Today, as I seek God’s word, I struggle. I struggle with the right words – how do I speak in times like these? What do I say when tragedies continue over and over again? I understand my words do not matter – but God’s words do. So I pray that in the myriad of words I will bring to you today, you will hear something from God.
I can’t help but wonder….Do we value life? Do we really value life? Is one person’s life less valuable than another? Does one person hold more value because of who they are, where they live, their status, their color, their sex, their sexual orientation? Does this change the value of a life for us?
Embedded in our society is the belief that some lives hold more value than others. The events this week of one man killing George Floyd while handcuffed as he pleads for his life, just to simply take a breath, remind us that racism is still as real and alive as ever. George Floyd’s life held no value to the one that held him down. Regardless of whether he had a criminal record, what he had been arrested for or anything else, the bottom line is that his value as a person was diminished. In our recent past, racism was out in the open – where one goes to the bathroom, where one sits in an establishment or on a bus, what access to education and employment – these were all out in the open. It was apparent that white supremacy was real, obvious and prevalent. Since that time, it is still prevalent but hidden…it has been taken out of plain sight. Anyone can go to any bathroom supposedly or sit anywhere in theory – but you could be looked at differently, and potentially treated differently. You likely won’t be made to move, just a general wish you had not come. And let’s be honest, the only reason that this racism is in our face now is because someone recorded it. If it had not been recorded, it would have likely been swept in someone’s drawer as a closed case in favor of the white man. Racism is held under such a cover that it is only when exposed that we come face to face with reality. And reality is, in this case, quite ugly.
We cannot make excuses for what is happening. We cannot pretend that it doesn’t happen. When those we love around us are fearful for their lives and the lives of their children, it is way past time to act. And as the church, we should know better. We should be the difference. We should stand out front and fight against racism and sexism. But we are often the last to say anything – one because we often find racism in ourselves and two because we know those who are racist. What this really says is that we do not value all life. We hold that some lives have more value than others. Because of the color of skin or the lifestyle chosen, there is more value? I don’t need to hear stories of where white people have been hurt or where black people have done something to be seen differently. Bottom line…heterosexual white people have privilege because of ingrained white supremacy.
Yet, church, this isn’t at all what we are taught. We are not taught a difference in the eyes of God. We are not taught that one group is superior to another – or even that there are groups. There are not divisions based on color. Jesus never gave us an example of division among his created. Yet, here we are again. We are not taught to hate. We are not taught to decide who is worthy. We are not taught to judge someone based on looks or appearance. We are not taught that Jesus loves one group more than the other. We are not even taught that God loves America more than he does any other country or any other peoples. We have taken that on – and I cannot imagine that God is pleased with hate, bigotry, racism, sexism, or any of the like. This is God’s world, not simply God’s country.
It may be that you are saying we don’t know the other part of anyone’s story. I am saying we don’t need to. There is never a reason to hate. There is never a reason to discriminate. There is never a reason for white supremacy. There is never a reason to devalue life. And again…there is never a reason to hate based on the color of someone’s skin, their culture, their background, or their sexual orientation. Hate is not the answer.
I hear in the scriptures this: For God so loved…God created…The Holy Spirit came upon them…Power was given to them.
For God so loved the world…the whole world. We know the scripture and verse. Many of us have said it since we were children. We have it memorized. Even if you have not attended a church, you have likely heard of John 3:16. Yet we are not hearing John 3:16. For God so loved the whole world that he gave Jesus. God loved the whole world. It does not say that God loved white skin – side note, remember Jesus was not white. It does not say that God loved those that we think should be loved. It does not say that God loves those who follow the rules. It says that God loved the whole world…all of it…all of us. Jesus was sent because of God’s great love for us. To devalue a life is to devalue someone God loves. It is to devalue someone that God sent his son to die for. Money and privilege and skin color do not change God’s love.
God created…God created humanity with his own breath. He breathed life into us. To take that breath away is to take life away. To stop breath is to stop life that God has given. To not see someone as God’s beloved is to take God’s creation and tell God he doesn’t love this life as much. I don’t see that in God’s word. But I sure see it in our world. If we truly believe that God created, then we will work to have equal value for all of God’s creation. No life is less valuable.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. This is the Sunday that we remember the day that the Holy Spirit fell on God’s people – something promised by Jesus as a guide and a comforter. I want to direct your attention to the scripture where Jesus describes the Holy Spirit.
25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
This is a portion of the description that Jesus offers about the Holy Spirit that is being given to the believers. In Acts 2 we see the fulfillment of this promise. As believers, we hold that Jesus offers us the Holy Spirit. We understand that when we choose to follow Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit to live in us and through us and around us as we seek to fulfill God’s will. I think that most of us could agree. But what does the Holy Spirit do? If the Holy Spirit is living in us, we are guided, helped, taught, courageous, loved, and given peace. If we are led by Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, I cannot see where we can be anything but love. I cannot find where we can be anything but peacemakers. I cannot see where there is room for hate or judgment. I cannot find a place for racism or hatred or devaluing life.
Christians, if we truly believe that God so loved the world…if we believe that God created…if we accept that the Holy Spirit is living in us…how can we tolerate hatred, racism, or the devaluing of any life? I don’t see how those can be together. I do not believe that God has filled us with his presence to make us feel superior or full of hatred or supreme to any other human being. I cannot see how we cannot stand with our black and brown sisters and brothers in a time when there is struggle. We should be standing with those that are hurting. We should be fighting for justice. This should be a time when we are showing that the world may be acting like fools, but the church stands with you, supports you, loves you. The church should be leading the way. Where are we church? What are we doing in times like these? Do we really value all life? God created…God loves.