Rise Up and Unite
What a crazy time it’s been in the world these last couple months.
Ok, that may be grossly understated. I find myself waking up each morning bracing myself for whatever tragedy awaits us today. Do you do that too? Do you open your phone or turn on the tv in the morning with the thought, I wonder what’s going to happen today? I don’t think our parents grew up that way… honestly, I really don’t even remember ever feeling that way prior to September 11th, 2001. Something seemed to shift in our world after that…or maybe something just shifted in me? But here we are, day after day. Devastating hurricanes. Destructive earthquakes. Mass shootings. Racism running rampant. A country divided unlike ever before. It seems like every day it’s something new and we are left hurting as a world, as a country, as a people, and as individuals. As a parent of teenagers, I probably don’t have to tell you that these times are difficult to explain to them. And if I’m being totally transparent here, my go to response to things like this is to not respond at all. It’s all so overwhelming at times that I don’t even know where to begin or what to say, and frankly, I doubt that my words or actions would make a difference anyway. Sadly, I often just stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing out of ignorance and making things worse. Or I fear that speaking up will just add to what has become the white noise of the caustic public narrative. Do you ever feel that way too?
Imagine for a minute if we all reacted that way. Imagine if all of us, if the church decided that it was all too much and we really couldn’t change anything anyway so maybe we shouldn’t try. Lord help us…
Nehemiah could have done that. He was far enough removed from Jerusalem that he could have looked at the state of affairs there safely from his castle and said something like, “Wow. That’s really bad. I sure hope they figure something out.” But that’s not what he did. Nehemiah chose empathy. He was moved with compassion for his people and he decided to do something about it. He used his voice to inspire others to move toward reconciliation and rebuilding. And move they did. They were able to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in a mere 52 days. That is no small feat and some of those walls are still standing today. Nehemiah left a legacy that has affected generations.
I recently read an article from a secular source that explained how Christians saying “our thoughts and prayers are with you” was once an accepted thing, but now has become the equivalent of curse words in the public narrative. Why? Because they view it as our way of not actually doing something, or getting involved. It’s become an empty sentiment equivalent to what James talks about in the Bible when he says, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”-James 2:16-17 Ouch. Reading that really caused me to stop and think about my propensity to want to offer words rather than action… am I really living a life of faith, or am I just talking about it?
So friends, what are we going to do about this? Pray, YES. Prayer may be the most powerful thing we could possibly do to change our world. But then we also need to act. We need to pause to listen and seek to understand with an open mind and no agenda. Hear hearts, hear needs. Sit down and talk with people that are not like you so that you can exchange your ignorance for knowledge and understanding. Choose empathy like Nehemiah did. Then we need to take up our cross by setting aside our own selfishness and living bold lives that don’t allow us to merely sit on the sidelines and spectate, but force us to choose to rise up and get in the game. And then we need to say yes to doing something significant, or being someone significant in the lives of others. Show up for someone. Speak up for the marginalized. Put your hands to the work that God has called you to! If we all did that, slowly we would be able to repair lives that would slowly repair families, that would slowly repair neighborhoods, that would slowly repair our country, that would slowly repair our world at large.
Whose life do you need to show up in today? What is God calling you to that you need to say yes to? Who do you need to extend empathy and understanding to? What is that thing that you just cannot stay silent about for one more day? Let’s rise up, church, and show the world and each other what the love of Jesus really looks like. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Journal Prompt/Discussion Questions //
How do you tend to respond to crisis and tragedies in our world?
What do you think about James 2:14-17? Does this challenge you in any way? Why or why not?
What’s stopping you from saying yes to the things God is calling you to?
What can you do to say yes to God today?
Dear Lord, help us to not just take in your word, but to put it into action. Lord, show us the things you have planned out in advance for us to do- the things you want us to say yes to. And help us to say yes to those things and leave the results up to you. Help us to show the love of Christ to those within the church and those far from you with no difference or preference. Help us listen well and to seek understanding knowing that we are all sons and daughters of God. Help the church once again to be known for its love and let it begin in each of our hearts. In Jesus name…