How good and pleasant it is when people live together in harmony!
– From Psalm 133
How long, O Lord, will we experience hate speech and evil actions? How long will we see the kind of divisive and violent display we saw in Charlottesville? How long will we refuse to lift the veil to reveal the truth about our nation, about ourselves? How long, O Lord, will we remain silent, complicit? How long will it take us to stand courageously as people of God and proclaim in whatever ways we are able that racism, xenophobia, homophobia and every form of injustice will not prevail in our nation?
The God who made us and nurtured us expects us to act with courage in the face of evil, to speak, to write our leaders, to be present in the quest for justice, to wage peace, to pray for the strength to change our world, and most importantly, to be brave enough to pull back the veil, to truly see the depth of the division in our nation and the racism in our own hearts. This is God’s calling and challenge to us. But most of the time, most of us meet God’s challenges with hesitation and questions.
I am only one person with many limitations. How can I make any difference at all?
I don’t know enough to speak out. How can I influence anything?
I am not strong enough. How can I persist in the midst of such violence?
The lives of our sisters who live on in the Scripture encourage us by their courageous example and summon us to be change-agents that work for the day when God will reign on earth as in heaven.
Deborah, prophet and judge in Israel, calls us to emulate her wisdom, courage and compassionate zeal for justice. (Judges 4:4-14)
The four daughters of Phillip the Evangelist call us to prophesy as they did with boldness and courage. Eusebius refers to them as “great lights” or “mighty luminaries.” These strong women held a unique place in the early church, exercising their prophetic ministry freely and powerfully. Will we become “great lights” in the midst of hatred’s darkness? (Acts 21:9)
Esther calls us to the kind of bravery and courage that led her to risk her life to save the lives of her people. Like her, perhaps we have been called for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14)
The five daughters of Zelophead call us to be fearless. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah stood fearless and firm, and as result reformed the culture of their day. Because they spoke up without fear, they reversed precedent. Their call to us is to speak truth to power. (Numbers 27:1-7)
Certainly, our deepest desire is for “people to live together in harmony.” But until that day comes, we will speak and work and pray for peace and justice.
My friend, Ken Sehested shares a prophetic line from a poem penned by Adrienne Maree Brown: “Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered.”
In response, Ken writes:
The poet’s counsel in light of these things would be mine as well: “We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” (http://www.prayerandpolitiks.org/blog/2017/08/12/we-are-charlottesville.2776686)
I end with a wise word from another poet, Maya Angelou.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
With the example of our Biblical sisters, with God’s unambiguous call, let us move with courage, pulling back the veil, uncovering the truth, working for the day when people will live together in harmony.