Shout It Aloud and Do Not Hold Back
Jesus—God’s very word made flesh—tells us that the greatest commandment of Scripture, the one all the rest of the commandments hinge on, is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:38-39 NIV). Love of neighbor is elevated to this level because all people are made in God’s image and are designed to reflect His character, His glory, His love. When we fail to love our neighbor, we are failing to love God Himself (1 John 3:7-18).
One of the greatest failures to love our neighbors in the United States is the over 400 years of controlling, abusing, and profiting from the bodies of black image-bearers. From enslavement to segregation to substandard education to historic and contemporary lynching to police brutality, our country has often acted out of racist hatred toward our black neighbors by law and by custom. The recent, horrific killing of George Floyd brings to light again the kinds of injustices that grieve the heart of God.
This should also grieve His church. Unfortunately, while many Christians have taken up the biblical call to justice, too often we have allowed our black brothers and sisters to do most of the heavy lifting in the work of lamenting, grieving, and striving for change. Even worse, at times we have shamed and rebuked them for these acts of faithfulness. While the church may be giving increased attention to issues of systemic injustice right now in this moment of national grieving and protest, we must ask ourselves why our fellow image-bearers have to shout so loud before we will listen.
The Chalmers Center wants to declare loudly and unequivocally that racism is demonic, that it is ongoing, and that through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection it must end. Indeed, one day it will end. Until that great day, God’s people wait, but we must not wait passively. On the contrary, God’s people must be ambassadors of His reconciling work, proclaiming the present and future reality of His kingdom in the here and now of this broken world. Indeed, the voices of the prophets are calling out to God’s people from across the ages:
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
Isaiah 58:1-10, NIV
So where do we begin? We need to listen, lament, repent, march, vote, scholarship, hire, and promote. We need to fail and to try again, and again, and again. And we need to do all of these things with far greater passion and diligence than ever before, for we are indeed called to “spend ourselves” on behalf of the needy and the oppressed.
But as we pursue these efforts, we also need to dig deeper. How did we get here? What are the underlying dynamics? How can we truly address the root causes of the issues that plague our land? These are not easy questions, and there are no easy answers. But in the coming weeks we will see how the transforming power of Christ’s death and resurrection provides us with great hope and a real path forward.
Until then, please join with all of us at the Chalmers Center in lamenting the brokenness, sin, and injustice of our world, for God desires that we bring all our concerns to Him (1 Pet. 5:7). He understands our weakness, fear, and pain and wants us to carry these to Him freely (Heb. 4:15-16). And join us as we examine ourselves both as individuals and as an organization. In what areas related to racial injustice do we need to repent?
The world does not need empty words from our organization or from any other, but we also recognize that silence about injustice against God’s creation gives implicit consent to that injustice. May all of us lift our voices, but also our hearts and our hands, in the challenging days ahead.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!