Audio version read by Cheryl personal-protest.mp3
As certainly as our sensibilities of justice have been assaulted by the ubiquitous videos recently drenching the media, we feel compelled to act- to do something. The prevailing protests illustrate this, people uniting for change. Admittedly, I look on as an observer, having experienced none of the indignity of being judged by the color of my skin, yet wanting to make my community a safe and welcoming place. As tempting as it is to point fingers or set up another program, I submit that the very first place to start is by honestly examining our own hearts and motives. Without brutal soul searching, which scrutinizes the thoughts and intentions of our own dark hearts (this would be a great time to invite the Lord into this process), we will not only prevent solutions but promote even more division. A truly honest look into the dark recesses of one’s heart, with the aid of a God Who will readily expose secret sin if we let Him, and armed with the mindset that we ourselves may be in some measure the very villains we are resisting, let the protest begin there. And the repentance. This is not a journey for the faint of heart or those seeking merely to be on the right side of an issue. It is brutally painful.
This is a time to put down our preconceptions and defensiveness and listen, seeking the truth behind the words, connecting with the outrage and indignation. Imagine yourself and your children living day after day with the soul crushing realities that many of us will never experience. Hearing with the heart, hurting with hopelessness, weeping with those who weep. Realize how hard it must be to seek refuge from a lifetime, even a heritage, of disrespect in a culture that feels it doesn’t even exist. Walk a mile in those shoes.
When confronted with such an enormous problem it is easy to be overwhelmed. Yet individual responsibility is immeasurably influential in society. If a person acts, using his/her influence righteously, evil is hindered. Hitler succeeded in ‘normalizing’ discrimination. It became incrementally accepted to minimize and eventually despise the ‘other’, with their differing lifestyles and looks. Ultimately the authorities enforced hatred and everyday citizens endorsed it. We survey history with disgust, secure in the thought that we would have resisted such evil. It is actually more probable that you or I would have been silent for fear of culture shaming, next entertaining the validity of the awful lies, then eventually embracing them. Resistance to injustice must begin in our souls. Each and every attitude choice is hugely significant, so we must listen very carefully to our thoughts as well as to the experiences of others. The ugly face of injustice may be staring back at us from the mirror. Is it possible that I am part of the problem? Standing with those who are constantly distrusted and dismissed requires some unpleasant introspection. Evaluating and repenting of insensitive condescending inclinations and attitudes is no easy task. It is much easier to run to our safe logic corner, where it is someone else’s problem. Healing will require grace and humility by every single person. Our only question now should be “how can I help?”
Recalling the lessons of history, let us carefully, thoughtfully, prayerfully, honestly and tearfully evaluate our hearts and intentions. Anything less than conviction forged in the fires of divine love will fail in these fragile times. Careless defensive words wound like weapons. Reactions of violence, whether in word or deed – destroy lives and obscure the issue. Guilt, self-serving morality, and condescending service do not offer solutions, but bandaids. No more excuses! If we act merely to appease our conscience or feed our morality-meter, we fail. Realizing our complicity should bring us to our knees. Love is a fire that burns off self-interest so that the needs of others are the focus. It is the only thing that does not fail. Love is Biblically defined as ‘denying itself for the benefit of the one loved’. Love is our only weapon. Henri` Nouwen wisely asserts that “we can perceive the stranger as an enemy only as long as we have something to defend.” As followers of Jesus let us overcome evil with good – first in our hearts and then with our hands.
I have included links to a couple of stories that unveil realities many of us never have to face. Each of these men speak with sorrow yet without hatred of what it is like to live in the world that is being protested.