Some thoughts on justice this MLK Day…

Nearly every year in the past on the day marking the celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I have shared a quote of some kind, but if I’m being honest, most of those times, I’ve never taken time to reflect or pray to God about how I should change myself, how I should advocate, how I should learn and value the experiences of others, or how I should amplify the voices of those still calling for the justice that Dr. King preached.

I’ve thought about what I should say today, and throughout the day so far, no words I’ve considered have seemed to be adequate. I’m not sure if these are either. And words that we say should not only be said today but also lived out every other day of the year. Let me start by saying that BLACK LIVES MATTER. Not only do they matter, but they are loved, they are valuable, and they are created in the image of God, a God who loves them, sees them, and hears them. All lives cannot matter until we recognize, work to ensure, and make it a reality that Black lives matter.

I don’t have all the answers on how we make this a reality, and as a white man who has never faced racial discrimination, I will never fully understand the pain and the struggles that so many BIPOC and other marginalized communities face. But what I can do is listen to and learn from those who have endured racism. I must continually pray that I am not a stumbling block to change but an advocate for it.

Trayvon Martin. Botham Jean. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Philando Castille. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Elijah McClain. Javier Ambler. Their lives among so many others mattered. And we must not forget the names of Black women who have been killed. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Breonna Taylor, and countless others. All of their lives mattered.

As we say their names, we must raise our voices in pursuit of a society that values all people just as Jesus Christ values all people. This doesn’t include just police and criminal justice reform, but also education, housing, healthcare, voting rights, and so much more. And we must have these conversations. We must not belittle and degrade the experiences and frustrations of those who feel as though an entire system is stacked against them. Listen to them. Listen to their voices. And choose to walk alongside them in their journey.

For me this is what it means to follow Christ. To follow Christ entails learning from others and amplifying the voices of those who are often not being listened to. Isaiah 1:17 teaches us this: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (NRSV).

We must also heed the words of Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV).

Advocating on behalf of others is an essential part of who I am as a believer in Christ Jesus and as someone in ministry desiring to proclaim the blessed name of Jesus every chance I get. I believe in loving others, because that is what we are called to do. To love others.

In Luke 10, Jesus tells the parable of a Samaritan who cared for a neighbor in need, a neighbor who was different than him. Jesus highlighted the Samaritan as an example for us to emulate. Jesus also showed us in Luke 20-21 that he cared for a widow who was being mistreated. He calls on us to care for widows and orphans, to care for the oppressed.

God calls us to a life of love and justice. While we pray for a revival of our hearts, while we pray for spiritual awakenings, let us also pursue justice. God hears the cries of those hurting, those who are in pain, and those who mourn. I pray that God continually breaks my heart regarding the injustices of this world. I don’t want to become numb to injustice.

God, open my eyes to the sufferings of others. Show me how to love others as you have called me to do. Lead me to help others who are hurting. Lead me to care for others, to listen to the experiences of others, to stand up for others. Lead me to love like Jesus. And as Dr. King loved to quote, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24 NRSV).

This is my prayer. Black lives matter to God. They should matter to us too.

Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

As I type this blog, I can’t help but imagine what my life would be without God at my side. It’s something that is quite honestly hard to imagine. Saying that life would be dark, lost, and without hope would be understatements. Yet, so many people around the world, and even on this campus, are lost. Either they haven’t built a forever relationship with Christ or they have never heard of him. My heart breaks for them. I can’t possibly imagine my life without God, and I simply wouldn’t want to. He gives me so much joy, and even in the darkest, bleakest of times, I still can this have joy. Even when the world crashes around me and I feel the slightest despair, I know I can always turn to the Light that is Jesus Christ.

For the millions upon millions of people in this world, there is no hope, no joy, and no assurance that there is something greater that loves and cares for people, no matter how broken. So many in this world have never heard the Gospel. And why is that? With the growing ability to communicate through ever improving technology, why is there so many people who have yet to hear the Greatest News of All?

Last week was Missions Emphasis Week (MEW) at UMHB, a week where 40+ missionaries came to our campus to get students excited for missions through special events, seminars, classroom visits, lunches, and simple conversations. It was a week where we discovered the numerous possibilities to be the Light in the darkness that’s in our university, our community, our country, and our world.

During MEW this year, we had a wall filled with the names of all the unreached people groups in the world. Some have millions, some just 100 people or less. Nonetheless, it’s the names of those who have never heard the Gospel. The Samoya people in Mali. The Domari Gypsy in Egypt. The Hani in Laos. The Arapaso in Brazil. The Galoli in Timor-Leste. The Mashadis in the United States. These are just some of the people groups in this world that have never been reached; people who have never heard the Gospel of Christ. By some accounts they make up 441 million people in this world. That’s more than 120 million people than the population of the United States.

It is my hope that one day there is no wall. Just as God brought down the wall of Jericho, my prayer is that He uses us to bring down this wall by spreading His love to the nations.

A picture of Shawn Shannon, our BSM director, and me in front of the Wall of Unreached People Groups

A picture of Shawn Shannon, our BSM director, and me in front of the Wall of Unreached People Groups

When planning for MEW 2015, our committee decided on the theme, Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. in reference to Micah 6:8 (NIV) which reads:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

As a body of Christ, we have been called to do these things. We are to act justly in that we oppress no one, to treat everyone with the same dignity as beings who are created by God, and to do unto others what is right. We must love mercy in that we do not envy or have hatred towards one another. Instead, we are to love, be merciful and forgiving. And we are called to walk humbly with the Lord our God by relying completely on Him, seeking what He desires from us.

To me, this passage from Micah illustrates perfectly the call we have to be missionaries in every place we go, whether that is in India, England, Kenya, or Belton, Texas. We are called to seek justice and stand up for the oppressed. We are called to love mercy and have compassion for all of God’s children. We are called to walk humbly. Where He leads us, we must follow.

As I took part in the seminars and special events, my heart ached when learning about all the darkness in this world. So many people are following idols and false prophets. So many people have belief systems based on fear. While we as believers worship our Lord because we have joy and peace in Him, others worship to appease their false gods in hopes that those idols will not harm them. Others try through good works to please their gods. I am more than glad that there is nothing I can do earn God’s grace, for He has freely given it to this imperfect, mortal human being.

Throughout the week, I was more than overjoyed in knowing that so many people are working to tear down this wall, to make the list of unreached names smaller and smaller. If I have learned anything from this week, it’s the reemphasis that everyone needs Jesus, and we must shout from the mountaintops that Christ died to save us all so that we could have joy and peace in Him.

As I learned about more people to pray for, more people to ask God to show them the way through the life of myself and others, I thought about how God can use me. I am so amazed how broken I am, how much of a sinner I am, how imperfect I am, and yet He still wants to use me for His glory. Christ desires to use broken, messed up people, to share His love to the nations.

As MEW wound to a close, we had a cultural worship night during Worship in the Quad (in the BSM because of rain). We sang two Indian songs, listened to a Welsh hymn, heard stories about refugees, and sang “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. It was a night which made me realize that we all, every tongue, and every nation will proclaim the name of Jesus.

We ended, as we do every week, gathered in a circle, with joined hands, singing Sanctuary. As we sang these words, I thought of how we are all called to be a Living Sanctuary as we proclaim His name for all to hear.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You

As believers in Christ, we are all called to be a Living Sanctuary for God. We are to be a body of Christ that spreads the Good News of Jesus Christ so that every tongue can praise His name.

Sunday night, at the FBC College House, I heard a song for the first time which I think epitomizes missions. I was moved through the words of the song “Vapors” by The Liturgists. Part of the song reads:

You oh God are Holy
Trees clap their hands for you
Oceans they dance for you

You are holy
Infinite and holy
A billion suns rise for you
Clouds paint the skies for you
Mountains stand tall for you
Valleys bow down to you
Everything rising to
Sing all our songs for you

The impossible and holy
Kings become fools for you
Kingdoms to ruins for you
Vapor finds ground in you
Music finds sound for you
Everything rising
Everything rising

Come like dawn
Like waves
Like sunlight
Bring this world to life

Come like rain
Like breath
Like springtime
Bring this world to life

I couldn’t help but be joyous. In the end, everything will glorify His name, everything will proclaim that Christ is Lord of all. Kings will become irrelevant, kingdoms will fall as the trees clap and the oceans dance for the Lord Almighty. What a beautiful picture in that every part of creation will sing praise to God. As believers in Christ, let us bring the hope we have in Him to all the nations. Let us tear down this wall of unreached peoples!

Let us remember to Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly!

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Scruggs, Randy and John Thompson, 1982. “Sanctuary.” SongLyrics. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

The Liturgists. Vapor. By Michael and Lisa Gungor, 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Vapor by The Liturgists

Sanctuary by Jessy Dixon