Thoughts and Hopes

You’re not supposed to be receiving this email—from me, at least. Carrie and I are out of town, traveling on vacation with our family. And when we take time off, we commit to not checking email, the news, or social media in order to be able to focus on time with each other. And yet, sometimes, some things just break through and demand attention.

Two days ago, we were staying with some friends in another city, some “friends for life” kind of people (I hope you have these!), had just gotten home late at night from a dinner to celebrate my friend’s birthday, and were about to get some sleep, when my friend, who is African-American, checked the news on his cell phone, and said, “Uh-oh”.

Then, together we began to read the reports of the tragic deaths of men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and we began to sort through all kinds of stuff—the last two years of our nation’s history of dealing with these kind of incidents, his thoughts and feelings on the matter, and our common hope in a righteous and merciful God to help our hearts and our communities.

When we got up the next morning, and we prepared to get on the road to drive to visit grandparents, he spoke again of his fear of just getting in his car and driving to work. I’m trying to stay composed about all this, but it’s hard, he said. What if I get pulled over, he asked. The truth is, he said, I could say goodbye to you, get in my car, get on the road, and never come home. What about my two sons, he asked? I know God is bigger and has my life in his hands, he said, but it’s tough to remember right now.

And as he worked out with words what was in his heart, I looked out through the front door and saw our boys all playing across the street together, and the thought hit me afresh as I watched them—my sons, with their fair skin and fair hair, are growing up in an almost identical background as my friend’s—similar neighborhood, same faith background, similar income level, a stay at home mother to help them with school and sports, their grandfather was a career US military officer who served his country (my grandfather did the same)—and yet, one set of children’s parents have an extra layer of fear and challenge to shepherd their children through.

All I could do was tell him, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for how these shootings makes you feel, how it makes your wife feel every time you walk out the door, and for how we got here.

Our families said their goodbyes, got on the road, and made the drive to visit with grandparents, and my plan was to compose something late last night after we arrived to address the shootings…and then things got worse.

About twenty minutes from where we are staying, things erupted in downtown Dallas—I’m sure you’ve seen the news. Multiple police officers, helping oversee a peaceful protest, were killed.

And so, after the last 36 hours, I have some thoughts:

1. Fear is a terrible thing to feel.

Probably the one word that my friend and other African-American friends that I have been able to speak with have mentioned the most is the word fear. Afraid to get in their cars. Afraid to legally carry a handgun, the right for which they took a class, paid their money, and passed a test.

And, personally, as I read the news and police reports, and one of the Dallas shooters reportedly said his goal was to kill as many white police officers and white people as he could in his attack, a bit of fear began to creep into my heart as well—our family was planning on going to downtown Dallas. What if we become a target because of our skin color?

That fear is something that many of my brothers and sisters have felt their whole lives, in many cases, and it’s terrible. It messes with you, alters your plans, changes the conversations in your home, and it shouldn’t be a part of everyday life.

Do you know what casts out fear? Perfect love. And more specifically, love from someone who steps in between us and our fears. Hebrews 2:15 says that Jesus came “to free those who all their lives had been held in slavery by the fear of death”. And how did he do it? The verse right before it tells us—he became like us, tasted humanity, and put himself between us and our fear.

And in the same way, I want to suggest to all of us that we use our voices and our relationships to “cast out fear”—that is, we look at one another and say these words:

“As your brother or sister in Christ, I won’t let fear get you. I will stand between you and fear. I can’t promise nothing will happen to you, but I can promise I won’t let it happen while I’m around, and I can promise I will work to break the power of the fear of death in your life.”

And so, as a person in a position of relative position and power, I say to all my non-majority friends and members of Mosaic Church:

“As your brother or sister in Christ, I won’t let fear get you. I will stand between you and fear. I can’t promise nothing will happen to you, but I can promise I won’t let it happen while I’m around, and I can promise I will work to break the power of the fear of death in your life.”

What if we all did that? Said that? We might begin to make a difference.

2. Anger is a tough thing to handle.

Man’s anger, the desire to violently take back the thing that was taken from us, never solves anything. James 1 puts it like this: “Human anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.” That is, it doesn’t bring about the change we’d like to see.

But there is such a thing as godly anger—anger that pushes us to action and to our knees to pray with conviction and passion because we see things that aren’t right.

It’s never wrong to feel passionate about things that aren’t right—shootings, killings, hatred, racism, sin of any kind.

Anger is a powerful emotional motivator, and it’s not wrong to feel angry—God Himself feels angry all the time, the Scriptures tell us.

But “pray” your anger first before you speak or act—many times, when I have spoken or acted immediately out of anger I felt, I regretted something about what I did or how I did it.

3. Love is the only thing that can win.

Whenever Carrie or I have conversations with our children about race issues, we always end by saying two things, “This is why we preach the Gospel, and this is why we do multicultural church.”

Part of the reason our nation is so divided, is, well, because it’s so divided. We go home to little pockets of a culture or a city that are just like us and are rarely pressed to change our thinking about how we view difficult issues.

Therefore, I challenge you, if you’ve made it this far in the email, to pick up the phone and call, right now, if it’s possible, two people with a different color of skin than you, and ask them how they are feeling about the recent shootings, and if you are the person who gets called, make sure you reciprocate the question.

And then… listen. And make sure you end the call by praying together and affirming your love for one another.

Once again, could you imagine a world in which everyone did this? Do you think we might make progress around difficult topics?

I think we could. And I think we will, by God’s grace.

God, I pray for the world today. I pray for every heart darkened by fear, gripped by anger, and saddened by not being heard. I pray for every victim of every shooting or bombing around the world—for those in Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq, Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana. May justice prevail in every case, and may we be people who love justice and work for it because you do as well. And may we be people marked by love—not a passive love, but an active and courageous one, and may we step in between those we love and their fear, just like you did for us.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Let’s gather this Sunday as a disciple-making, multicultural, multigenerational community of faith to hug, pray, cry, worship, praise, listen, grow and heal.

Because that’s what Christians do.

Love, Morgan

P.S. In addition to our regular Friday morning prayer, we will be having a special prayer meeting tonight from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm in Elevate for all who would like to come. Child care is provided.

 

 



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