I Can't Breathe
Guest Author: Zack Martin
“But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24 NASB).
Professional athletes wearing t-shirts with the slogan “I Can’t Breathe” on them. Facebook statuses and hashtags that say “Black Lives Matter.” Protesters marching in the streets and blocking major interstates. All of this is happening because of recent racial incidents that have taking place in America, in the 21st century. While we may never know all of the details in each case, we do know that these cases and others throughout recent American history point to a problem that we thought was long gone with the marches of the 60s.
Equality has been a problem since the Garden of Eden. When sin entered the world, relationships became frustrated and broken. No longer would there be unity and harmony outside of a true relationship with God (Gen 3). Then when God destroyed the Tower of Babel (Gen 11), we have the world broken into different languages and people groups, which become a breeding ground for the sin of prejudice and hatred. By the time we reach Amos’ ministry, we see that God’s chosen people, Israel, is oppressing their own people and neglecting the true nature of the law. After all, every man has been created in the image of God. This is the basis of our equality. However, in their minds, the ritual of worship was all that mattered concerning their relationship with God. But God was not pleased with their sacrifices and assemblies. Instead, he wanted them to be a people of justice and to have righteousness flow from them like stream that never stops.
Martin Luther King Jr. used this text often and famously in a sermon entitled ‘Paul’s Letter to American Christians.’ The Jim Crow era of American History said that it was ok to be ‘separate, but equal’ even when separate facilities and accommodations for blacks were not of equal standing to white facilities and accommodations. Thus a movement grew out of the African-American church to force the government to change the segregated policies of this country. In time, it did and we thought that everything had changed until now.
Why does the racial makeup of our congregations look the same as 1945? Why do white brethren not understand why the black community is upset over two “criminals” who died at the hands of a white official? It is not that we are condoning what these two men did, but because we live in fear for our lives each and every day as they did. You may never know how it feels to walk into a department store and have the security guard stare you down. Or to be ignored by a sales associate while the white customer who came in after you is helped immediately. You may never know how it feels to walk into a congregation for the first time and have no one speak to you or sit on the same pew as you. Your black brothers and sisters do.
Things have not changed because the church has failed in her task as ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:14-21). To be reconciled to Christ means that we are reconciled to each other as brothers and sisters across all socio-economic lines (James 2:1-12). Yet, we are fine in our separate congregations, lectureships, and colleges, etc. The reason why things have not changed is because we expected that the passing of acts and amendments to move this country forward in race relations. Wrong! The government will never be able to accomplish anything that was meant to be accomplished by the blood of Christ alone. Racial reconciliation can only come from our congregations and pulpits. We must begin the dialogue. We must begin showing compassion towards one another’s racial background. We are all one in Christ. Why can we not show this to America and come together as God would have us to?
Do you know that the blood of Jesus can overcome cultural differences? The early church faced many racial problems, but where able to overcome them (Acts 6; 15; Gal 2;). I know that I do not have all of the answers, but I do know that we must start talking and dialoging with each other now. It is so sad to me that many popular blogs in our brotherhood had more to say concerning the video of a female preaching intern, than about this issue of racial reconciliation. It is time to start talking and writing about this issue in both black and white congregations. Let us move past our past and into a glorious future. There will only be one congregation in heaven with one eternal worship service, and if we are not reconciled down here, there is no way to be reconciled in eternity, which means we will not be there. As MLK said ““Yet America, there is still the need for an Amos to cry out to the nation: “Let judgment roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”’
Who is willing to stand with me?
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