Toward the end of The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings, Jennings expresses a desire for the church with which we resonate deeply. He writes,
“I yearn for a vision of Christian intellectual identity that is compelling and attractive, embodying not simply the cunning of reason but the power of love that constantly gestures toward joining, toward the desire to hear, to know, and to embrace.”
To become such a community will require more than prayer, yet prayer is never a bad place to start. As Dwight Moody once said,
“Let us pray that the Holy Ghost may search each one of us. Let us get alone with God and read His law—read it carefully and prayerfully, and ask Him to show us our sins and what He would have us to do.”
We are all witnesses to the tragic, unjust acts that brought about the loss of George Floyd and the subsequent sadness, frustration, and violence that is connected to it. It is right for us to consider what we might do to ensure justice is done. God, however, does not ask the church to fix the world but to live faithfully in a world only He can fix. In prayer, we acknowledge that even our best efforts, when not directed by the Spirit, relegate God to the sidelines. Prayer reminds us that God does not live in our world … we live in His. As the church looks out on the injustice and violence of recent days, we must pray that God would give us faith, wisdom, and resolve.
We must have the faith to be moved.
As Christians, we must learn to express the anguished “how long?” of lament even as we trust that God will restore a world that is not as it should be. Faith is not passive. It actively follows. Rather than move ahead of God, we must learn, as Moses did, that we must follow God. The narrative of Moses’s failure in Exodus 2:11-15 stands as a reminder that our instincts, however righteous and well-intentioned, are no substitute for God’s deliverance. As hard as it may be, we cannot seek to right the world’s wrongs apart from God. So, we have to have the faith to follow, but, more than that, we must have the faith to be moved. Whereas Moses’s early action stepped ahead of God, his later reticence to return to Egypt may well reflect how many of us feel about addressing injustice. We have the faith to follow to a point, but not beyond it. We need the faith to become more than who we are now. We need the faith to come together with one another, to hear the prayers of our brothers and sisters from different walks of life, to embrace them and their concerns and, in doing so, come to know them.
We need to ask uncomfortable questions that push us to be transformed more closely to the image of Christ.
We need to ask God for the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord and combats our tendency to remain unchanged. We need to ask uncomfortable questions that push us to be transformed more closely to the image of Christ.
- To what extent does our perception of God overshadow who God really is?
- In what ways are we allowing a void to develop in our testimony?
- How are we denying members of the body plagued by ongoing experiences of injustice in the world and the church the space to join, to be heard, to be known, and to be embraced?
If we desire to be a community that moves together, knows one another’s struggles, listens to the challenges of our fellows, and embraces one another as we live our lives together, we cannot avoid such questions.
We need the gritty determination to become a new community.
We need the gritty determination to become a new community. It is resolve that allows us to weather the challenges that come from embracing those different from us. Resolve involves loving God and neighbor no matter what it costs us.
The injustice done to George Floyd is tragic. We must acknowledge that, feel that, let it sink into the deepest places of our souls. Yet, the church cannot respond to injustice like the world. We cannot forget that our task is to witness to the God who delivered us from sin and death through the resurrection of His Son. Even as we lament the injustice and oppression that extends throughout the history of our nation, we must not forget that we have dedicated our lives to Christ and, as such, must seek to offer faithful testimony about Him in word and deed. May we demonstrate to the world what it means to be unified as one people under the Risen Christ.
A Prayer for Faith, Wisdom, and Resolve
Lord, we lift up to you all those who knew George Floyd well and are experiencing pain and confusion. We mourn the loss of one made in your image and the turmoil created when those who promised to protect and serve didn’t. We desire justice and peace.
We ask that you would guide the hands of those prosecuting this case. Keep them from partiality.
Bring your calming presence upon those who would seek to do more violence. Restrain them. Give us faith to follow and be transformed by You.
O God, give us wisdom and resolve. We repent for our shortcomings in addressing injustice, pursuing unity within Christ’s body, and proclaiming the gospel. Grant us the wisdom and resolve to be led by the Spirit toward joining, hearing, knowing, and embracing.
Keep us from comfort and complacency. Give us a heart joined with those brothers and sisters in Christ living in anguish under persecution and experiencing injustice worldwide. Create within us a deep connection with those in the church who are in pain. Make us uncomfortable. Give us a desire to follow your Spirit no matter the cost.
We look around and see a world full of injustice, broken, lost, and deceived. We pray that you would act to make things right and, through your Spirit, prompt us to participate with you as you make all things new. Amen.
EMMITT MITCHELL is the President and CEO of Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization based in Northfield, MA. A successful businessman with significant experience in banking, real estate and the automobile industry, Mr. Mitchell is a board member of several ministry-oriented organizations.
JAMES SPENCER, PHD is Vice President and COO of Moody Center and author of Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind. He also writes a regular blog at nextgenchristians.com.
Photo credit: Lorie Shaull