Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying dinner with some friends and acquaintances. Over the course of the meal, the conversation evolved into one regarding racial reconciliation, and how we, as the Church can engage in this divine, yet challenging, mandate. After several minutes of discussion, a well-intentioned brother of a significantly lighter hue than mine said to the group something to the effect of: “no matter what we do, it feels like the idea of reconciliation will never happen. The privileged are obsessed with keeping their position. I feel like giving up hope.” Without hesitation, I replied:
With all due respect, you don’t have the right to lose hope. The entire legacy of my people is built on hope. I stand on the shoulders of giants whose hands and feet were chained to the bottoms of slave ships; pressing and hoping for a freedom they would likely not see but still desired for future generations.
Although I firmly believed every word I said, I couldn’t exactly blame him for feeling the way he did. We live in one of the most sensitive, divisive periods in the history of our nation. The dividing lines between race, politics, economics, and gender grow larger by the day. The commander in chief lacks moral conviction. We argue of national anthem peaceful protests. Mass shootings happen everywhere from the schoolyard to the Vegas strip. Despite the perceived craziness going on in the world, I believe… we were chosen for a time such as this.
Black people continue to die at the hands of the police. People of color are still being prosecuted and penalized more harshly than their white counterparts; which means wives and children are losing their husbands and fathers, thus perpetuating the cycle of fatherlessness in marginalized communities. Legislation which once provided a dream for so many has evolved into a nightmare. Yet and still I believe…we were chosen for a time such as this.
For many who have yet to come into the knowledge of Christ, all hope seems lost right now. Even amongst believers, Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, Facebook is the platform for personal disagreements over Spiritual matters, we place greater faith in politicians than Jesus, causing people to doubt Christianity’s credibility. Those who attempt to model the historical Jesus of Nazareth find themselves frustrated when their attempts at equality and justice produce little to no fruit. Here we are, faced to wrestle with what it means to be salt and light in this dry and desert land. Although the task ahead of us seems insurmountable, I believe…we were chosen for a time such as this.
King Solomon tells us, and history proves that nothing new is under the sun. Dominant class oppression and marginalization existed long before the 21st century. The period of Pax Romana, or “Roman Peace,” marked an era of Roman domination over the weaker nations within the boundaries of its empire. While the governing class enjoyed the tremendous privilege of their position, countless others were left wanting, wondering where was God in the midst of their struggles. As hopelessness was sure to reach an all-time low, John the Baptist emerges from the wilderness, urging the people to pay attention, hope was on the way!
As Christ’s precursor, John took a vow that separated him from the broader culture. He heard and believed, experienced and lived the emancipating Word of God. Consequently, many came to salvation because of John’s message, one that mirrored his life, carried an authenticity the religious leaders of the time could not provide. There was nothing politically correct or hyper-spiritual about his message. He cut to the chase and said what needed to be said. He told the first people who came to him to share with one another. He commanded the tax collectors to be just to the needy. He told the soldiers to make peace with the community. He declared one to come who would baptize with fire, establish His kingdom both on Heaven and Earth, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confesses His lordship over all!
The call that was once upon John the Baptist is now upon us. We too, through our words and deeds, proclaim the hopeful message of the Lord’s coming; both in the sweet by and by, and the here and now! The coming of the Lord is for the nourishment of the individual spirit, and a restoration of our communities. We must remind those who are weary and browbeaten from giving countless hours to the struggle that their labor has not, is not, and will never be in vain!
We must cherish the words of Isaiah the prophet who told us that righteousness and justice are quickly approaching. Desert lands will be restored like the garden of Eden, and peace will come over the land as swords turn into plowshares, and we embrace the lyrics of the old Negro Spiritual, Down by the Riverside, as we “study war no more.”
Jamie Jessup is an educator, mentor, and coach from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His passion is advocating on the behalf of marginalized youth in his city.