Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All Good People & All God's People; Seek & Speak Truth

We are living in a heated time. There's a lot of emotion in the air. People are angry. Racial inequity, gun policies and police procedure leave people clenching fists on both sides of the issue, not to mention the anger that comes with grief of vibrant life lost.

What I know, is that violence is a major issues in the US and the world. It is something that I really despise. So much so that watching something like UFC fighting makes me feel like a barbarian. Recent events have filled me with so much inner rage that at first I don't know what to do about it except cry and pray angry prayers. Let me recap (please know that I acknowledge countless others as well)

1) The massacre of LGBTQ individuals in Orlando
2) The shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA
3) The all too close to home shooting of Philando Castille
4) The senseless murder of police officers in Dallas
5) The subsequent protesting and reaction to protesting by Police.
6) The assault on police during protests turned to riots (by only a small group of participants).
7) The anger of communities: both black and those close to law enforcement providers.
8) The use of a tuck as a weapon of terror in Nice, France. 
9) The murder of police officers in Baton Rouge
10) The even more recent shooting of an unarmed Assisted Living assistant in North Miami.

Death is tragic. When lives are ended prematurely I am wrecked. Especially by violent means. These last weeks I have been wrecked more that I ever remember.

The last couple days I've been pretty angry about the state of the world and the way people are relating. I'm really frustrated that Black Lives Matter has to be a slogan of a national organization. I understand why it does, but I am bothered because, in my intellectual mind, of course Black Lives Matter. For many white Americans like myself, we conceptually believe that black lives matter on paper. But current events and history shows they remain collectively of less worth. I'm furious that I gleaned from my education that after Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement happened, racism disappeared and everybody was made equal. In the shelter-the-child-from-reality world we live in, a lot of the grit of the situation was removed. Now I've come to a better understanding of my own privilege and I'm conflicted when I see it, because I don't know what to do with it. I'm not sure how I give it away. I feel like I'm supposed to do something or say something, but I don't have the words to say or the knowledge of what to do. As an emotional man, I'm afraid of sounding ridiculous if I'm too passionate about how my privilege guilt feels. I'm afraid to speak up, in case I am wrong. I'm even more afraid of not speaking up and falling back upon the privileged I have been so unfairly blessed with.

A while back now, Pastor David Berge of City of Lakes Covenant Church and Resurrection MPLS preached on the 9th commandment, which according to Genesis 20:16 is: "Do not give false testimony against your neighbor."

Now the sentiment of this commandment is, in simple terms, do not lie. Please take a listen to Pastor Berge's sermon via the link above, as it brings up some very enlightening thoughts on this passage and issues that I will not hit on. I would like to ask, on a simple literal sense: what is the actual definitions of the words of this commandment? I feel that this small case study in the depth of words is fascinating.

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of false is:
  • not real or genuine
  • not true or accurate; especially : deliberately untrue : done or said to fool or deceive someone
  • based on mistaken ideas
This definition should be easy for us to understand. What is false is what is not true. That is a true definition. But there's more to what this is saying about giving false testimony. Now testimony has legal connotations, but do not consider that to be limiting. 

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of testimony is:
  • something that someone says especially in a court of law while formally promising to tell the truth
  • proof or evidence that something exists or is true
This starts to show just have intent this commandment is on maintaining truth. First the word false means untrue, now testimony is defined as a formal promise of the truth, or a direct assertion that something exists or is true. This takes the ideal of lying and goes a bit deeper. This is saying false or mistaken testimony should be avoided at all cost. This means do not gossip, do not assume, do not spread rumors against your neighbor. That brings me to my last set of English definitions:

According to Merriam- Webster the definition of neighbor is:
  • a person who lives next to or near another person
  • a person or thing that is next to or near another
According to Merriam- Webster the definition of near is:
  • close to someone or something in distance
A neighbor is someone or something close. That's pretty vague. Let us think of that as people who we are connected. Does this mean only our friend? ... I think history has confirmed that we don't always like our neighbors. They don't always see the world the same way as us. In fact, Christ says in Matthew 5:42-44a, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ..." 

So what does the 9th commandment mean now. It's not simply saying do not lie. It's not only saying do not tell an intentional falsehood or blatantly defame in court the person to whom you live next door. 

It is saying so much more. The ninth commandment is about being a truth seeker and speaker. It is about testifying to truths revealed and doing so with kindness. It's about standing for the truth for the good of our neighbors. This means we should be doing our research and listening to what the Spirit of God says inside of us. As Christians we have access to truth. We have freedom to pray, both as intercessors for our neighbors and in discernment as to how to relate to them in a positive, kind and professing-of-the-truth manner.

In Pastor Berge's sermon he referenced John 18:33-38 in which Christ says to Pilate "I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice" (vs 37b). To this Pilate responds: “What is truth?” (vs 38). Berge details how Pilate's declaration is much like the world today. Truth is relative to who speaks in in our time. Lies are followed by lies and then can be frequently passed as truths. We cannot behave like this if we are Christians. As Christians we must be people of the truth. That is to say if we are of Christ, we must be testifiers of truth. We shouldn't withhold evidence or provide partial accounts of events.

Christ is Truth. As Christians it is our responsibility to see to that truth in prayer. It is also our responsibility to care for the underprivileged, the needy and the oppressed. In a confusing way, it's also our responsibility to respect authority and the rulers of this world. It's not easy be we have the God of creation and the Spirit of that God inside of us as our councilor in these matters. 

I challenge you that if you haven't, please take a listen to Pastor Berge's sermon linked above, but more importantly, seek God. Listen with a discerning ear to what is said. Be mindful of what you hear and what you say, seek truth, and seek to speak truth. We are all children of God, black, white, hispanic, asian, Christian, Muslim, or police officer. The shedding of innocent blood is despicable. 

Because it's worth sharing, I have placed the inspiration for the title of this post below. This video is from a 3/31/2016 concert at the Varsity Theater, over in Dinky Town, in Minneapolis, MN and while I didn't personally take this video, I was present at this concert. Let me tell you, this band put on one of the greatest live performances I've ever seen and this song should be a bigger deal than it is. Delta Rae wrote "All Good People" in response to the murders of Black people in 2015, especially brutality leading to Eric Garner's death, and the despicable shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charelston, SC. Back in March, this band helped me feel the weight of the issues of gun violence, systematic racism and instances of police brutality.

I hope that song inspires you to seek the truth about the history of our country. Do not let yourself be deceived. While Christ has fulfilled the law, and the Ten Commandments are the base of the law, they are still worthy of our respect. These commandments can be thought of as the testimony of Christ. What Christ stood for as the spotless lamb. We see here that the 9th commandment is about Truth, capital "T" Truth. It's only about refraining from lying. In John 18 Jesus says that he came to testify to truth. As followers of him let us do that.

In this circumstance, I believe the violence experienced by Black Americans is truly wrong. I believe the methods of systematic oppression our country has created is truly wrong. I believe that the number of White Americans who live with no understanding of privilege is truly wrong. Law Enforcement's fear of the black man is truly wrong. Societies fear of the black man is wrong. Black peoples fear of profiling by those law enforcement professionals who are meant to be protecting them, is truly wrong. The murder of police officers is truly wrong. We have to seek truth. We have to testify to the truth. We cannot bend the truth to fit an agenda. We can't simply spout whatever we thing. We must stand for the oppressed and respect authorities, with respect to truth.

All good people, and all God's people must make an effort to come around to testify to the truth that this system is broken. Everyone has our biases and our competencies with regard to diversity and privilege, but I pray that everyone of us would have the same bearing. I pray you will seek the truth.

Now, I end with the words of the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 4:8 
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable--if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise--dwell on these things.
Violence and lies, rabble rousing and fear-mongering is not any of this. Treat people with dignity. Love God, and, like Christ, strive to seek and speak Truth. 

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