How do you respond to something that is so tragic, so terrible, so littered with injustice that it makes your blood boil? We see injustices multiple times per day in our social media feeds, on the news, and we talk about it in our circles of friends. We’ve almost become immune to them. Am I the only one who has caught themselves scanning past a photo of dead bodies and acting like “that’s normal” when it is really not?
What in the world is happening? How do we respond to EVERY injustice with equality? Do we choose one cause and fight for it or do we spend our lives chasing the wind of every injustice upon this earth? I believe Jesus gave us answers with His life and teaching that resonate so loudly still today. Our generation is wanting to make a difference, we want to fight for justice…but we simply can’t find the answer no matter how hard we try. It could be that the reason for that is because we are asking the wrong question?
Can I do something to make a change? So we act in rage. We cuss. We destroy things. We pit race against race. We make it one-sided. We fight eye-for-eye. We face violence with violence, murder with murder. And in the midst of all of this we overlook what’s really happening…DIVISION. We are being divided into categories and groups, not united behind causes and purpose. We are divided into fighting for one injustice that the media makes into a headline while we overlook multiple injustices i.e.. the bloodshed in Chicago’s streets, ISIS rampage in Iraq this past week, political scandals, freedoms being taken away from us left and right, etc. (some of which may even have greater implications than the injustice we are fighting for).
Since the Garden of Eden, the devil’s tactic has always been “divide and conquer.” Don’t fall into his games. Know his subtle ways of attack. He knows and understands that a UNITED group of Christ followers is the most powerful form that he will ever face. He knows he can’t take our power (1 John 4:4 (KJV) - Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.), but if he divides us up into so many little fractions we will become weak.
Jesus didn’t go to a cross, die a horrible death, rise again after three days, and pour out His Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost for white people. He didn’t do it for black people either. He didn’t do it for a single, particular group of people…it was for ALL PEOPLE. He died for ALL, that ALL might come to find life and purpose in Christ! When we unite our power becomes synergistic.
So the question we should be asking is this, WHAT CAN WE DO TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER? Jesus showed us that when we simply address the “temporary symptom” and not the “eternal cause” we will fail every single time. If you’re a Christ follower, if you believe your Bible, if you call yourself a Christian then you will understand that violence, hatred, malice, name-calling, keyboard fighting on Facebook, etc. will never address the root cause of injustice.
Jesus led like this:
-1 Peter 2:21-25 (NLT) “21For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 22He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 25Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls".
Have you ever heard of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested? He asked his friends to pray with Him that night (guys like Peter, James, John, etc. who actually wrote books of our Bible) and they fell asleep while Jesus prayed such fervent prayers that He actually began to bleed (this is an actual medical condition called “hematidrosis”). When they woke up Jesus was arrested and the Roman soldiers took Him away. As they did so, Peter grabs a sword and chops off the ear of one of the Roman soldiers. Immediately Jesus goes to the ground, picks up the ear and replaces it with a supernatural healing touch on the guard…just like new.
What can we learn from this when we flail at our attempts to correct injustice? Was Jesus perfect? Yes. Was Jesus guilty of the charges against Him? No. In our society and culture we would be cheering on Peter right? We would be hailing him as a hero who fought against the racism (yes, that was happening against Jewish people long before the Holocaust) of the Roman Empire, the injustice of the corrupt ruling government, and we would put his name in lights for starting a revolution…except Jesus didn’t do that. He actually REBUKED Peter and called him “Satan” (the name of the devil). Wow! What? Was Jesus actually on the side of the evil government? Is this some big conspiracy shrouded beyond the curtain of the Illuminati? No and no!
JESUS SHOWED US A BETTER WAY (actually, before the church was called the “church” and before we were called “Christians” we were called “the way”). Jesus addressed the cause of the injustice: THE CONDITION of the HUMAN SOUL. Which in turn, was the same reason that Peter acted out of rage against the Roman soldier. Peter was acting out of insecurity. Peter knew that he failed miserably by falling asleep in the prayer meeting so he tried to take matters into his own hands. Jesus rebuked him so hard for this that nobody who reads it forgets His words.
Christians: stop acting like hatred for hatred, violence for violence, rage for rage, eye for an eye, etc. actually works. We should know better. Stop trying to cover up our “PRAYERLESNESS” with an act of “social justice.” Stop acting like what you’re doing is working. It’s not. You’re not making a difference with your outrage on Facebook. You’re not changing the world when you change your profile photo. Your hashtags are not changing anything. Can we just have an honest moment as Christians in 2016? We are failing miserably at “Christianing” and that is why we are not seeing injustice answered with justice.
Do you really want to know how JUSTICE IS SERVED? Do you really want to see radical change? Can we go back to Acts and look at the example that Christ left for us (the original church) to follow in His footsteps? Because they SAW JUSTICE! They were actually accused of TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN (Acts 17:6). Our actions of insecurity that mask our inability to “Christian” are not doing what these humble, powerful people did in the first century.
How did they do it? There were TWO THINGS that the Christians were known for that absolutely flew in the face of injustice in their day: SUPERNATURAL PRAYER and COUNTERCULTURAL LIFESTYLES.
The early church would pray in the name of Jesus and they would see supernatural miracles. They would pray and sometimes they wouldn’t see miracles (Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8), but they still trusted in God’s WAYS above their ways. You cannot call yourself a Christian and take things “out of God’s hand” and “into your own hands.” That is precisely what FAITH is all about. Even when it doesn’t make sense (Jesus being arrested), even when the party is completely innocent (Jesus on the cross), even when there is no evidence (Jesus being pardoned by Pontius Pilate)…we STILL TRUST IN HIS WAYS above our ways.
Professional skateboarder Steven Caballero dabbled in Buddhism and even atheism but he found fulfillment in Christ and he said this, “being a Christian is the most punk-rock thing you can do in our modern society, it is totally against the culture.” Christians in Acts were noticed because they lived counter-culturally. Is part of our outrage against injustice due to the guilt that we feel from being “too much like everyone else?” I’m not saying these early Christians were perfect, but they were different. In a day and age where “anything goes” with Christians are we really making an impact against injustice?
The Acts church saw babies being deposited in the trash on the streets and they saw those babies being picked up by pimps who turned them into child sex-slaves, so what did they do? Did they march on Rome? Did they hashtag until their thumbs were bruised? No they were led by the Holy Spirt and they adopted these orphans. What happened next was that people in their community took notice of their LOVE (not hate for hate) and they became Christians. Then guess what? They started doing the same thing!
The early church saw orphans living in the streets (modern day answer for this in America is kids who have two parents working that are never at home) and they saw widows who were starving and couldn’t make ends meet (modern day answer for this is the single mom trying to make it work on one income) and what did the Christians do? Did they start blaming the tax-collectors who were corrupt? Did they start campaigning for a particular candidate to become the new emperor? Did they spew vitriol and hatred from their mouths? NO, they ACTED in GENEROSITY that could only flow from the Holy Spirit living inside of them. They gave generously to others, to the cause, to the Way. They actually sold their belongings to give to others. They trusted in God’s way of doing things above what “made sense.”
I sum things up with some probing questions for those of you who have been impacted by these words: Does your Christianity resemble that of the early church in Acts or does your Christianity resemble something you’ve made up in your mind, influenced by culture? Are you doing anything to UNITE or are you saying things to DIVIDE? I ask all of you who are reading this and call yourselves “CHRISTIANS” or even if you want to start calling yourself a Christian, to take a deep look at the Scripture (our guide) and make sure you’re living a life that mirrors the Word and not the culture.
My deepest hope is that these words don’t offend you, but that they inspire you to truly see JUSTICE and to fight for something greater than the temporary. We don’t need another temporary fix, we need an eternal answer and that is only found in God’s justice.
I always try to offer some practical things that Christians can do when I speak or write, so here you go: A Christian response to tragic injustices.
- Organize a prayer march (it doesn’t have to be a huge, city-wide campaign, it can be just you and some friends). Go to neighborhood that has a different ethnic makeup and pray prayers of unity, understanding, hope, faith, and love. Some of you may be saying, “really, prayer, that’s the answer?” If you don’t believe int he power of prayer, don’t call yourself a “believer.” Prayer is more powerful than violence. Prayer breaks down more strongholds than hatred ever can, even if the hate is warranted. Prayer is our greatest weapon, use it.
- Invest in communities affected by injustice. Whether it be in Africa, Cambodia, India, in your neighborhood or in a neighboring community you can find ways to invest in areas that are underserved, overlooked and blighted by the system. Remember, God is greater than the system and He wants to use you to prove it! Start a Bible club for kids. Volunteer to coach a little league team. Organize a park clean-up day.
- Build relationships with people who are different than you. We act in rage against the things/people that we don’t understand. Intentionally building relationships with others who are not like you (upbringing, skin color, etc.) will help you understand the struggle of being in someone else’s shoes.
Much love to all, Pastor Scott A. Shoemake, Coast Church Ventura