Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice
[Adapted from the Archives]
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.” – Isaiah 30:18
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. — Job 1:22
When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
– Matthew 9:36
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
In today’s context, “woke” is a word that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.
Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone
I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.
Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.
We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.
Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.
Photo Credit: Augusta Native
It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…
[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]
On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).
He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.
I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.
In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:
- Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
- Consider. In nursing school, we learned that “Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
- Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
- Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.
To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:
An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.
An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Photo Credit: Historical Movies
“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”
Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?
Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.