The Greatest Healer
I often start communications to our congregation by saying, “I hope you are doing well.” That is always my prayer, though I know that many are dealing with difficulties of illness, disruption of life or livelihood, lingering grief over the loss of loved ones, and deep feelings about what we’ve seen and heard happening in our communities in recent weeks. We find ourselves grasping for hope, sometimes, even as we affirm God’s sovereignty over life and nature and our future as human beings. After weeks of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on our daily lives, we now witness the opened wound of continued racial divisions in our society. This has made itself evident both in acts of violence and civil disobedience, and in powerful statements of unity among people of various races, backgrounds and ethnicities. For those of us old enough to have lived through a number of political and social cycles, it’s discouraging to see that we are still dealing with the same things that were dividing us fifty years ago; not only racial divisions, but also political polarization on nearly every issue that makes the news.
It may sound odd to hear me say this, but if you were to ask me today how I feel, I would tell you that I feel hopeful. I believe that the difficulties with COVID-19 in recent months have exposed many of our vulnerabilities and helped us reexamine what’s important in our own lives; and I believe that the festering wound of racial division in our nation has been recently opened in such a way that it can be cleansed and begin to heal. The cleaning and healing of old wounds is a messy business. It can even be pretty ugly in the beginning, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had an old wound on your body that had to be opened and retreated. The process of cleansing and healing of old wounds takes time. It also takes great care and regular attention. So, where will you put your attention, today?
I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard it repeated many times in recent weeks that it’s not enough to just be a “nice” white person. I confess that has been my approach for much of my adult life; that somehow if I were just courteous and fair and friendly in all my dealings with people whose race is different from my own, that I would be doing my part for racial justice. What I’ve come to realize is that while these things are important, they are not enough. Being “nice” is not enough when I am not seeking to understand the intricacies of systemic racism and to respond to how it affects the everyday lives of others.
Our Bible is full of instances where justice for marginalized people is held up as an ideal that pleases God. In the railings of the Old Testament prophets, there are two themes that emerge time and again; that the people have “forgotten God” and that they have committed injustices toward others. Jesus as God incarnate had an eye for the presence of injustice and discrimination in the culture around him. If you and I are followers of Christ, then we are to be in the “justice business” in Christ’s name. Often, the first step in advocating for justice for others is recognizing and understanding our own privilege, even and perhaps especially when we think we are not privileged; by the color of our skin, by the resources at our disposal, or by the safety and access we enjoy.
It’s easy to look around at some of the things that are happening right now and to find fault. It can be hard to muster empathy for people who destroy businesses, deface public monuments, and who shout insults at well-meaning law officers who are just trying to do their jobs. There are even some who use moments like these to advance causes that have little to do with the issue at hand. But you and I can’t let the worst of what we see deflect our attention from the best of what we can see. This is true of any situation, and it’s especially true right now. Look for the words and actions that hold up the principles of Godly love and justice, and join the fight.
This is a message to myself, as much as it’s a message to anyone else. Doing justice and loving kindness and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) is hard work. But we have the greatest Helper on our side, and the greatest Healer for the old and deep wounds in our souls and in our society. We are the reason Jesus went to the Cross, and there’s nothing he wants more than to see us love him with our whole heart and mind and strength, and to love our “neighbor” as much as we love ourselves.
With prayers for our shared journey,