Learning to Lament: Part 1

Lament-Learn-Pray

Lament. Learn. Pray. These are words we're seeking to lean into as a church. Today, I'll speak personally. All of our experiences are different so I'll share what's happening in my own journey in this heightened moment where we're discussing more pointedly the sin of racism. 

First, read the response to the killing of George Floyd written by Harvest's leadership last week?

As we seek to address these issues directly, there is the balance of speaking to all of Harvest collectively while also speaking from my personal perspective because I cannot speak for everyone. So please allow me to begin by asking for grace. From our brothers and sisters of color, I ask for grace as I know I will express these matters imperfectly. From my anglo brothers and sisters, I ask for grace too. Some of you will not like what I say. Yet, we are convinced as a church that we must speak to issues that are real, prevalent, and under-represented by the predominately white church in America.

We're asking our church-- especially our white members-- to take a learning posture in this season. We're inviting you to be ready to listen and to hear from others. 

Personally, I feel a sense of urgency and responsibility on this journey. Can I start with a confession? Over the past few years, I've written off moments like this present one. I remember the Ferguson protests in 2014 following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police. I remember the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death in 2012. And there are others. Here's the confession: these previous moments were, for me...distant...foreign. I didn't understand the outrage. I didn't linger on my lack of understanding, either. I didn't seek to understand. I just moved on to my unaffected daily life.

Then there's the current moment. In the midst of a global pandemic, a different story broke through into the national conversation. On February 23, a 25-year-old black man, Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and shot to death by white men. He was not armed. He did not initiate any contact, yet alone aggression with these men. He was running alone along the road. No charges were brought against his killers until after a video of the incident was posted in early May that launched it into the national attention.

Then, George Floyd was arrested, handcuffed, and killed. It was brutal. It was wrong. The whole nation bore painful witness to his unjust death, captured by a bystander on a cell phone. And a different kind of realization broke in. Hopefully for our nation. Certainly for me. 

In this moment, a phrase for me is "don't turn away." I started to watch the Floyd video the first time and I didn't want to finish watching it. But there was that voice: "Don't turn away." To my brothers and sisters of color, I confess my past sin of indifference. I was too quick to turn away.

I've been reading through Revelation in my morning Bible time. This morning I read these words from Jesus addressed to the church at Laodicea:

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15–16 ESV)

Oh, my Christian friends! We have work to do! Lord forgive my lukewarm approach to justice-- a matter so close to your heart! May we long for the words of your prophet Amos who cried, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24 ESV).

In this season, as a Christian, a father, and a pastor, I'm asking for you to join us and to take time to learn. Will you look into the not-so-distant past of our racial segregation and pervasive culture of injustice toward minorities in our country? And will you also learn and look at the present? This is not just a past issue only but remains a present and pressing sin.

As a church leadership team, we are committing specifically to learning about the failure of our own institution to stand for justice. It's for that reason we are reading and discussing The Color of Compromise together. I must confess it was a painful read for me. Again, the Lord had to say, "Don't look away." I didn't like what I saw in our past. I didn't like what it revealed about my own actions and inactions in the present. Truth is not always convenient or comfortable. But it is necessary for change.

Will you join us over the next few weeks? Specifically please read, listen to, or watch content for The Color of Compromise. Don't look away. And then join us in this conversation.

Right now, there's a video version from the author available for free if you have an Amazon Prime account. You can also access print, digital, or audio versions wherever books are sold.

In our next post, we'll look at what it means to lament. I am committed to continuing this journey recognizing it is not comfortable. I am reminded that my own privileged discomfort is less important than the pain of experienced racial injustice. Further, let us all remember Jesus willingly journeyed to Jerusalem and the cross, knowing the pain to come.