Years ago, as a young pastor I became acquainted with the writings of Henri Nouwen. A quote from a book about Thomas Merton, has stuck with me through all these years. It certainly applies to our day.
“Bitterness is the reaction of one who expects some thing from another without daring to look into his or her own heart, and therefore, become quickly disappointed. Merton know only too well that the sin, evil and violence that he found in the world, were the same sin, the same evil and the same violence that he had discovered in his own heart through solitude, silence and prayer. The impurity in the world was a mirror of the impurity in his own heart.”
I honestly desire to be loving to all people, regardless of race. But I know the seeds of prejudice are lodged in my own heart. Jesus is speaking to me today, when he says, “How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get ride of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matt. 7:4-5 NLT).
But I will not be intimidated by the voices that cry out “racist.” I will remain respectful, being aware of my fallen condition, yet wanting to show love and respect. I will continue to keep my eyes on the Lord. I will grieve in my spirit for all the hate and bitterness that has sprouted up in this last month. I will humbly admit that I am a flawed man, deeply in the need of grace and mercy.
Most of all I will take my stand at the foot of the cross. I hold to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:14-16, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…….His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Only through the cross will there be true peace and reconciliation.
Here I will take my stand with all who genuinely want the peace of God to rule in their hearts. I will not compromise or forsake the message of the cross. For Jesus died for such a time in which we are now enduring. Make no mistake, we are in a intense battle for the soul of our nation. The powers of darkness are wanting to put out the light of the good news in Jesus.
Paul encourages us to live in the light and not be intimidated by the darkness of our day. “But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of light, daughters of Day…….So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart……Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love and the hope of salvation” (I Thess. 4:4-8 MGS).
Jesus gives us a warning, “So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep on the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man” (Luke 21: 36 MGS).