"Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?" (James 4:11-12)
I've spent much of my morning reading about death and my heart is hurting over it all. Deaths in Dallas, Texas as police officers were killed. Death in Minnesota as a man was killed in front of his girlfriend and her child. Death in Louisiana as a man was killed in a convenience store parking lot. Death of a newborn baby whose mother used heroin during her pregnancy. Death as abortion is chosen over life again and again. So much death. I honestly am at a loss for words over what to say about it all, but I'm obviously going to try to find the words here.
I read today's verses for our study of James and my mind just went right back to all the videos I watched this morning and the articles I read. I cannot shake the feeling that I need to say some things about it all. James says that "God is in charge of deciding human destiny," so why are we constantly trying to do his job for him? That's what all of this feels like to me. A group of people decided that those officers were wrong to take the lives of the men in Louisiana and Minnesota (and I am not disagreeing), so they decided to shoot officers completely unrelated to the incident in Texas in response? How does that make any sense at all? How does taking more lives, shooting more people, causing more death and division help anything? Do these people who have committed this latest act of violence truly feel any better about all that is happening in our country now that they've done this? I can't imagine they do.
God's word, his Message, his Royal Rule are absolutely taking a beating here in our country lately. People aren't loving one another as we are called to do in God's Royal Rule. We aren't spreading God's message of Jesus's love. We are resorting to killing each other! My heart isn't the only one broken here. God's is too. We are quickly becoming a country divided against itself in so many ways- Christians vs non-Christians, Muslims vs non-Muslims, immigrants vs non-immigrants, rich vs poor, homeless vs homed, white vs black. The list goes on and on.
#blacklivesmatter has been circulating social media a lot recently. And it has everyone up in arms. #blacklivesmatter doesn't exist in order to say that other lives don't matter. #blacklivesmatter is here because we are losing so many black lives for no good reason right now. As a country, we are slowly circling back to isolating a group of people and acting like they don't matter, like we don't care about them. And guess what? Black lives do matter. They matter to Jesus. They matter to me. They matter to my family and my friends. They should matter to you too. Because Jesus made those lives. He put those souls into those bodies. He breathed life into them and placed a purpose in their hearts. They are here for a reason, just as we all are. We should be embracing one another, not in spite of our differences, but almost because of our differences.
Those differences are what make this world spin around and around. God wanted us all to be different. He made us colorful on purpose. He gave us personalities on purpose. He gave us passions on purpose. He gave us idiosyncrasies on purpose. He gave us talents on purpose. When God made us, he stepped back and said we were very good work. Not just mediocre, not "eh, I could do better." No! Very good (Genesis 1:31). And you cannot convince me that he doesn't put in every effort, every bit of his sweat, love, and tears into each and every life that he creates.
The Bible tells us that we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalms 139:14). He has carefully crafted each of us for his good purpose here on earth. We have no right to snatch the lives of others away in a moment of anger. No right at all. I long to see our country unite as one again, or maybe I should say for the first time.
Today I want to do something a little different. I want to issue a challenge to anyone reading this. I don't know if I'll have one person read this or a thousand, but here's my challenge: Reach out to those you don't agree with in your life today. Tell them that you love them and that you are so glad that God made them so uniquely different. Find something that you love about them and tell them. Embrace the things that make you different from everyone else. The world needs you exactly as you are. God only made one of you, so be the best you that you can be. Don't cave to the pressures of the world. Don't conform and try to become everyone else. We already have everyone else. We need you.
I also want to challenge you to step outside of your perfect little box. There's an entire world outside of that box that you haven't even seen yet! Go somewhere different. Order food at a restaurant you haven't tried before. Visit Goodwill in a different city (because come on, Goodwill is quite possibly the best store ever, seriously). Gather up canned goods and take them to a new food pantry in the "scarier part of town." Offer up your services at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. The only way that we can see the kind of love that God calls us to in the world today is if we step up as a group and start showing it.
I pray today that God can heal the hurts in our hearts, that he can come alongside us so completely that we feel his presence throughout the day. I pray that he can help us to pick up the broken pieces and rebuild them into something so beautiful for his glory. More than anything, I pray that we can all come together and realize that every single life matters to God. And I pray that we will start showing God's love to everyone around us beginning today.
Just as we are called to do in Ephesians 5:2, let's go forward "and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us" today.