Hebrews 12, Part 27. Pandemic.

We find ourselves wondering how many years it has been since the pandemic first hit our shores. Sometimes it feels as if time has halted, and we’re stuck in a repeating loop, one day after another. At other times it feels as if aeons have passed, as if we’ve never lived any other way. Life before the pandemic is barely imaginable.

As the virus crept its way across New York City in early March, bouncing from one museum to one broadway play opening after another, calamity hit our family like a sledgehammer. Since those days, I’ve been entirely focused on the people I love most in the entire universe.

As a result of these events, I’m out of kilter. My memory is full of holes, my emotions erratic. I feel like a young mother again, family focused, hand wringing daily, praying my worries over each one, and thinking of them in the night. It’s difficult to write with focus. My husband proofs my posts.

Most of my creative projects are tabled. Who can write fiction now, in the middle of this? Serious marketing has also ceased as my husband and I work productively on spiritual and family-focused projects and needs, spending more time in prayer together than we ever have.

The world now has 7,150,000 cases of COVID19, and the US has 2,060,000 of those, still holding around 30% of the total. However, our numbers are rising again. People in many states haven’t been careful about social distancing or wearing masks. My husband and I still do mask up, not only to protect ourselves as best we can, but also to protect others.

This pandemic has been folded together with racial protests, which sadly will also cause rising COVID19 infections, but which have once again raised our awareness of a lack of fairness and balance and kindness in our culture, a problem that has gone on for far too long. Slavery and then discrimination for four centuries is ridiculous for a country that calls itself free.

If you think the protests haven’t accomplished anything good, please think again and click here to see the results.

Don’t give up, I say to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t give up on us! Those who are harboring racism can change. We have Jesus, so we have the power and enablement to grow, to act! Black lives DO matter.

Don't give up, I say to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't give up on us! Those who are harboring racism can change. We have Jesus, so we have the power and enablement to grow, to act! Black lives DO matter. Click To Tweet

My husband and I were children during the civil rights movement. Decades later, our country still requires much growth in racial harmony. We’re watching favorite movies to once again heighten our awareness of the experience of African Americans in the US: Selma, Just Mercy, Marshall, Hidden Figures, The Help, and Glory, to name a few. Recently Harriet challenged our faith. We wondered if we could ever have the bold faith of Harriet Tubman.

If any reader hasn’t watched these, please do. And, please, if you have your own favorites that aren’t listed here, that challenge assumptions and illustrate authentic black life experiences, please share in the comments.

We’ve also been reading and sharing on social media the viewpoints of black men and women who have solid theology and rich personal and spiritual insight into our response as Christians in the matter of racial harmony. Every day, one or the other of these men and women challenge us. I have learned from each one.

  • Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones, wrote a post in The New York Times Magazine, click here, detailing four centuries of black history in America. Read and learn!
  • Mr. Jemar Tisby, M.Div., has a new book out, featured in The Atlantic: Closing the Gulf Between Black and White Christians, click here, where he “challenges his white counterparts to take full responsibility for their complicity in racism, and to commit to changing America.” This week, he also posted an emotionally moving short piece in The Atlantic titled The Familial Language of Black Grief, click here.
  • Christian hip-hop artist Mr. Shai Linne has a piece in The Gospel Coalition (click here)– George Floyd and Me — that brings to life the daily experience of a black man in America.
  • Professor at Wheaton, Dr. Esau McCaulley, is quoted below on the power of the resurrection over racism. Read also A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit from Christianity Today (click here).
  • Ms. Ekemini Uwan, M.Div., public theologian, writing for The Atlantic: “There’s no Going Back to ‘Normal,’” (click here). Ms. Uwan puts forward the thesis that “Once we accept, and grieve, that our old way of life is gone, we can build a better future.”

Dr. Esau McCaulley writes: “My ancestors knew that, in order to secure their freedom, slavery had to bend to the will of God and be destroyed. They knew that the Jim Crow era, despite its oppression, was not more comprehensive in its power than the Resurrection. We introduced Jim and Jane Crow to a Resurrection-empowered hope, and the civil rights movement was born. Similarly, what evidence do we have that today’s racial divisions can be defeated and that our societal sickness is not unto death? Our answer is the same: the empty tomb and the risen Christ” (Click to Christianity Today for the entire post)

Every one of these believers is worth reading. I’ve learned from each one. Their words cause us to grow. Each generation bears the responsibility of bettering our country. Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when written, for our founders didn’t truly hold all men to have been created equal with certain unalienable rights. Black Americans have fought to make this true, to achieve the equality our constitution guarantees.

The question is, will we come alongside them, adding our voices, doing what we can? Will we truly act like people of faith?

Our founders didn't hold ALL men to have been created equal with certain unalienable rights. Black Americans have fought to make this true, to achieve the equality our constitution guarantees. Will we come alongside them? Click To Tweet

The author of Hebrews reminded the first-century believers of the great crowd of witnesses surrounding them: the OT and NT believers listed in Hebrews 11, godly men and women of faith who went before us. We remember the example of men and women of faith who have gone on ahead: apostles and first-century believers, the theologians of old, founders of our churches, believers who handled WW1 and their own pandemic of 1918-1920, the many who survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and WW2, and our African-American brothers and sisters who have endured centuries of painful discrimination.

We look to the African-American men and women who have gone before us, who loved the Lord and lived for Jesus no matter the lynchings, murders, persecution, and firestorms involved in merely attending a public school, drinking from a water foundation, sitting down on a bus, viewing a film from the main floor of a theater, eating in a restaurant rather than in the alley behind it, or finding a restroom that “coloreds” could use.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV).

Patiently, African-Americans continue to prod us toward doing better and actually living what we claim to be — followers of Christ. Thanks be to God for their tenacity! We look to Jesus, considering how he lived.

For every Christian of every age, Jesus is our only hope. He’s the One we seek to model. He’s the One we consider and ponder. He endured hostility, as our black brothers and sisters do, and as do any who stand with them. But Jesus alone lived a perfect life, a life that each one of the above listed writers have sought to emulate, a life that we all seek to model.

Can we listen to God’s Word, walking in Jesus’ steps? Can we live in a humble and open way, willing to learn, to recognize that we don’t know everything, and that we can learn from one another?

Can we listen to God's Word? Can we live in a humble and open way, willing to learn, to recognize that we don't know everything, and that we can learn from one another? #BlackLivesMatter #KindnessMatters Click To Tweet

When our eyes are on Jesus, we don’t grow weary and fainthearted, for we see that Jesus also endured hostility from sinners, which, sadly, black believers still endure simply for being black. Those who come alongside them also endure a measure of hostility, simply for standing with them.

Will we grow and change? Will we stand with them?

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32 NASB).

The people who have gone before us set this model. I pray daily that the Lord would help me to do this better. Will we listen, rather than explain away the situation, or refuse to attempt to understand the hurt behind their words? Will we quit talking, sit in silence, and actually hear them speak? And then, with tender hearts, will we act in kindness?

Will we listen, rather than explain away the situation, or refuse to attempt to understand the hurt behind their words? Will we quit talking, sit in silence, and actually hear them speak? #BlackLivesMatter Click To Tweet

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23 NIV).

The Lord Jesus himself set this model of not retaliating in word or deed, of committing ourselves to God’s work in our lives. The Lord calls this passage and this model to my mind whenever I feel like retorting or explaining, rather than listening and learning. Sometimes, we must be silent.

We differ in only skin tone, a small thing, skin, and yet people have been judged and divided by it for millenia. By the grace of God, the opportunity for harmony has presented itself again. Let’s grab it. We’re all one family, Adam’s race.

We differ in only skin tone, a small thing, skin, and yet people have been judged and divided by it. By the grace of God, the opportunity for harmony has presented itself again. Let's grab it. We're all one family, Adam's race. Click To Tweet

Will we listen this time? Will we humble ourselves enough to truly hear them and to attempt to understand? Will we change? Will we act?

Will you join us in being part of the solution, rather than an ongoing part of the problem for both the pandemic and the need for protest?

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