By David Spickard
People have been asking me how I’m reacting to all that’s going on with the tragic shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and now the police officers in Dallas. I wrote out my thoughts this morning for our Jobs for Life team. I hope they’re helpful to you.
It’s difficult to know what to say or do in a time like this. For the most part, I’m numb. And yet, we need to respond. This is what the Lord gave me this morning – lament, pray, act, and persevere. I hope it gives us some clarity.
Lamenting is something I know nothing of – a deep, gut wrenching mourning for the suffering going on in individuals, people groups, and our world. As someone who’s experienced little tragedy in my life, I can easily be callous to the guttural response that is necessary in a time like this.
When Jesus learned that his friend, Lazarus was dead, He wept. It wasn’t a quiet cry, it was a loud, wailing cry – one born out of a desperate need to be comforted in the face of deep, deep sadness resulting from a world consumed by sin and death.
I didn’t want to watch the videos at first but knew I had to. I had a hard time getting through them and was forced to look away. I’m afraid to open up the news and social media to see what else is going on. But I can’t avoid and wish these events away. I have to confront them.
You guys know I’m not a crier, but this is too much. Too much pain, anger, fear, violence, and hate. My heart breaks for the particular people and families involved, for you, my African-American brothers and sisters, and your pain, for police officers and their families, for our broken and unjust systems…
That is the lament God is calling me to.
Be still and know the Lord is near as He has promised and is fighting for us. He has not left us nor forsaken us. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
My knee jerk reaction is to say something, have an opinion, or make a judgment. But that would be foolish. I must take the time to listen to God and to others – to hear His Spirit and understand the pain and feelings of my friends, both black and white.
When I truly listen and see God for who He is, I will have nothing to give, nothing to offer. I can’t try to bone up and be stronger or provide a plan for him to bless. My only response is to repent.
I’d like to think I don’t need to repent, but I know I can’t avoid it. I contribute to the broken systems of injustice. I discount people because of the way they look. I dismiss people’s pain as no big deal. I take for granted the sacrifices men and women in uniform make to keep me safe. I’m afraid to give away power and be generous with what God has given me.
While I can dismiss the shootings as complex, isolated events that don’t affect me, they reveal underlying issues bubbling underneath the surface in every community that lead to racial division, abuse of power, and injustice – issues to which I am complicit.Oh Lord, please forgive me. Help me turn around and go the other way. Just show me what to do.
While I want to fix the problem now, I must be willing to wait. The issues are too complex to be solved overnight. I need to join others to hear from the Lord, follow the lead of my African American friends, try to understand the challenges police face on a daily basis, and address root problems, not just the symptoms.
Jesus’ Gospel – a gospel that offers light in the midst of darkness, forgiveness for the unforgivable, and reconciliation across the greatest divides – gives us the resurrection power to provide real transformation.
So, when it’s time (whether now or later), I can’t sit back and do nothing. I must act. I must stand with my African-American friends, encourage my white friends to stay engaged, step into gaps of injustice, continue to build relationships across cultural lines, and be willing to get uncomfortable.
Doing nothing is not an option for any of us.
This will take a long time. And we must not lose heart. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can not forget that. But the journey will be hard.
When Lucy in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe asks if Aslan is safe, Mr. Beaver says:
“Safe?” Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
This unsafe King calls us to unsafe adventures in a broken world. We place our hope in His goodness and power to bring life from death, good from evil, and move out in power, love and self control that comes from His Spirit.
We know that we’re in it for the long haul and we have to persevere. The stakes are too high. The call to reconciliation so that all will flourish takes courage, bravery, tenacity, and endurance.
As our enemies (Satan and our sin) conspire to separate us, Christ died on the ultimate separator (the cross) to overcome sin and death for us. That is the good news of the Gospel. But that is not all. He gave us the power to do that over and over again together in this messed up world.
And you will receive (dunamis) power when the Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses. – Acts 1:8
We must boldly proclaim ALL of this. It is why we are here. It is the big picture of why we are engaging and mobilizing the Church. We aren’t just trying to help people get jobs. We are empowering all of us to live out God’s plan for humanity. Only people who are filled with the dunamis power of Christ can live this way.
Through the blood of Christ and His resurrected power, let’s do this.
David Spickard is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Jobs for Life (JfL), a global non-profit organization that engages and equips the local church to address the impact of joblessness through the dignity of work. He lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife, Alice, and their four children.
Reprinted with permission from DavidSpickard.com. Image: Jobs For Life.