My heart hurts over the turmoil, unrest, and sorrow we are experiencing within our country. My heart is broken for those experiencing the hurt, suffering, and anguish firsthand.
While trying to overcome this ongoing heartbreak, I feel as though divisiveness is stepping on my chest. It is the split over racism, protests, police, partisan politics, and so much more.
It would be easy to look at what is happening around us through the lens of race, political affiliation, location, or economic status.
However, Jesus implores us to see the world and our neighbor through the eyes of God. No small task, right?
One of the best ways to see the world and our neighbors through God's eyes is to turn to God's Word. Here we find God calling God's people to do some of the most remarkably counter-cultural things, such as love for enemies, praying for those who mistreat you, blessing those who curse you, and doing good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27-28). When it is easy to turn to judgment and condemnation, God calls us to understanding and mercy (Luke 6:37).
Jesus echoes the voices of the prophets from long ago, when he unrolled the scroll of Isaiah, reading: The Spirit of the Lord is on me because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
When the people of God turned to offer up religious sacrifices and offerings, God turned them to the worship that God desires more: Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
"Come, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:16-18)
These are not easy words. These are not easy mindsets to take hold of. These are not easy actions to take.
What is happening in the world around us is not easy. The answers and action steps to solutions are not easy.
However, it is too easy to let television and political pundits tell us what we need to think and do. It would be super easy to make up our minds on all of this, shutting down our neighbor and the world. It is way too easy to shut down, unfriend, and disassociate with friends, coworkers, church members, and others who hold a different perspective than we do.
But when did Jesus ever invite us into what is easy, but to what is right, good, noble, and true?
The first thing we are called to do in all circumstances is to pray. Pray for understanding, wisdom, compassion, and truth.
Jesus models the grace of listening to our neighbors, especially those who are very different from us. Consider the woman at the well, the diseased, the Roman Centurion, the many encounters with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, the beggars, and the foreigner. The art of hearing without overtly interjecting is remarkably difficult in a world that wants its opinions to be heard.
James challenges us to be slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (1:18-19). Ask God to show you the buttons that turn on your frustration, resentment, annoyance, and anger with others.
Allow the Spirit of God to turn you to wonder when the easy solution is cynicism, criticism, and division. Ask the questions: I wonder why she feels that way; I wonder why this issue stirs my anger; I wonder how Jesus might handle this situation.
Jesus calls us to have the most radical sense of love for others, especially those who we do not see eye-to-eye with and those who are very different from us. Ask God to give you the strength to love unreasonably, as you embrace God’s irrational grace for you.
While these five action steps are far from long-term solutions, they are simple ways by which we can live out the way of Jesus in a very challenging time.