Like many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about peace this summer. It feels feeble to write about those thoughts because against this mounting wall of unrest they are small and jumbled. The salad spinner of this culture flings any one voice or any one thought out and away as quickly as its heard. My brain does this too. Like I can’t stay in one spot long enough mentally or emotionally to reach a conclusion.
There is pain all around us. Deep, devastating pain. There is oppression and scare tactics and violence and lies and polarization and post-truth proclamations and on and on. Wearily, we call this “civil unrest”, and it is. There is no rest here. There is no peace.
So we take to our phones. We post black squares and MLK quotes and press pause on our personal posting agendas to make sure we show solidarity. And this feels important for a moment – it feels poignant, especially for those of us who’ve historically not been activists in any meaningful way. Until we start seeing re-posts telling us this isn’t enough. Put your money where your mouth is. Donate, give, bail them out, set them free.
So we do. We weed through all the posts about which causes are OK to give to and which ones aren’t, and we donate. We notice all the companies that make a statement of support. We notice all the companies that don’t and then we try not to shop with them.
This feels good. This feels like capitalism which is comfortable because we are Americans and we love to vote with our money. But it doesn’t feel like enough.
So we try to learn. We buy the books so we can educate ourselves and our families. We question how to talk to our loved ones about it all. We wonder if it will change anything or just create tension. And then we see posts about how privileged we are to wonder that at all, and we feel shame.
So we pray. We pray for healing, for help. We pray for reconciliation, for wisdom, for discernment, for repentance from all the dirt we now see on the floors of our souls. And then we see posts that tell us our prayers are “nice” but that we can’t hide our inactivity behind them.
So we protest. We stand with our brothers and sisters whom we care for but cannot fully empathize with and we hope that our presence will mean something. Will this cardboard sign do anything? Can it capture all of this brokenness in words? And even if it could, can it fix it?
All of this is good – the posting and donating and learning and praying and protests. The hard conversations and realizations of privilege. The repentance and maybe even some of the shame. But does it bring peace? Do you feel any more at rest in your soul?
My guess is no. My guess is that whatever accounts you follow, whatever news you consume, whatever email lists or text campaigns or twitter feeds you subscribe to stir up the same cocktail of confusion and guilt and fear and indignance inside of you no matter how much you post or protest or pray or provoke.
My guess is that whichever “side” of this you fall on – the angry activist or quiet conservative, the private prayer warrior or megaphone-wielding marcher, the terrified wife of a police officer or terrified mother of children you don’t know how to protect – your heart still cries out for freedom. You ache for justice, for safety, for righteousness, for answers, for peace.
I’m not sure that we’ll ever understand all of this. I can’t make sense of how a world full of people so desperate for love can be marked by so much hate. Or how wearing a mask for the safety of others can be a question of politics. Or how people being killed for the color of their skin can be a divisive issue. Or how news can be so markedly untrue on both sides. Or how freedom of speech can be weaponized by competing parties in equal measure. Or how a fight for peace can create war.
I don’t know how it all became this side or that, my way or yours, with us or against us, the enlightened or the ignorant, red or blue, black or white, good or bad.
I don’t have an answer. And I think what we’re seeing right now in the world is that no one here does. Those that think they do might be the biggest danger to peace of all.
If your response to any of this isn’t marked dogmatically by humility, I’d encourage you to dig a bit deeper. If your thoughts align more with “if only they could see it through my eyes” than “if only we could see this through God’s eyes” you’ve exalted yourself to a throne you didn’t earn.
Let me be clear – humility is not a posture of weakness or a shield for inaction. You can (and should!) be a humble activist. There’s such a thing as humble righteous anger. We can demand change and stand up to oppression and take to the streets in our desire for justice from a place of humble expectation that God hears us, He sees us, and He is sovereign over it all.
Humility is not passivity. Jesus turned over tables in the temple. He called out pharisees for their hypocrisy and declared uncomfortable truths so unapologetically that they killed him. And scripture tells us He is our greatest example of humility (Philippians 2). There was nothing weak or passive about Him.
But Jesus acted out of love. He turned over tables in order to unearth sin and point people back to God. He called out hypocrisy to free people from it, not condemn them for it.
Is that where our activism is born? Is that our motivation for our posts and protests and posturing?
Or do we fear condemnation from our culture more than Christ? Do we call out others to correct and coach or to prove how right, how progressive, how woke we are? Do we overturn tables in the streets because we are humbly pointing others to truth or because we are angry and afraid? Are we more offended that the news isn’t telling “the whole story” or that the world has forgotten the better story – the story of redemption, the story of peace?
Do we care more about being right – or worse, being seen as being right – than we do about righteousness and redemption?
I don’t have answers for our problems. I don’t have steps to take in your activism or talking points for your politically conflicted family. I just have hope in humility.
I have faith that as we abdicate our thrones of indignance we will see the glory and goodness of the One who reigns. I believe that we are called to love our enemies even as we push forward in our pursuit of justice. I am confident that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13), not because the answer is clear, but because the author of the story is good and the promise He brings is peace.
So keep posting. Keep talking and learning and praying and marching in the streets with signs held high. But do it from a humble place of acceptance that no one party has this thing figured out – no candidate, no platform, no activist group, no news desk, no policy.
God does. Through the power of His spirit, the voice of His word, the hands of His people.
So be humble. Be gracious. Be hopeful. Don’t scream yourself into anxiety or bury your head in the sands of frustration and fear. Dig your feet into the firm foundation of Jesus and watch what He will do.