The following is adapted from a post by James Kessler, a friend and church planter with our network in Columbus, OH.
[This] was a week where we were celebrating the birth of the church (Pentecost) while following Jesus’ command to be the Church. Jesus proclaims woe for a world of oppression (those who were rich, full, laughing, powerful due to the oppression of the weak), then he calls his church to enter the arena, the world of woe. Jesus grieves, then sends us. The evidence that he means for our work in the world of woe to be personal is clear from the verses the follow – only when you show up in person where injustice happens, only then can you lose your tunic, or your goods or your freedom. The Church is baptized in fire (Acts 2) at Pentecost, it is tempered in that furnace, so that it can be useful in the world on fire.
So what does it look like to show up?
Look at Jesus’ instructions above next to MLK’s philosophy of non-violent resistance here:
Six key principles. First, one can resist evil without resorting to violence. Second, nonviolence seeks to win the “friendship and understanding” of the opponent, not to humiliate him. Third, evil itself, not the people committing evil acts, should be opposed. Fourth, those committed to nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retaliation as suffering itself can be redemptive. Fifth, nonviolent resistance avoids “external physical violence” and “internal violence of spirit” as well: “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him”. The resister should be motivated by love in the sense of the Greek word agape, which means “understanding,” or “redeeming good will for all men”. The sixth principle is that the nonviolent resister must have a “deep faith in the future,” stemming from the conviction that “The universe is on the side of justice”.
This is what non-violence does, it does what MLK calls refusing to cooperate with an evil system. This is what Daniel does as he disrupts the oppression of Jews by praying in the open, it is what Tamar does when she bears the signet ring of her oppressor. This is what the disciples do when they are whipped before the Sanheidran. They resist by their presence, by their refusal to be shamed into hiding. The greatest weapon we have been given in this world is written on our faces. We bear the image of God, and when we resist evil openly, when the oppressor slaps away the image of God we will present to them the image of God written on the other side of our face. On account of Jesus we will do this.
It has always been true, just more acutely today: only in-person non-violent resistance to evil, using the image of God imprinted upon us from birth, as one body, forged in the fire of Pentecost, will meet the challenge of the devil at work in the world. The call of Jesus two thousand years ago is the inheritance of this day’s church.
Now, that isn’t always going to look like civil disobedience, or like manning a barricade, but it will look like presenting yourselves, in person, with those who are grieving, with those who grieve injustice. It will also look like all kinds of ways of identifying with the nations gathered at Pentecost, working toward true mutuality; that is, working toward a true Pentecost church. Only then do we inherit the promise of Revelation seven, a day where we wash our robes together, and sing in one chorus the song of the redeemed.
I’m learning with you. Our church’s City team, and some of my friends elsewhere, have helped me compile the following list of resources. This isn’t about whether we agree, completely, with everything provided in every resource below. Partnering together is about learning from one another and embracing trust. But we will have to set our hearts to the work of charitable and critical thinking if we are going to grow. And show up. Blessings to you. Let’s pray for one another as we see where the Spirit of God is leading.
- Is the Bible Silent on Racism? By Timothy Cho https://faithfullymagazine.com/bible-silent-racism/
- A resource for anti-racism readings: https://faithfullymagazine.com/books-christians-antiracism/
- Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison
- Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- A list of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234
- The experience of a black man seeking to live a law-abiding life while “fitting the description.” Helpful: https://www.stevelocke.com/blog/i-fit-the-description?fbclid=IwAR36-FlOh-XNqt79MQcOdcq56JdNxZ-Q4ungG_LBIW599hFLljNFNg_lTfk
- Children’s books that may help us to have good discussions with children about race: https://www.embracerace.org/resources/26-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-resistance?fbclid=IwAR1aQYdzNQ2yqdcXwKT26w4yLcOv6WVJ5tSDvShQ-x0WjQOACpH9hohJzWU
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Just Mercy
- True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality
- When They See Us