brutality

Brutalized by police, arrested by authorities, hounded by hypocrites, abandoned by students, forsaken by followers, flogged by officials, abused by interrogators.

The guilty accusing the innocent, peasants mocking the king, criminals judging the judge, the impotent waving the sword of fleeting power, the almighty staying the hand of eternal power, the vile clothed in honor, the blameless clothed with shame.

Hell on earth.

The darkest of Fridays, a crown of thorns, a robe of mockery, a tree of cruelty, beaten without mercy, nailed without pity, positioned between criminals, numbered with transgressors.

Miserably thirsty, shamefully uncovered, publicly exposed, mocked by the bouncers, disgraced before his mother, forsaken by the father.

Absolutely alone.

Bearing grief, carrying sorrow, stricken and smitten, wounded and bruised, absorbing wrath, paying debt, deflecting destruction, bearing the scars of treachery, the hell of humanity.

Freedom is coming, hope is alive, redemption is paid.

Say his name.

Repeat After Us

1. My all-time favorite Florida Gator is Joakim Noah.

Last week I was reminded why I loved this guy so much when the SEC Network aired their 52-minute documentary on the back-to-back Gator basketball champions. Repeat After Us is the story of the team who started school together, sweat together, bled together, beat the odds together, wept together, and put together one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball. After winning it all, each of the big four had every opportunity to leave school early and make their millions in the NBA. Instead, they came back for the incredible repeat. I had forgotten how special this team really was. By the end of that documentary I found myself choked up as I realized again, these guys really loved each other.

It reminded me of Jesus: “By this all will know that you’re My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Joakim Noah was a ringleader of love.

2. It’s been another love-challenged week for the nation. As I watched the riots in Charlotte, you could feel the despair and tension in the air. Hope deferred really does make the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

It causes me to revere again the otherworldly nature of Martin Luther King’s leadership. The more I watch current events, the more magnificent and virtually miraculous his influence is revealed to be. How in the world did those civil rights leaders do what they did? How did they maintain a non-violent conviction in the face of such evil? How did they persevere long enough to transform hardened hearts?

Repeat after us.

I’m not hearing enough of a call to learn from our activist predecessors. They did cry out for justice. They did lift their voice. They did take action. They did renounce evil. They did get angry without sinning. They did affirm dignity. They did not accept the status quo. And yet they found a way to do all of that without forsaking love.

3. Unity matters. “I plead with you by the name of Jesus, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

I am personally dumbfounded with how easily the political parties have hijacked (and divided) both the left and right wings of the church. For the life of me I cannot understand how we have allowed such blind spots to go on unresisted. Can we not agree that the way of Jesus is to stand with the oppressed? Can we not understand that the effects of hundreds of years of racialized sin will not disappear as quickly as white people would like to move on? Can we not acknowledge the need for police reform while simultaneously acknowledging the multitude of officers who serve above reproach? Can we not recognize that when right-winged Christians are silent in the face of racial injustice they lose credibility? Can we not recognize that when left-winged Christians are silent in the face of abortion injustice they lose moral authority? Can we not concede that cherry-picking our biblical issues is not a biblical option? Lord, make us one.

I relate to hip hop artist Sho Baraka, who feels left out by both major political parties. “Baraka, an evangelical Christian, recently wrote a column entitled Why I Can’t Vote For Either Trump Or Clinton. In that article, the son of a former Black Panther says that ‘as an African-American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left.'” (NPR interview here)

Do we not see that when the church fails to lift her voice for justice with Jesus, we leave a void where culture offers justice without Him? This is why, while I really like a lot of the current media voices, I’m troubled when modern activists are reading more Shaun King than Dr. Martin Luther King. It is mind-blowing to go back and read the Scripture-dripping words of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. My heart is convicted, my blind spots are confronted, and my soul is challenged to take the holistic Gospel seriously.

Repeat after us.

4. Leadership matters. But leadership must become clear. I am highly concerned by the lack of clear leadership with a clear voice and a clear direction in this moment in our history.

  • Let us confess our sin. Call it what it is, and repent. Stop denying your racism. Don’t say black lives matter but ignore the 1500+ black lives that will be aborted today.
  • Clarify what we (you) want. What’s the goal? What would get Colin Kaepernick standing again? What constitutes discernible and acceptable progress? When goals are unclear, progress is unlikely.
  • Engage in relationships with people of other races. Share meals, share hearts, and listen.
  • If you’re white, please read The New Jim Crow. Or Just Mercy. If you’re angry, read more Bible and less internet. Stop reading the trolls on people’s social media posts.
  • Don’t surf the net more than you pray. Your response will be nothing but flesh.
  • Use your time. You can help us reach unto neighborhoods all over our city with holistic, strategic initiatives.
  • Use your voice. When tragedy strikes, say something. But do it in the name of Jesus. You can blog. You can march. You can sign petitions. You can affirm Campaign Zero. You can call your congressman. And when people get it right, let them know. In our very city I am watching first-hand as motivated (and woke) police officers are trying to bridge gaps and bring reform. Encourage them. Take it from someone who takes a hit every time I step out to use my voice: the negative voices are 10-to-1.

Repeat after us.

joakim

#TerenceCrutcher

1. Too many hashtags.

2. I keep hearing warnings not to overreact when another black men gets killed. It reminds me of the people of Israel responding to the cries of the prophets of old.

3. I’m not sure if we realize how toxic our silence is. When it comes to justice, the lack of a consistent, united, and culturally audible voice from the church is beyond troubling. Lift your voice.

4. Stop blaming the wrong people. I’ve watched abuse victims come into my office to bring to light the agonizing darkness of their family experience. And I have been horrified to watch families circle the wagons, turn the table, and blame the victim. Why are you trying to divide the family, they demand. Things are getting better, they argue. But the abused are not the problem. And insisting that people get over the abuse of the past in light of some level of improvement is absurd. Stop blaming the media for reporting it. Stop blaming Youtube for posting it. Stop blaming the onlookers for recording it.

5. There’s something potent about this word repent. But it’s impossible to repent of sin we won’t acknowledge. It’s impossible to repent of a transgression that we will not see. Systemically, historically, consistently this racial sin has been allowed to operate and devastate and multiply into subsequent generations. Like water to a fish, it’s the current in which we swim. That means, unless you intentionally fight it, you’re under its sway. It’s the air (pollution) we breathe. Which is why extremely sincere people could pass a lie detector test defending their lack of prejudice, and size up a guy calling him a big, bad dude. Racists don’t believe they are racists. Implicit bias really is as deadly as overt racism, because it operates undetected. And unconfessed.

6. We change by amazing grace. When I had no defense because of My sin, Jesus acted on my behalf from the tree of condemnation. He made my problem His problem, and worked His transforming miracle of mercy by His bloodied body. In my anger I am so tempted to try to shame people into a change that only happens by grace. I must cry out for justice, but I must do it while loving mercy and walking humbly.

7. “If My people called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Here’s a prayer: God, we confess our bias, our indifference, our slowness to turn from our racial sin. Change me. End racism. Stop the violence. Let justice roll. In the name of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, & Racialized Sin

Blog - Alton SterlingTroubling thoughts keeping me up late and waking me up early:

1. It’s devastating to see non-Christians more torn up over black people dying than white Christians. I’m sad and angry and embarrassed and grieving.

2. Implicit bias is more dangerous than overt hatred because it operates underground. It has been stunning to witness all the racism that has risen to the surface over the course of Obama’s presidency. My head was in the sand.

3. Refusal to address racialized sin has undermined our capacity to fulfill our Romans 12:15 calling to “mourn with those who mourn.” (Mika Edmondson) As a son still grieving the loss of my father, I can tell you how incredibly healing it is when you encounter people who choose to grieve with you. And how painful it is when people do not. I grieve and feel for the family of Alton Sterling. My heart breaks for the family of Philando Castile. Their lives matter.

4. Refusal to call out racialized sin has blocked our capacity to heed the warning of the prophets of old: Repent. It is embarrassing that it has taken the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to open the eyes of culture to injustice that has been there all along. If the church won’t say it, it seems that God will allow Youtube or BET to bring it to light. Injustice must be confessed. Hatred must be addressed. Indifference must be forsaken. The blood of the innocent cries out to heaven. God forbid that we block our ears. I have been a part of the problem, and I repent. My silence has been part of the problem, and I repent. I have benefitted from a system where the playing field is not level.

5. If you question the need to repent of corporate or systemic sin, then I challenge you to consider Nehemiah (1:6) or Daniel (9:20). These giants of the faith found the need and humility to repent of both personal and corporate sin. Tell me what I can do, people ask me. Please read The New Jim Crow. I don’t want to hear another white person tell me they never owned a slave. I never want to hear another white person bring up black on black crime. Enough. Lord we confess our sin of racism, which we have sinned against You. Have mercy.

6. Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week. Why are all the black kids on one side of the spiritual cafeteria while all the white kids are on the other side? Because the church forgot who we are. The church forgot our prayer, on earth as it is in heaven. And in heaven it’s every tongue and every tribe gathered in reconciled unity under the blood bought banner of Jesus.

7. I don’t want to hear another person invalidate the pain. Or fear. Or suspicion. Or anger. Or hurt. Or outrage. The tears are rolling and the hearts are broken. Friends are asking me, how can people be so passionate about abortion and human trafficking and clean water halfway across the world, and then be so cold to death in their own backyard. These same people that prayed with you, worshipped with you … How can they be so blind? And it’s hard to not feel like they’re blind on purpose. Maybe they wouldn’t pull a trigger, but how can they be so silent when it happens? If my white brothers and sisters in Christ don’t get it, what white person will? I thought they’d be different. I’m angry. We’re struggling – in a different way. A lot of us in a speechless way.

8. Someone has to be different. If you’re a majority, we need you to model the way in humility and understanding and contrition and repentance. Grieve. If you’re a minority, your challenge is something like what you’re needing from white believers. Be different. It is rare to hear a God-centered response in times like these. When the heat is on, Christians are so tempted to play the predictably tune of the rest of the world. Taking their cues and becoming echoes of whatever talking head they just heard. Stop being an echo when you were made to have a voice. I just hung up the phone with Civil Rights activist John Perkins. This is the man whose brother was killed by white policemen. This is the man who was imprisoned and beaten to the point of death because of the color of his skin. This is a man who bears in his body the marks of racial injustice. Yet he constantly warns me: Feel the pain. Be angry. But bring it to Jesus, and let Him make it redemptive. If your eyes move away from Jesus, you won’t see straight. You never beat hate with hate, you beat it looking at the One who took it with whips and thorns and beatings.

9. If you are reading this as part of our faith family, I charge us afresh to embrace our call to offer this world the Gospel alternative. It’s a day to pray and fast and weep. To have hard feet and soft hearts. To open our mouths and spend our lives. To be a community with too much brown to be called a white church, and too much hispanic to be called a black church – a body that models the diversity and reconciliation and redemption and healing and power and grace and justice and mercy of God’s kingdom. I was supposed to be on preaching sabbatical for one more week, but I’ll be coming back early to address these painful realities from the heart of the kingdom of God. Please pray for us.

10. The people with the most hope lead. So let’s go lead, because we have hope. Not because of where we are, but because of where He is: sitting on a throne of justice

Bloody cross, empty tomb

I recently found myself in the middle of a very strange conversation with a very educated doctor when the conversation moved to our faith. Of course the most common approach is to assert the viability of every belief, as long as it’s sincere. But after many months of walking with a loved one through illness and the possibility of death, the stakes felt higher. “Everybody believes in something,” he said. “But what is the basis of that belief?” was my question. And then I said it.

My faith is rooted in a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

It was a strong moment. Months later I’m still chewing on the implications of this truth. As we move into resurrection weekend, I’m asking the question afresh: what does this mean?

It means the Judge has judged.

It means sickness is judged by the cross. Bigotry is judged by the cross. War is judged by the cross. Child slavery is judged by the cross. Rape is judged by the cross. Fear is judged by the cross. Oppression is judged by the cross. Sin is judged by the cross. My sin, my pride, my hypocrisy, my deceit, my selfishness are judged on a bloody cross.

It means the King has risen.

It means light beats darkness. It means life beats death. It means justice beats evil. It means cancer is going to bow. It means molestations will be no more. It means poverty is losing its grip. It means racism’s days are numbered.

It means all things will become new.

It means the stories your believing mama told you have to be taken seriously. It means God hears prayers. It means you can break addictions. It means you can be free. It means your family can be restored. It means you are going to make it.

Because if He can beat death, He can beat anything.

It means you’re not defined by your worst mistake. It means you really can be forgiven. It means God’s grace is stronger than your sin. It means God’s goodness trumps your badness. It means God’s capacity to fix you up is infinitely greater than your capacity to screw you up.

It means your story may have horrible chapters, but you have to read it to the end, because when God is the Author, the story always ends well.

It means there is more hope for you than you thought possible, because the very worst this world can throw at you is death. And Jesus beat it. Which means death may take you from this world, but Jesus will take you from death.

Which means you don’t have to be afraid of anything. Ever. Again.

So turn in your pen, stop trying to force your own script, and let Jesus be your Author, resurrection, and life.

Arise.

So great a salvation

Do not neglect so great a salvation. (Hebrews 2:3)

There is so much debate regarding the possibility – or impossibility – of losing salvation. But the far more practical danger is neglecting salvation. Oh to live in the reality and the fullness of this great salvation.

Indeed there is a salvation-like promise to drugs and porn and fame and fortune and a thousand other little god-substitutes. But they always break their promises.

So great a salvation is altogether unique.

Pardom from all guilt. Forgiveness of all sin. Full atonement. Fresh start. New nature. New name. New covenant. New spirit. New heart. New eyes. New ears. New creation. New birth. One day he will make all things new.

So great a salvation.

Healing from sickness. Comfort in brokenness. Power to overcome. Strength for the journey. Joy inexpressible. Peace inexplicable. Access to the Father. Innocence that we long for. Love that we were made for. An inheritance without compare. A seat in heavenly places. Angels to protect us. A kingdom that cannot be shaken. Freedom, authority, purpose, destiny, hope, and a future.

Do not neglect so great a salvation.

Stir up your gifts, develop your talents, discover your place, and do your deal. Set your mind on things above, number your days, refuse to waste your life, and go. Having been loved, love. Having been served, serve. Having been forgiven, forgive. Having been reached, reach. Having been rescued, rescue. Having been changed, change.

Maybe we should do less talk about joining a movement, and just go move something. In the name of the author of so great a salvation. Jesus.

Cam Newton, the Super Bowl, & the Race Card

 

I’m not even close to unbiased as we approach the 2016 Super Bowl.

I graduated from the University of Florida. I’m a Gator fan. Gators do not like the Tennessee Volunteers. We struggle to acknowledge that one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time goes by the name Peyton Manning, a Tennessee Volunteer. And yet as extensive as his resume is, let me give you my favorite Peyton Manning statistic: 0-4. That would be his record against my alma mater.

Now we come to Cam Newton. Before he was Superman; before he was a Carolina Panther; before he was Mr. Heisman; he was a Florida Gator. I know Auburn fans claim him as their own, but I remember the kindness and patience of Cam toward children in general, but mine in particular, when he walked off the practice field in Gainesville, Florida. I like Cam.

A couple days ago things heated up as Cam made a statement about being a black quarterback in the NFL. Depending on who you are in the world, his words either ring incredibly true or they carry the stench of the race card.

Depending on who you are the race card is a tool people of color use to blame whites for things that are not their fault or the race card is a term used to disempower minorities and invalidate all claims of racial injustice without respect to current evidence or historical fact.

As I clicked through the comments below Cam’s article, it was once again apparent just how polarized we are. “There’s no bias here,” many argued, “Why is Cam trying to make this about race?”

So I started thinking about my bias.

Growing up in the Tampa Bay area helped me to never get emotionally invested in a football team, as the Bucs found a way to perennially disappoint. But my fan-soul was awakened as I stepped foot on the campus of the University of Florida. Little did I know that I was being immersed into an entirely new culture. Next thing you know, I’m looking at the football world through an entirely different set of lenses. (Orange and blue to be exact.) I didn’t really choose for it to happen; but my days of unbiased participation in the world of football were over.

And that’s why, Peyton, if you’re reading this, I respect your talent, but I want you to lose in a very big way. Cam, if you’re reading this, I hereby commission you to take this Volunteer down one last time. 0-5.

Back to the race card.

When I hear all these people claiming that they possess no racial bias, I find myself wondering, exactly what culture did you grow up in? Do you really believe that you live in a racially-neutral society? Or, if you recognize the inequities, do you really believe that your soul is somehow immune to the effects? “Stop trying to make something out of nothing,” people are telling Cam. But is it possible, that just as subconsciously as I became a Gator-partial man, that each of us slowly develops into adulthood with all sorts of biases of which we are surely unaware. It’s the air we breathe.

I guess I’m pleading with us to be humble enough to admit we are products of the environment in which we were raised. I want us to be courageous enough to say this publicly: Everything is not ok. And for me to bring up the New Jim Crow of our prison system or for Cam to bring up his experience as a black quarterback is not the problem. The solution to brokenness is never denial; but it almost always starts with humility.

The fact of the matter is, I’m a biased man. I prejudge. I hold on to my privilege. And it’s not just football. It’s my ethnicity. My gender. My nationality. The fact of the matter is we are divided. As awkward as it is to spend time with a dysfunctional family that pretends that nothing is wrong is as awkward as it can be in churches when Ferguson or Baltimore, Maryland or Cam Newton are in the news.

Which is why one of the greatest words to proceed from a human tongue is this one: reconciliation.

PERKINS blogWhich is why I can’t wait to see what happens in our partnership with Dr. John Perkins, a man who has given his life (and been beaten within an inch of his last breath) for Jesus, justice, and reconciliation.

 

My hope is that the body of Christ will be the hope of our nation in achieving reconciliation that comes from truth, humility and justice. And I want to be a part of the solution. Because division is not just an ethnic thing; it’s a human thing as old as the Garden where our first parents broke relationship with God. I know Someone who knows exactly what to do with division.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV)

Game on.