As I reflect on the current social justice events through the lens of biblical wisdom, I have perceived that racial division, injustice, and systemic inequities are not new to the world. The forces of good have been fighting these battles for centuries.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the biblical account of Joshua. He was the newly appointed, untried successor to a great leader and poised to face his first battle at Jericho. It would not be hard to imagine that Joshua’s mind and heart were unsettled before his first battle. As he was preparing for that seminal day, he had a divine encounter with an Angel — the Commander of God’s Army. Stunned by the presence of the mighty warrior, Joshua asked a sagacious question, “are you for us or our adversaries?”
Today, I fear we are falling into the same near-sighted thinking that was a trap for Joshua as we quickly want to size people up by asking which side are you on (conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, protesters or police, etc.)?
The moment that we commit to being defined by a label, we fuel the divide. The revelation of the superseding perspective does not deny the reality of the current pain or the generational legacies that contributed to them. The answer to the problems faced in Joshua’s time and today can be found in Jeremiah 2:13. God reveals that we have forsaken Him, the fountain of living water, to make for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. In my own words, “we have eliminated God from consideration in our discourse and replaced Him with systems that cannot produce life.”
So, what can we do to break down these systems? We can commit to making the world a better place by choosing actions and speech that result in light over darkness, truth over lies, and justice over inequities. Let’s commit to communicate in ways that bring healing and peace. This will require being willing to confront or be confronted when divisive speech or actions are taking place. We must be willing to war for peace. I love one of the descriptions of Christ in Ephesians 2:14 (ESV). It says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Furthermore, we can intentionally seek, create, and participate in community-building activities that bring peace, justice, and righteousness to the world. The true justice movement is rooted in the sacred text of the Bible thousands of years ago.
Isaiah 58:10 says, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
The book of James teaches us that if our faith does not translate into productive action, it is useless: “For just as a human body without the spirit is a dead corpse, so faith without the expression of good works is dead!” James 2:26
As I close, I pray that the grace and love of God lead you and guide your steps. And may the words of our mouths and the meditations of hearts be pleasing in God’s sight. Amen!
– Jerrel T. Gilliam, Light of Life Rescue Mission