I didn't grow up around horses, but I love horse movies. Do you know what I mean? Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and The Horse Whisperer are a few examples. Horses and their grace, beauty, and strength impress me. I remember as a little kid seeing my first horse in a Christmas parade. I remember asking why they had those things on their eyes. Blinders, I think they called them. It was explained to me that horses get distracted easily, especially in a chaotic environment. The blinders limit the peripheral vision of the horse and allow it only to see what is in front of it and not what's around it. Horses get spooked easily, they said. Kristin and I found this out firsthand during a horseback riding experience, a train startled Kristin's horse and threw her to the ground . . . Twice. That is a story for another day and for the sake of my marriage I will not tell it today. 😉
Horses get spooked easily. Blinders help the horse not to get spooked. The problem is that there are times when a horse needs to have full vision to see the dangers that are all around.
Sometimes we can live life with blinders. If we have that luxury, it's helpful. It keeps us sane. It keeps us focused. The problem is, some things should spook us. Rattle us. Challenge us. And sometimes we refuse to see that which is around us cause it makes us uncomfortable.
Truth - I'm not color blind, and neither are you. In our family, we have generational conversations. It is not uncommon that some of the older members of our family will begin a story by describing the race of the person involved, and by the end, our children will wonder why the race of the person mattered in the telling of the story.
Truth is - We see color. There's no sin in that. We were not created by God to all look and act the same. The problem is that we make assumptions based on color or race. I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I'm trying to help us get honest about assumptions that we sometimes make that we don't even know that we make. It's unfair. We do it with race, with class and also with geography. God never says that we should all look the same, but God does say over and over again that we are all created equally in the image and the eyes of God.
Louis Giglio says, "No one can give you more significance than has already been stamped on you when you were created in the image of Almighty God."
As one of your pastors, can I offer you some spiritual advice for this season and speak into your life a bit?
One of the hardest spiritual lessons I am still learning is that when the hard stuff comes at me, I must be open and not defensive. When I am defensive, I can learn very little. When I listen first, I can learn better. There is a spiritual opportunity for us to learn about the hurt of others, and we don't want to miss that chance. It's hard. But it's essential to take the blinders down to see the challenges that we face.
In God's economy, there is only room for one kind of supremacy. The supremacy of Christ is the only one that matters, and any other supremacy is sin or idolatry. Christ is our all in all. Christ gives us the path for engaging with all people as people of worth and value.
I say it unashamedly, of course, Black Lives Matter. Brown lives matter. Always have. Always will. Check your Bible. The book is primarily made up of Hebrew stories that occurred at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The stories are my stories and yours. But I don't know how anybody who follows Jesus and believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures couldn't affirm the importance of black and brown people. Guess what Jesus looked like?
For far too long, society has treated people differently based on ethnicity and color. This has not been equitable. Not just hundreds of years ago. But in our time. Let's confess that much of church and wrong Bible interpretation was at the heart of the conversation to justify slavery in our country in its origins. The church helped teach us that folks are not equal while saying Christ died for all. Let's confess that, learn from it, repent (turn) and lean into God's vision of a peaceable kingdom. That takes more than just listening and more than words - it takes conviction and action. But if we can't love our neighbor, we can't love God, the Scripture says.
Pray for law enforcement officers, government officials, protestors, and activists who are yearning for a just society and an ability to protect and serve. Two quick observations: A) Did you know that our local law enforcement showed up at a rally last week and asked how they could help. They gave the protestors a police escort. That's community policing at its best. B) Did you see the conversation on the news between the little girl and the officer at a rally? She was brown, and he was white. They had a holy moment after she asked him if he was going to shoot her and her family. He sat down, got to her level, and played with her, all the while explaining that he desired to protect her and never harm her. Pray and love. That's the Jesus way.
The church should be a safe place to explore our individual and cultural struggles. Church should be a hospital for sinners and a place where we can check our hearts and take our blinders off. We do that with humility. Not having all the answers, but also not scared to ask the questions. We trust the God of creation enough to believe that God is inviting us to grow in our faith by letting go of our prejudices. That's not political correctness. That's not political, although it has political implications. That’s just Gospel truth. God is continually breaking down barriers. Whether it's a story about Hebrew slaves set free, or a despised Samaritan who was the hero of Jesus' story, or an Ethiopian eunuch asking to be baptized and then led a whole nation to follow Jesus, Jesus is calling us to acknowledge, listen, confess, and repent (be different because of the example of Christ).
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Chris Westmoreland Lead Pastor