The trag­ic events we have encoun­tered over the past days, the hor­rors we have watched, and the words we have heard, bruise us, wound us, shat­ter us. We are in shock. How should we respond? What would Jesus have us say and do?

Per­haps you are ask­ing sim­i­lar questions. 

No more,” we moan. No more.” We strug­gle to com­pre­hend, much less speak, of what is hap­pen­ing. What is the Lord say­ing to our coun­try? To our church­es? To Ren­o­varé? What words can ade­quate­ly cap­ture the sor­row, anger, and long­ing of our hearts for jus­tice for our land, our church­es, our homes, our friends, and yes, for our enemies?

As I write I ask myself, What right do I have to tap out words about injus­tice? I have expe­ri­enced life in Amer­i­ca as a white man, with all the accom­pa­ny­ing priv­i­leges. I have not tast­ed the bit­ter water of dis­crim­i­na­tion. I have nev­er suf­fered for the col­or of my skin. Nev­er. Not once have I feared a light­ed torch, a bull­whip, a Ger­man shepherd’s growls, a hood­ed face, a burn­ing cross, the lynch mob and hangman’s noose, the inva­sion of my home, red lights blink­ing in my mir­ror. I have not strug­gled to breathe with a knee plant­ed on my neck. 

What to do? What to say? 

First, we come qui­et­ly and respect­ful­ly to our dear friends and col­leagues of col­or. We lean into them and soft­ly say, I’m sor­ry. It shouldn’t be this way.” 

But this is not enough. I pon­der the words of Donn Thomas, a Chris­t­ian leader of col­or, who gen­tly and insis­tent­ly prods, Some­thing must be said. Our white friends are so silent. We can’t hear them.”

And so, as pres­i­dent of Ren­o­varé, I am com­pelled to speak. I am com­pelled to write. But as I write my fin­gers freeze and my eyes tear up. Lord, I have ben­e­fit­ed from the very abus­es I con­demn. It should not be this way. Oh, Lord, it should not be this way. Have mer­cy, Lord. Have mercy.” 

Who am I to speak? I am sim­ply God’s image-bear­er, as are you. Per­haps that is enough. 

I sit to grieve with black and brown friends and col­leagues. And oth­ers. It is their mourn­ing bench, not mine. Do you have space for me?” I ask. May we pray and lament together?” 

Yes. Of course. We hoped you would come. There is room for all.” How kind of them. How patient. How gra­cious. And so, we sit, we pon­der, we pray.

Togeth­er, we grieve the events of these past days. We lament, though, not sim­ply the recent days. The voic­es and actions of injus­tice are long. Months, years, cen­turies have swept by, leav­ing in their bloody wake the trou­bled waters of pain, sor­row, ter­ror, cru­el­ty, and death. Lord, do you not see the suf­fer­ing of your peo­ple? Do you not care? How long, Lord? How long?” 

As I sit with them, I sense the Lord speak­ing. He is call­ing us to repen­tance. The Holy Trin­i­ty calls to me, to the Ren­o­varé com­mu­ni­ty, and to the white Chris­tians of our nation. We bow the knee. We make no excus­es. We name our sin as specif­i­cal­ly as pos­si­ble. We ask for grace for gen­uine repen­tance. And we pray: Lord, have mercy.”

  • We have refused to lis­ten atten­tive­ly to our black and brown broth­ers’ and sis­ters’ cry for jus­tice. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have been deaf to the prophet’s call: And he looked for jus­tice, but saw blood­shed; for right­eous­ness, but heard cries of dis­tress.” (Isa­iah 5:7b). Lord, have mer­cy.
  • We have been intel­lec­tu­al­ly lazy and moral­ly obtuse. Our minds and hearts lis­ten only to voic­es that rein­force opin­ions we already hold. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have been blind to our com­pla­cen­cy and com­plic­i­ty. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have car­i­ca­tured or ignored books, poems, art, and films that chal­lenge our prej­u­dice and rebuke our igno­rance. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have been com­plic­it in a cul­ture that delights in false­hood and dis­re­gards the truth. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have expect­ed applause for our fee­ble thoughts and tot­ter­ing steps toward your pre­cious image bear­ers who dai­ly expe­ri­ence the hatred and vio­lence of racism. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have been self-absorbed and self-deceived. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have pre­ferred teach­ing rather than being taught. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have manip­u­lat­ed and exploit­ed. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have feared los­ing our rights,” while with­hold­ing rights from the gen­uine­ly oppressed and des­per­ate. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have lacked steady com­pas­sion and stur­dy courage. Our response to the evil of racism has been short-lived and shal­low. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have loved the big deal and shunned hid­den ser­vice. Lord, have mer­cy.
  • We have hat­ed our ene­mies and loved those who love us. Lord, have mer­cy.
  • We have equat­ed the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca with the king­dom of God. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have embraced pow­er and ignored the demands of love. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have delight­ed in cul­tur­al con­flict and dis­dained the pur­suit of peace and under­stand­ing. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have walled out the alien and the for­eign­er. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have enact­ed unjust and oppres­sive laws. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have incar­cer­at­ed the poor and released the rich and pow­er­ful. Lord, have mercy.
  • We have glad­ly trav­elled the wide and easy road that leads to destruc­tion and avoid­ed the nar­row road that leads to life. Lord, have mercy.

Oh, Lord, we have sinned,
against you and against our neigh­bor,
in the things we have done, and the things we have left undone.
We acknowl­edge our igno­rance and will­ful neglect. 

For­give us. Cleanse us. Renew us.
Reset our moral com­pass.
Fill the wind of our sails with the breath of your Spir­it.
Pro­pel us to the places and peo­ple who can teach us to love in new and unex­pect­ed ways. 

We plead for deep­er courage and com­pas­sion.
We ask for a qui­et, teach­able spirit. 

Give us love and humil­i­ty to erase the bound­ary lines we drew in fear.
Expand our vision to life and flour­ish­ing for all – from the unborn to those liv­ing on death row. We invite you, we wel­come you, to plant new seeds in the gar­den of our minds and hearts.

The Lord is call­ing us to sac­ri­fi­cial love, a love where the cur­ren­cy of our words is backed by the gold of our lives. We have not yet reached this con­gru­ence. Jesus beck­ons. Walk with me into a future that seems uncer­tain to you. It is not to me. I have a much larg­er pas­ture for you. Oth­er sheep are wait­ing for you there. And I promise you, I will always be your Shep­herd. Trust me. Be not afraid.” 

Text First Published June 2020

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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