They would find their own ways to rebel.  But each group had to make sure society heard their protest, so each was a little more over the top, a little more violent than preceding groups.  And, more recently, criminal elements have sometimes taken advantage of the volatile circumstances.

Parts of our first world society would have us believe that recent events are a gun issue or a race issue.  But it's more correctly pinpointed in the Bible.  It's a heart issue.  And it infects all of mankind.  Think of Brian Williams "misremembering" his newscasting combat experiences, Rachel Dolezal being more comfortable as "black", Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn, gay legal relationships becoming "marriage".  The standard becomes what we want it to be, not a real, fixed standard. We're not who God says we are; we become some form of fantasy, a fictional character, shifting with our mood and the perceived wrongs against us.

That all does interesting things to our relationships with each other.  Love becomes controlled by lust instead of the other way around.  Our treatment of each other becomes based on how we feel or what we can get, instead of how God says we should treat each other.  So, the flesh gets to direct our thoughts, not God.  

Anything that makes us uncomfortable to any degree will bring in some level of fear, no matter how minimal. While the Bible tells us not to fear, our flesh uses fear to react instead of respond.  If the source of uncomfortability is someone physically challenged, they'll be picked on.  If the uncomfortability is based on a lack of understanding, it leads to some form of prejudicial behavior -- racial, religious or otherwise.  What we don't understand, what we fear, that's what our flesh will go after.

Being defensive toward things that threaten is natural.  Which is our problem.  The mind, soul, and spirit should take us to a new level where what we don't understand shouldn't threaten us.  If we believe God, we trust Him and His Word.  That trust wipes out fear, replacing it with the recognition that we need each other, no matter what our accent or skin color or other differences.  Without God, the only thing we can trust is ourselves.  Our moments of clarity show us how little we can rely on trusting ourselves.  Not a stellar option.  So, how do we successfully move in the right direction?

The first step is "me".  I'm the first one that needs fixing.  So, let's start with that.  We say God is love.  And the Bible says love kills fear.  I let God's love draw me to Him and repair my trust issues. If I trust God, receive His love, then my discomfort and fears diminish.  It's a process, but it does happen over time.  But there's more.

If I'm truly committed to that process, then I will realize that everyone and everything God allows into my life is for my benefit.  Therefore, I can become a conduit for God's love for others.  I get the privilege of being in the lives of others for their benefit -- I benefit from that, too.  Sometimes, I will evangelize, other times I'll disciple, and there will be times when it's my life, not my words, that does the job.

Think about what can happen with the right thought pattern.  It no longer matters if I like someone, love them, or would rather not be around them.  I get blessed watching God work through me.  And my "love" isn't based on my personal preferences.

I promised myself I wouldn't pretty this up by tying things up with my chosen verses.  Some of what I said points directly to verses we'd all immediately go to.  But much of what I've said has a ton of supporting verses.  I want you to grab the ones that bring this to life for you.  The ones that have you seeing the reality of you becoming more Christ-like.

As we grow in all that, let's be praying for Emanuel AME church, for God's peace and healing, for the families and friends of the victims, for God's will in the selection of a new pastor, and for the eradication of racial intolerance.  These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

1 comment:

  1. It is a tragic situation in in Charleston. And the forgiveness of families of the victims is shocking to the word. That forgiveness is one of the greatest weapons against racism. Laws are needed to help protect different groups but they will never deal with the root spiritual root cause of racial division. The world cry's out to seek revenge; to climb up by tearing down others. Forgiveness runs counter to it all - but it is the root of the redemption of Jesus. I pray that I can live it out the way these families have done.