Since moving to California, I have attended more protests than I had in my previous years. That being said, by disposition I live much more in the contemplative and relational spaces. Over the years, I have been challenged by those whose solitude leads them into solidarity, whose adoration leads to action. Without the help of community, I would be floating in the theological clouds rather than walking with two feet on the actual ground.
This whole world is very new to me, but like the parable of the workers in the field, God welcomes laborers to join him in different fields of kingdom labor in many different shifts. He doesn’t chide or chastise the newer workers, but puts them to work towards His ends: a harvest of righteousness and justice that is from Him and to Him and through Him. That beings said, my heart has been wrestling with a few pressure points that I needed to disentangle through writing.
I wrestle with such massive and sudden “wokeness” in myself and others. In every news feed, I am seeing public apologies. I absolutely agree that sins that affect the public need to be addressed publicly, but I feel a growing pressure point regarding repentance.
Biblical repentance flows from conviction through God’s word, God’s people and the Holy Spirit. Conviction differs from condemnation. While on the surface, both seem to create a change in stance and behavior, only one gets to the heart. Condemnation is broad and fuzzy; it seeks to change by self-empowerment and is often motivated by shame. Conviction, on the other hand, is God-wrought, specific and pointed.
(see 2 Corinthians 7:10-13).
David’s private sin of adultery with Bathsheba had most certainly bled into public life through his part in indirectly arranging the killing of her lawful husband; however, after being loving and creatively confronted by Nathan, he repented towards the Lord first and foremost.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51:1-3.
David was less concerned about his image and the approval of those around him and far more concerned that he had broken God’s heart by his habits. He was undone because of what he had done to the heart of God first and foremost.
I fear that many of us have missed a few steps in our haste to try to catch up and get on board. While I am so thankful for the healthy stirring of the present protest movement and the activism of those who have long labored in this field, I fear that the contagious energy and enthusiasm will be short-lived if we don’t spend some time kneeling before the Lord in repentance to Him first.
When John the Baptist had the opportunity of baptizing many curious Pharisees in the Jordan River, he seems to have had some skepticism of his own. Were the religious leaders merely jumping on the popular band wagon of being dunked in the river, or were they truly turning from their self-righteousness and admitting their need of the coming Messiah?
In response to their interest in baptism, John warns them sternly, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
The manner of their lives would be the proving ground of how deeply the change had rooted in them. I long for my daily life, my conversations, my private chat-threads with friends, and my methods of discipleship to be the proving ground of the Lord’s beginning to open my eyes to the sins of omission that have marked my life regarding understanding racism and fighting against the systems that support it, even those that have profited me.
But, if I am honest, I feel pressure to join the throngs in posting all the books they are reading, the documentaries they are watching, and the places they are protesting. It almost feels like one has to prove where and how one is doing the work. While I do understand that awareness and education are significant aspects of change, I do sense that there is almost a pecking order that is being built that doesn’t smell like the aroma of the gospel.
As he repented, David understood that God was after truth not lacquered on top, but permeating down to the deepest places of his heart.
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6).
I am a recovering people-pleaser in addition to being a newbie to the fight against racism. I want the world to know that I am changing. I am so tempted to skip the necessary and foundational steps of truth in the hidden place to get to the public approval platform; however, more than I want man’s approval, I long to swim in the approval that was purchased for me in the proving ground of the cross.
Even in the good, necessary, and God-honoring arenas of reform work, the dangerous quicksand of merit lays and lurks. We must be careful not to create a “hierarchy of wokeness” by which people begin to stand on the sinking sands of self-righteousness.
I want to get there. I want to be woke. But I want to be woke through means of the gospel. I want to repent before God and stand on the proven ground of the gospel as I learn to be anti-racist.