The heat of the day begins to evaporate with the setting sun. The announcer calls the crowd to her feet as the color guard raises our Stars & Stripes. As the band begins to play a young heckler complains, “Why do I need to stand quiet. I’m not from here.” It’s all I can do to stay quiet. I glance at the man standing at attention in front of me. He has fought for our freedom while one who is clueless to the cost continues to run his mouth.
The game begins and we retake our 50/50 post.
“WHAAAAAA”, sounds from behind me and I turn around, alarmed by the sound. It’s my heckler. He catches my eye.
“What, I’m black! I can act like this if I want.”
I turn back to ignore his statement, disbelief covering me like a blanket. I will not engage, but goodness I want too. He is too young to understand what I have to say. But in this moment, my heart is breaking for a child who has much to learn about life.
A child who has limited his potential to a stereotype about his skin color.
The next morning, I catch up on Facebook. The war is alive between self promoted cop killers and the opposing side. A county clerk in Kentucky held in jail as a result of standing for what she believes. A debate among friends which centers around a transgender boy being allowed to change in the girls locker room during gym class.
Hateful words exchange.
Opinions fire without consideration of the consequence.
The divide between right and wrong grows at a pace faster than I can process.
No longer are we a country embracing the freedom of diversity. In place we have become entitled, offended and bitter. Instead of taking the time to understand, we accuse. Instead of evaluating the full consequence of our actions, we justify. We choose our team and fight until the bitter end.
But what if we’re both right?
What if we’re both wrong?
Regardless, at the heart of every conflict lies a human being. In the heart of the human being lies a real story and a real life that matters to God.
I can’t help but wonder if we limit ourselves and our ability to influence by the labels we wear.
Just because I’m white doesn’t mean am prejudice to one who is black.
Just because I’m Christian doesn’t mean I can’t help voice or brainstorm a resolution to a high school administration trying to do the best thing for their students while operating under limited budgets and facilities.
Being Christian certainly doesn’t mean I get to sit on a throne of judgement clothed in soiled human skin.
It means I remember this message from the Apostle Paul:
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
Ephesians 6:10-19 NLT
At the heart of every conflict lives a human being.
At the heart of the human being is a life that matters God.
We are not at war with people but against evil rulers from an unseen world.
We don’t have to have every answer, we only need to keep our minds open to the possibility of love. Love is not an acceptance of sin. My kids often behave in ways I don’t approve, yet I love them anyway. Love is merely the lens to the heart of the sinner. (No one is free from sin, no not one). Love is the bridge dividing the gap between disbelief and motive. It prompts me to ask “why” instead of “how”. And when I arrive at “why” I begin to find a place in which solutions occur. I find stories demanding a voice. I find my jaded perception being focused into sharper detail based on fact in lieu of opinion.
“Why” allows me to live in the tension of a broken world ruled by one who has come to steal, kill & destroy.
One who operates on limited time.
People are not my enemy. Christianity is not my license to persecute. God’s passion is to call home every race and tongue. So what part will he have me to play today?
Is there a matter in which he has called me to speak, or is he requiring my silence?
How might my actions betray my belief?
How can I change me before I even try to change the world?
What labels prevent me from living a life of influence for Christ?
Lord, this life is hard. You don’t promise every answer but you do require your people to live in peace, humility, service and love. Lord, your love covers a multitude of sins, beginning with my own. Grant us wisdom when we feel threatened or persecuted. Help us not to live these days in a spirit of fear but instead to call on your power and wisdom for a sound mind. May we live a life that speaks louder than our words and labels ever could. Allow your people the wisdom, courage and influence to affect change_ in our homes, our neighborhoods and our communities. Lord, use us where you plant us today. In Jesus name. Amen.