I know I am not the first person to say this, but, it seems that the world is on fire. People are dying from a global pandemic, our country is more divided than ever and multiple brothers and sisters of color are being killed by fellow children of God. Many people assumed that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was a definitive death of racism and Black oppression. The countless deaths of the past few years have proven this thought to be naive and wrong. It is time for privileged people to redefine justice and to seek to love their neighbor as themselves. We are in a strange time, where there is no guideline on how to live. A lot of ways we think of conducting love and justice cannot be done safely right now. So what does justice look like when love is embodied in being six feet away and wearing a mask?
I think about justice a lot. I’m studying nonprofit ministry with the goal of going into a prison chaplaincy, and a lot of my reading for school and preparing myself for seminary revolves around the concept of justice. While having all these lofty ideas and academic roundtable discussions on such large issues is great, altering your life around justice takes a lot of surrender. Surrender of your societal understandings, surrender of your friend group and surrender of your time. Practicing justice daily is not something you can just do casually; it requires pruning and sanctification. A framework that I love in terms of justice is found within my favorite online retailer, The Happy Givers, that says: “Justice is love out loud.”
How can we love loudly right now? I think that seeking justice and loving mercy for our brothers and sisters of color looks like fighting for justice on a personal, communal and national level.
Seeking justice individually starts with knowing scripture and communing with the Father. God is justice, and we cannot know how to treat systems and people justly without first seeking the good and fair Judge.
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons [and daughters] of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” Romans 8:19-22.
We are in an already-and not yet state of being. The heartbeat of every believer should be a longing for the diversity of God’s kingdom (Revelations 7:9) to come on earth and diversify EVERY aspect of life. Our law schools should be just as diverse as our community colleges. Business leaders conferences should look just as diverse as the Kingdom of God. The problem is not a lack of people of color to occupy these spaces; the problem is the relentless roadblocks that people of color have to face and that white people cannot fully know. Another way we can love on an individual level right now is by educating ourselves. With a tiny computer in a lot of our pockets or even on our wrists, being ignorant and being uneducated is a choice. When we engage in learning about systemic racism, that tells our friends of color around us that we (non POC) see them. We will never fully understand the Black experience, but we are open to learning and criticism. Some tough learning that non POC need to have is that we all have racial bias. Due to systems of oppression, white people have received unearned benefits. Through learning, we can dismantle some of these ideas. Education does not just look like learning about Black experience but also learning from Black teachers. Your bookshelf and podcast feed must represent the diversity of the Kingdom.
But it doesn’t end with you. Being an advocate also means engaging in community.
Black Lives Matter is not a trendy hashtag, or a movement— it’s a commitment. Black Lives Matter is a commitment when you hear a friend say “All Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter is a commitment when you feel tension driving through the “bad part of town.” Black Lives Matter is a commitment in the voting booth. Advocating for Black lives looks like having hard conversations with the privileged. Advocating for Black lives looks like recognizing the bias within your community and lamenting the ways you have not seen the beauty of God in all of humanity. We can see with the Civil Rights movements in American history that it starts bottom up. We can and should engage in politics, but enduring change starts with communities of people gathering together and seeking justice.
Whether you like it or not, you are a part of a nation that has discriminated against the Black community since its origin. There is this rhetoric in America that equates lawful with moral. Slavery was legal. Jim Crow was legal. In Connecticut, it’s illegal for a barber to hum while cutting hair. Some laws are oppressive, manipulative or just plain silly. We bring our faith with us when we go to vote, or to a political rally or even in Facebook comment sections. Christianity was never meant to fit neatly within bipartisan lines. Something that I have seen in Black Lives Matter posts is “Vote like you are poor and Black”, and that is a great framework for understanding politics in the Christian sense. Since our faith is not liberal, conservative, green party, etc, we must be prayerful and educated in every issue that is on the ballot. Our thought should be “does this benefit my neighbors?” not just “does this benefit me?”
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
May our words and the meditations of our hearts be bent towards God and may that lead us to seek justice for our global and local neighbors.