Our hearts are heavy. We are angry. We are afraid.
To date, 112,000+ Americans have died from coronavirus. There are too many to know by name. Our hearts are heavy. We watched one man, George Floyd, suffocate slowly while an officer brutally knelt on his neck, and we are angry. We watched neighborhoods and stores looted and set on fire, and we are afraid. Grief, anger, and fear cause some to feel life is spiraling out of control.
We saw the warning signs.
Scientists had warned of an inevitable global pandemic. Evidence had mounted that racism is systemic and is creating a festering national wound. God’s Word had informed us of an untamed heart of darkness within all people.
We fight against disease, praying while we race to develop a vaccine. We condemn racism and come together to root it out, praying that God will change our hearts. We link arms to rebuild our cities, neighborhoods, and businesses, praying that God would give us strength.
Yet, our hearts are heavy. We are angry. We are afraid.
Such emotions tell us we are alive; we are not numb toward suffering nor dead toward the ravaging effects of evil. Our injured hearts tell us there is hope. But, how should we respond now and in the future? How do we walk together through such national pain? What should we do?
“Lament” is the Bible’s term for intense personal and national pain. Scripture records many laments (mostly in the Psalms) to instruct us on how to process sorrow and misery before God. As a nation and as the church, we lament.
Racism is sin. It is the rebellion against God of devaluing or striking down His image found in another human being. Racism, at its core, is hatred toward God. Such sin can be personal, but it can also be within a society that tolerates and perpetuates such hatred. It’s one of those sins where we cannot claim a personal exemption because we all live in a nation that has carried systemic racism since its inception. We are all affected and are all responsible.
But we can also suffer when we have done nothing wrong— COVID-19.
In Psalm 22, King David cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Jesus mouthed that same sorrow from the Cross as He suffered and bore the crushing weight of our sin to bring eternal life and light to our hearts in darkness and despair.
We begin by kneeling before God in pain and repentance. Only then can we begin to address the hurts we have caused one another.
There are times when we best offer a “ministry of presence.” We sit with those who mourn as Job’s friends sat with him (Job 2:11-13). They didn’t cause trouble until they spoke and tried to give unwise and unwelcomed counsel. We, the church, need to be present with the love of Jesus. If we speak, it needs to be with love and the hope of the gospel. Mostly, there is a time when we just listen. Seek out those who are different from us— racially and otherwise. Sit, listen, and be present in the pain. Our words mean little until we are willing to be present in the suffering, not necessarily fully understanding, but certainly acknowledging it.
We must stand for that which is right— often at a price. We must stand for justice and righteousness. The problem is that sometimes we stand in condemnation and add to the anger and pain.
We readily and rightly quote John 3:16 as the answer, but do we forget John 3:17, which says that Jesus did not come into the world “to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (ESV)? God brings the solution through Jesus Christ.
We often fail to sit and fail to stand, choosing to move straight away into “fix-it” mode where we try to correct that which only Jesus alone can heal. Our role is to bear testimony to the truth. Our part is to stand together for what is right and just.
As time goes by, we walk together on a long path of love that leads to the Cross, where we find forgiveness, eternal life, hope, healing, and peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1). We want to take shortcuts or even drag people to the Cross, forgetting that the path to the Cross is often winding, complicated, and narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).
The pain and loss of lives from the coronavirus will affect families for decades. It will also affect neighborhoods, cities, businesses, and the church for years as we rebuild. There are no easy fixes. We must choose to walk together and carry one another’s burdens for a long time.
The pain of longterm, systemic racism runs deep, and that words alone will not heal. It, too, affects our neighborhoods, cities, businesses, and the church. It will be a path of repentance, restoration of trust, and rebuilding. But it is possible in Christ, and it is possible if we choose to walk together in love. This path is particularly challenging because it as already 300 years in the making and is tearing our nation apart.
This path must lead to Jesus because there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12). No human efforts will bring healing because the root problem lies within our hearts when we believe that one human being is superior or more valuable than another. We are all created in God’s image.
Most of all, this is a time to offer hope when many are hurting, angry, and afraid. We do suffer in this world, but only for a while. This hope is rooted not in our efforts and abilities, but in Christ, who is our hope (Hebrews 4:19). He works through us to bring the promise of eternal life in Him by faith and in love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Jesus has already suffered and died to bring eternal life, hope, and peace to all who are willing to believe in Him.
We kneel in prayer before the Lord. We offer our presence in these national pains. We stand for what is right and just, and we are willing to walk the path of love that leads to hope and eternal life in Jesus. We are a people of hope, and in this time of intense pain and lament, we have great opportunity to demonstrate and proclaim the love and gospel of Jesus.