Dear Church, from Karl

This is part of a series of posts inviting friends to share their perspectives.

Sit.

Just sit with me.

This is the beginning of the process.

In the Book of Job, we meet a man named Job who in an instant has his world turned upside down. Job is weary, tired, and seemingly hopeless. Then three of his friends pay him a visit.

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Job’s friends did the first part by sitting and lamenting with him. Lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. These past few weeks have shined a spotlight on issues that people of color have been suffering through for decades. What people of color—myself included—are looking for is first for our white friends to sit in the sorrow and suffering with us. Lamenting is tied directly to empathy. I recently heard someone articulate empathy as “when someone else’s pain lives in you.” Does my pain and that of millions of black people sit in you? Can you get past your politics and opinion on which lives matter and just be in this moment with me? Can you forget about who you are voting for in November and just be in this pain with us? And what really concerns me is that movements like this one our world is experiencing will be stopped short of real progress because many are not prepared for the long haul.

Stretch

No one likes to be uncomfortable, and right how many white evangelicals are feeling very uncomfortable. Many will bury their heads in the thought that “this too will pass,” hoping that the national and global consciousness will get absorbed with the next thing. Understand that when someone is preparing to run a long race, the key to being successful is in the stretching. These are the quiet moments, the non-heroic moments, where the runner prepares their body and goes through the painful task of readying themselves to conquer the challenge they are about to face.      

The work of the Christ-follower is never simple and never easy. It always requires much of us. I see this illustrated by the writer of Hebrews. Yes, we need to sit and feel the weight of this historical moment, but we also need to stretch ourselves and prepare our bodies, our souls, and our children for the race against injustice, inequality, and all other sins that Jesus died to eliminate. This is what the writer of Hebrews was getting at.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG

Would we allow these few weeks to change us and make us ask ourselves over and over: are my eyes fixed on the race that is ahead? My sincere hope is that in two months when all the news coverage ends that you would be running alongside me to fight for my kids and yours. To do the hard, uncomfortable work that may cost you friends, that may make Thanksgiving awkward when you have to check your cousin who is making ignorant comments. That may force you to make adjustments to your life because you now understand your greater responsibilities to brothers and sisters that don’t look like you.

Send

Listen, I could tell you about the time when I was nine years old walking to the park with my brother and a car filled with white teenagers drove past us calling us the N-Word. I could tell you of countless other times I’ve been called different demeaning and dehumanizing words. I could tell you about the time the police knocked on my front door because someone in my affluent white neighborhood had called them to report me for getting my mail out of my own mailbox. They posted my picture onto a neighborhood board with the words “ thief“ above my picture. I could tell you of countless times when I worked at predominately white churches and was told to stop preaching “that way” and of countless other times being told, “if you looked different you’d be on stage more.” I could tell you about all the times that I felt used by white Christian leaders for their gain as their token black guy. I could tell you how few phone calls and text messages I’ve gotten from fragile white Christian brothers and leaders who just aren’t sure what to say. But I don’t need to tell you all that. I need to tell you that I refuse for this to be my daughter’s stories. I refuse to feel scared and marginalized any longer. I refuse to allow the brokenness of this world to take away my God-given identity and inheritance in His kingdom.

Let’s send a message to the world that enough is enough, and that we as the people of God will not stand idly by. That we will not settle for just posts, hashtags, and marches. But in solidarity, black and white, rich and poor, Republicans and Democrats together will seek the new heaven and new earth Christ promised, and together as sojourners in this world fight for His Kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven.”

I recently heard someone articulate empathy as “when someone else’s pain lives in you.” Does my pain and that of millions of black people sit in you? @karlromeus Click To Tweet

Karl is a speaker, leadership coach, and consultant. Karl has been in ministry for almost 20 years. Most recently at a vibrant church with 22,000 people in weekly attendance. He oversaw children’s, middle school, high school, and college ministry across all campuses. He studied Christian Leadership and Biblical Theology at Grand Canyon University. 

You can connect with him on Instagram and Twitter.

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan. Husband to Michelle and father to five. Author of Redeeming Pleasure and Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Portland.

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