In 2016, I was a part of a group of men who had spent a year gathering every Sunday evening for discipleship, study and fellowship. As that summer wore on, common words began to show up in our conversations in ways we had never used them before – Ferguson, Rice, Bland, Sterling, Castile, Black, Lives, Matter, Dallas, Police, Shootings. As a group of middle age plus white men, we slowly came to understand that we didn’t understand. So we decided we needed to set out on a journey of enlightenment.
Tony Evans’ book, Oneness Embraced, would be our guide but we knew we needed to bring new perspectives into the room or the result would only have a slightly different skew of the same mindset we already were struggling with. After a few invitations, the group became a little more diverse and we dove in, together. The dialog turned from initially awkward to a deep trusting conversation which opened all of our eyes and ears allowing us to recognize something previously unknown. Often these stories sounded like something happening in another country but sadly I realized it was right outside our doors and I was simply missing it.
During this time, God continued to place opportunities in my path to hear and learn from many men and women of different colors. There is a movement going on across our city and nation trying to find cures to this ailment infecting our culture. This disease shows up as an endless list of symptoms; bigotry, poverty, education, incarceration, health, intolerance, crime, single-parent homes, segregated churches to name a few. There was a feeling of helplessness regarding the virus that was still deeply entrenched in the country so many years after I mistakenly thought Civil Rights had been achieved. This feeling often led to a single question being tossed out, “What can we do?” Two and a half years later, I have not found any single answer to instantly make our culture healthy but I still do believe the church will be the light we use to find how God would have us solve this mess we have made.
So this is why we gather. To offer the opportunity to join in conversations increasing awareness of the world around us. A chance for those like me, who justified a limited definition of the word neighbor, to reflectively look to Jesus to broaden its meaning and seek His help in removing any loopholes we still unknowingly try to hold onto. To meet others who will join with us in prayer of lament and request for wisdom.
If not now, when?