What do I think? What do I say? What do I feel? What do I do?
As I am inundated with the horrifically painful images of more black men, like me, dying nonsensical deaths like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, these questions have captured, controlled and dominated my mind, core and very being during the last few weeks—and honestly, my entire adult life. I often wonder, what would I have done if I was owned as someone else’s property? What would I have done if I could not sit at the front of a bus, eat in a certain restaurant or drink from the same water fountain as someone assigned more privilege than me—and in America of all places?
While I was never owned as a slave, told where I could or could not eat, or given a specific seat on a bus, the unfortunate fact is that I do know what I would think, say, feel and do—at least in part. I know because of my personal experiences of discrimination.
My history with racial injustice
Growing up in Compton, California, the last of eight children, was not easy, but for me, it was normal. That being said, nestled within Central Avenue and Caldwell Street, I realize my normal might have been quite abnormal for many others. Outside of the local gangs (Crips and Pirus), random shootings and drug dealing, my greatest fears were of those assigned to serve and protect me. The ones who chose to keep me—and those like me—terrified to explore the world outside my neighborhood, ever hesitant to cross the invisible lines drawn by internal fears.
I know how it feels to be treated with injustice simply because of the color of my skin. I’ve been unjustly profiled, pulled over and verbally degraded by the police with a gun in my face. I’ve been passed over for career advancement simply because I was created in the image of God. This is but a sample of the vulnerable realities, experienced by many like me. They have pierced me, pierced us, with wounds so deep words cannot express.
Still today, so many years later, whenever a police car is behind or beside me, I revert back to what I call “self-inspection.” I begin to search for whatever I am doing wrong—despite my innocence. Please hear me, family. There are wounds from which the transformational gospel of Jesus Christ has healed me and others, but many of our relational wounds have not been given the opportunity or safe space to be restored.
Recently in America, because of the senseless death of another black man, George Floyd, the scab of hopelessness has been removed once again. Apart from Christ’s work in me, I’d be left questioning my personal value and my value in belonging to the unified body of Christ. I, like other black men and minorities, am sick because my hope is seemingly deferred once again...but what do I say, without being misunderstood? What do I do without being biasedly judged? What can I really say and do to make a systemic difference?
I am a black man, sovereignly and purposefully created by God, in the image of God. Equipped by God with gifts and skill sets to navigate through the harsh terrain of the United States of America and the churches therein—which have led to much success. Yet it has been, and still is, painful. On the other hand, God has sovereignly created many of you in the majority. He made you white, and in the same way, He didn’t do it by mistake. However God designed us, He has given us the responsibility to steward our identity and privileges (or lack thereof) in a way that serves others and brings Him glory.
So, “majority church,” family of God, I need to have your ear for a moment. I am, we are, your people—both created in the image of God, with the same Father. Family, I need you, we need you, more than ever. What will you say for me, and other men and women like me? What will you do for other men and women who do not have the same privileges granted as you? What will you say and do now that might have an impact for eternity?
Following Esther’s example
I recently completed a survey from the book of Esther, and she too was challenged to speak up or else, to remain on mute. While Esther, an orphan, and other Jews were in exile in Persia, a plot arose to annihilate the entire Jewish population. After Esther climbed the social ladder to eventually become queen of Persia, she was confronted by her older cousin, Mordecai, who raised her. Would she intervene—and risk her position and her life—to prevent the potential genocide of her people? In Esther 4, she reached her defining moment. She had a choice to be all-in with her people or to remain silent:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
Family of God, we’re experiencing another “powder-keg moment” in our American history. What will you do, what will you say—for me, for us, for your people? Here are a few ways you can follow Esther’s example and make a conscious choice to take your life off mute for your people:
Count your losses
Just as Esther risked her life for her people, you must be willing to lose everything, including your life, to rescue the lives of others. This will cause you to leave a place of homogenous comfort. As Luke 14:26 suggests, we may be required to lose a mother, father, sister, brother, extended family, close friends and social status to follow Jesus’ example as a voice for others. This might mean speaking up at the dinner table with family, ending friendships and even relocating to live among the people. This will cost you, but it is a worthy price to pay.
Courageously respond with obedience
No matter the cost, we must always be willing to obey God with full confidence. God isn’t impressed with our sacrificial offerings, but as 1 Samuel 12:22 reminds us, what He desires more than anything is your obedience. When everyone else won’t, you will—you must! Out of obedience to God, seek righteousness and justice for the sake of others (Prov 21:3). We all can talk a good game, but until we walk the talk with others, our voices will never be truly heard.
You must always move with creative grace, being led by the Spirit of God in everything you do. You cannot be influenced from the outside-in but rather from the inside-out. As Romans 8:14 says, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” When you respond to what God places in your heart to do for the sake of others, this provides living proof to the world of your identity in Christ. You must be willing to leave the dock. Just go and do something and worry about the details later. Let the wind of the Holy Spirit blow where He wants you.
Calculate your time
The time is now. When you hear, “for such a time as this,” “this” means this was a time for this person. Every one of us is given limited time to accomplish a limited work. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:16, you are to make “the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” You have a “dash account” (as in, the dash on your eventual tombstone). This is your pre-calculated amount of time between your date of birth and your death. You must not use it only for yourself, but also—and mostly—for the good of others. Ask God, “How can I use the little time I have on earth to help others?” When He answers, respond.
Your cause must be love
You will find many causes that will try to provoke you to action. Historically, all of them eventually flame out. You can even be inspired by the love of your people, but you must always love your God more. In 2 Corinthians 5:13-14, Paul talks about being “out of our minds” for God and the love of Christ compelling us.
When you have a personal passion, it can become disproportionate—driven only by emotion—until you eventually find yourself running on empty, trying to win a demonic war of the flesh. But God will cause you and equip you to do the extraordinary, stimulated by your genuine love for Christ. He will challenge you to speak with your life for the sake of others and provide you the supernatural fuel to sustain you.
Following Christ’s example
So, what do you now think? What do you now say? What do you now feel? What do you now do? How do you personally unmute your life? How do you personally begin lamenting through counting your losses, courageously obeying with creativity while wisely calculating your time that’s inspired by love? How do we move as a unified family from dialogue to action?
Yes, you can read more books or blogs like this one, attend more training and sponsor more conferences. You can count the number of nations or minorities you have in your church; you can even count the number of your minority friends. But things will never change until your people genuinely become my people, and my people genuinely become your people. It’s not until your house, your church, becomes my home. My majority family members, I challenge you today to unmute your lives for our sake—and if not our sake, at least for Christ’s sake.
Start by developing authentic relationships with others outside of your homogeneous network of friends. Break bread, have a cup of coffee, just be with each other as family. Start developing relationships with sister churches unlike yours. Create pathways to send your members called to multiethnic ministry. Let them take their time, talents and treasures to serve long-term or lifetime under the leadership of a minority pastor.
Start intentionally reaching all nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Intentionally touch all people in your Jerusalem (locally). Don’t skip over your diverse Jerusalem to reach the outermost parts of the world if God has already sent the world to you. And start intentionally developing leaders and influencers of all nations. If God has sent them, it is your responsibility to develop them. Ask God for wisdom on how to move them from attenders to members to servers to servant leaders to decision-makers within your local church. Simply, become a disciplemaker of all nations.
What God said to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, I believe He has already said to His Church. He has seen the affliction of the people, so He has come down to deliver them through the finished work of Christ. Therefore, come now, He will send you. My brothers and sisters, you have one opportunity—one lifetime to accomplish this! The door has blown wide open in America, will you be the one? Can God send you?
My family, this is the unmuted gospel! For Christ Himself counted His losses, courageously died, creatively redeemed us at a calculated time, and His cause was love for all people! Let’s follow the example of Christ, and as a result:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:14-16)
As a unified body, made in the image of God, let’s follow Christ’s example and take our lives off mute—moving from dialogue to action, from speaking to living.
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