Where Do We Go From Here? Maintaining Faith in the Midst of Suffering

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Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him. For the help of his presence.” – Psalm 42.5

After another agonizing week of around the clock coverage of the war against black bodies, we find ourselves here again. Once again, we rise in protest because of another shooting of black men, women, and children. Once again, we offer analysis and critique of a system that continuously devalues our lives. Once again, we have conversations with colleagues, neighbors, friends, and even strangers about the urgency in dealing with this national sin. Once again, we petition God for cessation to this madness, praying that he would rescue us from imminent doom.

And with all of this, I still wonder if we are actually doing anything. It feels as if our prayers are falling on deaf ears, reverberating throughout the heavens yearning for someone to listen.

Does God hear? And if God hears, does he care? Can God actually do anything to save us?

As these crises continue, it proves that it doesn’t matter what we are doing – our melanin makes us an instant target. Whether we are armed or not, with our hands up or not, running or lying flat on the ground, able-bodied or disabled, cis-gendered or queer, young or old – the common denominator in them all is blackness. Blackness presumes that we are guilty regardless of what we do or what we don’t do. And that is disheartening as much as it is mind-boggling. If this was about behavior, we could act right even if it didn’t feel right if it meant that we would make it home. But it is not about behavior, how good or how bad, it is about this skin, this blackness which God created.

We can’t change this skin. We can’t peel it off or wake up one day shades lighter so that we can escape the white gaze. Yet the longer we stay in it, the longer our fate remains the same. All it takes is one traffic stop, one sidewalk encounter, one word misinterpreted, one glance mistaken for anger – as if we didn’t have a right to be. Can God get us out of this mess? Didn’t he know what they would do to us, that they would despise and kill what he deemed beautiful?

Deep in my heart I know that things will change. And yet my confession of faith sounds trite and feigned even to my own ears. I sympathize with Baldwin and Coates’ lack of faith in a divine deliverer as the past 400 years suggests that deliverance isn’t coming and at the same time, my blackness denies me the opportunity to surrender to the notion that this is all there is. Hope against hope is the only thing that sustains as black corpses fill my facebook feed night after night after night. With every new hashtag, I feel my heart leap out of my chest. I have stopped looking. I have stopped counting.

Too oppressed to give up the fight of faith. In a sense, agnosticism is a luxury of the privileged, those who don’t have to spend entire generations praying for relief to come. And yet, faith cannot simply be deduced to a product of poverty and oppression. I disagree with the notion that suffering helps us to center our faith, because then racism sounds like the intent of the divine and not the workings of evil men who have purposed in their hearts to ransack the earth of all of its goods. I choose to believe the latter and still, it brings me little comfort as then we have to question whether God has the capacity to make the suffering stop.

If I keep fixated on the news feeds, I begin to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering. Every single day, it seems, there is a new Emmett Till. Before we can even grieve the loss of one of soul, we learn of another. The sheer rate at which our black brothers and sisters are falling – with no plausible end in sight – can leave one to deduce that God is not as powerful as we once imagined him to be. We’ve been praying. We’ve been fasting. Not just in this moment but for centuries. Though methods have changed, the fact that we are brutalized remains the same. If deferred hope makes the heart grow weak, the absence of hope surely kills it.

It is one thing to have our bodies thrown about because our blackness too closely resembles God’s image; it is quite another to allow our spirits to die because we have grown disillusioned by the suffering. If our spirits die, we will never survive this sadistic society.

We must press on. We must fight to maintain this ancient faith, not the white man’s faith but this faith that flows from where the Nile meets the Euphrates. It is this faith that enabled our ancestors to survive slavery, and it is this same faith that empowered them to fight for their freedom. This faith empowered our people to escape the Jim Crow south, to protest against lynching, stand up for voting rights, and march for freedom. We cannot abandon it, even in desperate times like these. We cannot walk out on God, even if we can’t see where God is moving in this moment.

Just as he led the children of Israel through the Red Sea to escape Pharaoh’s army and led our very own people out of slavery, he will lead us away from this. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I choose to believe change is coming.


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The Importance of Worship in Times of Despair

Worship8This last year has left me weary. The constant news of violence against my people has been both overwhelming and discouraging, the latter because I honestly don’t know when relief will come. Our nation has built it’s wealth and prominence in the world by victimizing black and brown people – something that will not be easily overcome, though I remain hopeful as smaller scale victories are won through protest and policy change everyday! I know that our present suffering will not endure forever, mostly because empires, no matter how powerful last forever. And I also know that the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when He redeems those who have been oppressed, is coming! But when that all will be, I just don’t know.

As aforementioned, I remain hopeful. Hopeful that change will come. But it is not the kind of false optimism that believes everything will work itself out in the end – that we as a people will eventually progress to a more peaceful, harmonious state of being. I have no time for such nonsense! No, my hope is anchored in what I know Christ will do as a result of what He already did on the cross. His blood, shed for the sins of all of humanity – past, present, and future – reconciles us back to God, each other, as well as the earth and land around us. And reconciliation is inseparable from justice! God will bring about justice for those who have been chained and shackled by governments and systems of this world that exploit people for power and profit. And despite how much leaders in our nation clothe themselves in American Christianity, there will come a time when those who have been on the delivering end of injustice will be brought to account.

For me, hope goes hand in hand with despair. I despair and agonize over the current situation as I hope for a redeemed, victorious future. As Dr. Cornel West puts it in his book Hope on a Tightrope, “Those of us who truly hope, make despair a constant companion whom we outwrestle everyday owing to our commitment to justice, love, and hope. It is impossible to look honestly at our catastrophic conditions and not have some despair – it is a healthy sign of how deeply we care.”

Hope and despair! You can probably now understand why I’ve been so weary. Two seemingly conflicting dispositions that can either propel you forward or force you to turn inward and as an ambivert, I straddle both pretty well. Reach out or shut down. Engage or withdraw. Fight or retreat. Worship or not.

Ironically, its the worship piece that I have struggled with the most and which I have had energy for the least. And it is not because of disbelief or even discouragement, because remember I know that Jesus will transform this! It is because after expending myself in so many ways throughout the day to stand and fight for justice, at the end of the day I just want to tap out.

However, this is really where our quest for reconciliation and redemption must start! When we begin with worship, God Himself strengthens our hearts and minds when we have grown weary with despair. Additionally, magnifying God above and higher than structural racism and capitalism gives us the perspective and strategy that we need to prophetically counter injustice. When we see God clothed in all of His glory, empires start to look a little smaller.

So once again, I make a commitment to God, to myself, and to those around me to begin with worship. Worship because I have to if I want to ensure that despair doesn’t turn into despondency – hope deferred makes the heart go weak.’ Worship because I want God to take His place and restore everything that has been lost through conquest and war. Worship because the race for justice that we are running is a long distance marathon, not a sprint – I need endurance for the long haul!

The Irrational Politics of Law

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How does it feel to be a problem? This is the question that W.E.B. du Bois asked reflecting on the black experience in America. Or rather, how does it feel to be intentionally targeted and controlled by the rule of law? How does it feel to know that the laws that are being erected and passed off as just, moral codes, are only there to entrap, ensnare, and essentially eliminate you?

In truth, many people in our society have never harbored such feelings. In fact most, I suspect, go about feeling that the law is here to protect the wellbeing of America’s residents which in and of itself is a noble and very necessary goal. However, there are segments of our population who deeply understand the ways in which the rule of law has only been used to justify their perpetual maltreatment. While this can be said for many communities of color, today I want to focus on the reality of black men, women, and children in our society today.

As cities like Baltimore and Ferguson boil over continued police brutality against black bodies, misinformed talking heads dominate the air waves suggesting what black people need to do to ensure that they are not the latest victim: pull up your pants. Don’t run. Don’t carry anything that remotely resembles a weapon. Dress a certain way. Don’t go here or there. Get an education. Be a law-abiding citizen. Don’t resist, don’t question, don’t raise a fuss. Respectability politics all over the place without understanding that it has never really been about the law as much as it has been about the person that the law is targeting.

If we were step back in time, say several centuries, we would realize that this way of constructing laws isn’t new. Many empires throughout the history of our world have approached the law-making process with the aim of horrifying their subjects into submission, silencing them, or obliterating them altogether. Sometimes the targeting is toward a specific people group or nationality; sometimes it is toward an individual whose presence disrupts the stronghold of power.

Let’s look at two specific examples of this irrational law-making taking place in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Esther. In Daniel, we see a law targeting one individual, namely Daniel himself. Daniel, while in exile, rose to prominence in King Darius’ regime. The Bible tells us that Daniel’s extraordinary spirit caused him to stand out and above the rest of those who were governing affairs in the kingdom, so that King Darius planned to place him in the highest decision making seat in the land. But the commissioners and satraps who also governed alongside Daniel weren’t having it. There was no way they were going to allow a foreigner rule over them! And so they started looking for dirt on Daniel, in hopes of finding something that would tarnish him in King Darius’ eyes.

In spite of their attempts, the commissioners and satraps could not find anything on Daniel. He had that squeaky, clean image that most people love to hate. And so, they came up with a law that would surely trap Daniel, a law against his God. They approached King Darius and petitioned him to pass a law forbidding anyone to pray to any deity or person besides himself for 30 days. The punishment for breaking the law was death by a hungry pit of lions. King Darius, apparently the self-absorbed type, signed off on the law and the fate of Daniel was sealed.

Yet, Daniel refused to be frightened into submission. He maintained his posture before God even though he knew it might cost him his life. Just as he did every day before the law was passed, ‘he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously (Daniel 6.10b).’ And of course Daniel’s enemies watched closely by, anxiously waiting to report their findings back to the king who had no other choice but to throw him into the lion’s den.

Now let’s turn to the book of Esther, which is chronologically situated after Daniel. In the reign of King Xerxes (King Darius’ son and successor to the throne), a decree was issued to kill all of the Jewish people in the land. Their crime? Their religion forbid worship of anyone but God, and Haman the Agagite, who was recently elevated in prominence in the Xerxes’ kingdom, was offended by this. After Xerxes promoted him, he passed a law which demanded that everyone else bow and pay homage to him, which violated the Jewish law. Day after day, Mordecai, a Jew, refused to bow to Haman. And when Haman learned of this, and learned the reason behind Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage, he not only committed to killing Mordecai but the entire Jewish people as well.

For all intents and purposes, Daniel and Mordecai were law breakers. They were not outstanding citizens who obeyed the commands of the state; they were violators of those commands. But let us remember, these laws were designed in such a way that they would automatically be discriminated against. In the case of Daniel, we come across a law that was intentionally designed to kill him. It did not matter what Daniel did, said, wore, or ate, the commissioners and satraps were going to find a way to get rid of him. That was their aim!

In the case of Mordecai, we find a law that unintentionally targeted the Jewish people. I say unintentionally because while it was not specifically designed with the Jewish people in mind, it was still discriminatory because the Jews naturally fell victim to it which is called disparate impact. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, ‘disparate impact refers to policies, practices, rules, or other systems that appear to be neutral, but result in a disproportionate impact on protected groups.’ And while the initial law was unintentional, the subsequent one which would exterminate them for breaking it, was completely intentional. The punishment for breaking ‘the law’ was extreme, irrational, and unjustified.

In Daniel and Mordecai, we see how the law can be used to inhibit a people whose existence threatens the state. The law, in instances as such, is nothing more than a tool to ensure that the interests of the powerful remain intact. The law, therefore, is not a just, moral document. Instead, it can be a representation of pure evil, something to be fought against rather than obeyed.

As police brutality, mass incarceration, and racial profiling continue to rob our communities of our black men, women, and children, for wearing hoodies, asking for help, running away when sensing danger, selling cigarettes, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, fighting for one’s rights, it is clear that the laws of the land are designed similarly to the ones of the Persian empire. The laws that are being erected are there, not to ensure moral behavior, but to severely inhibit black people so that we are either behind bars, dead, or so extremely poor and disillusioned that our existence does not disrupt the power structure of the state.

As the other ruling authorities felt threatened by Daniel and Haman felt threatened by the Jewish people, our mere existence – daring to breathe, daring to think, daring to imagine a different reality – threatens capitalism which only thrives if we are perpetually oppressed. Laws are passed to ensure this structure stays intact. This being said, it does not matter who is in the oval office, or who the attorney general is; the law of the land continues to function as it has always functioned, because in fact, this is the only way that our economy will continue to thrive and that the state will continue to exist.

Again, I ask, how does it feel to be a problem? How does it feel to know that no matter what you do or don’t do for that matter, that you will be treated like a criminal by the state that you inhabit? How does it feel to know that laws of the land are designed to ensure your criminality at every turn? How does it feel to know that your very existence is under constant monitoring, constant evaluation, constant measuring as those in power pass devise new ways to pass judgment against you simply to make a profit.

It doesn’t feel good. No, it doesn’t feel good at all. But these are the irrational politics of law.

Sidenote: Daniel didn’t get eaten by the lions – God held their mouths closed when he was thrown into their den. And the Jewish people were not exterminated by Haman – God used Esther to turn the heart of the King towards her people. This tells me that in spite of what the empire aims through the use of the law, God has the final say. Because God has the final say, there is always hope!

Not So Silent After All

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Silent Night has always been one of my favorite carols this time of year. Ever since I committed it to memory over 20 years ago, the words have made me think about peace and calm surrounding the birth of Jesus. Consider the lyrics:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Upon further reflection, however, you have to wonder where the song’s author derived his theology. Merely looking at the narratives surrounding Christ’s birth, there is nothing calm or silent about them. In fact, the text reveals that the world was in absolute chaos.

We must remember that on the night that Jesus was born, Herod sent magi from the east to track Jesus down so that he could kill him. Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, received word of this and was given instructions to flee to Egypt for safety. And so instead of spending his first night in this world snuggling closely next to his mother, he literally was on the run for his life.

When Herod failed to find Him, he issued an edict to profile and kill all of the baby boys younger than two years old. Mothers and fathers across the empire grieved over the senseless loss of their sons, sisters and brothers couldn’t wrap their minds around why their baby brothers were being killed. Herod ordered this systematic genocide because he understood the disruptive force that the Messiah would be to his reign of terror and oppression. He committed to stop it at all costs.

So you see, this is not a calm, tranquil scenario. Jesus, even in his infancy, challenged the systems of this world that profited by exploiting others. He has never been the meek and mild, powerless, non-threatening Savior that we sing about at Christmas time. Rather, he is dangerous, absolutely dangerous to the empires of this world.

Throughout Christendom, at least since Constantine, those in positions of power and authority in the Church have gone through great lengths to domesticate Jesus. From the songs that we sing, to the theology we construct, Jesus is often portrayed as the individual who doesn’t raise a fuss, he doesn’t rock the boat, and even doesn’t challenge systematic injustices. Many of us even like to imagine that Jesus’ rejection of kingship meant that he was not critiquing the power structures of His day. Not only did Jesus critique these systems, He subverted them.

In the light of what is happening in cities across America in protest of police brutality, this is the Jesus we must turn to. As we face the continual exploitation of Native American lands, Palestinians being killed, those who protest the Mexican government being killed, and even Christians in Iraq being beheaded, we need to lift up the Jesus who speaks to empire. We need to preach about the Savior who comes to put an end to oppressive regimes by ultimately laying down his life. It is in this Jesus that the oppressed people in the world find their hope; it is where we find our refuge.

Not so silent. Not so calm.
There was no peace. Only alarm. 
As Mary’s baby laid asleep in her arms,
Joseph ran to get themselves out of harm.
Jesus disrupts our world.
Jesus disrupts our world. 

Support an independent author this Christmas season by purchasing Embracing a Holistic Faith: Essays on Biblical Justice, a collection of essays discussing the intersection of traditional ideas of the Christian faith with the biblical mandate to do justice. This collection invites believers to expand their analysis on the marginalized in society. It also challenges believers to see advocacy, reconciliation and love for neighbor as central components to their spiritual discipline.

Racism, Oppression and the Hope of the Gospel

A few months ago, I sat in church with tears streaming down my face like waterfalls. Just days before, I had been utterly disappointed and hurt by someone who I considered an ally simply because they said they were committed to racial reconciliation (that was my first mistake). Though I had experienced similar situations before. the familiarity of this injustice did not minimize the pain – in fact, its strange familiarity intensified the feelings of hopelessness that threatened to swallow me whole. I began to ask myself what was the point in fighting so hard if things wouldn’t change? What was the point in striving, pushing so hard against the elephant of racism if at the end of the day the elephant remained?

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(Image from Worship Girl

As I reflected on my own experience, I likewise mediated on the words from the day’s passage in Ecclesiastes where the preacher speaks about the realities oppression. The preacher says:

Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4.1-5, NASB).

In this passage the preacher, assumed to be King Solomon, offers a candid picture of oppression and the lack of hope that many feel as a result of their situation. The repeated censoring, marginalization, and exploitation of the poor, women, and people of color, leaves many feeling overwhelmed with the pain that they encounter on a daily basis. In this country, much of the oppression exists along racial lines and those of color most often the victimized. From being turned down for a job, to being profiled and harassed by a police officer, we as people of color so often get the snot kicked out of us. We try, God knows we try hard, to move the elephant of racism that is literally killing us left and right. Every once in a while, he moves – the elephant actually shifts a little. Policies are passed that offer new promises of opportunity. White people start to listen and pay attention to our stories without centering themselves in it. A pastor recognizes and repents of his/her own role in maintaining racism and commits to the work of  diversity and reconciliation. Finally! We are making progress.

But then the elephant shifts right back to where he was before. Or maybe we were delusional and the elephant never really ever moved in the first place. Damn!

The question is how do we maintain hope when nothing seems to shift. How do we keep holding on, fighting the good fight when things seem to remain the same? In light of all of the recent happenings of black men being profiled and killed, I feel like we are living in a time warp. I wasn’t alive in the 50s but what we are experiencing in 2014 sure does feel like a page from the civil rights movement of old. How do we maintain our hope for justice when we are stuck fighting the very same fight for mere existence that our ancestors did?

The reality is that we do have hope. Jesus is our hope! His coming kingdom ushers in a new reality where those who have been victimized and those who have been silenced are made whole. When I think about this kingdom, the description of restoration from Joel 2 comes to mind where God makes up for all of the years of utter destruction and calamity that the nation of Israel endured at the hands of their enemies. In the process of restoration, God solidifies a reign of justice and peace where those who have been responsible for so much chaos are disarmed.

At the same time, in this new reality, the oppressor no longer feels the need to compete, to control or to hoard resources at the expense of the vulnerable. Like the oppressed, they too are made whole and complete in this kingdom, resting confidently in the new identity that the resurrection brings. I imagine that in the context of our country, this means forsaking the doctrines and ideologies that have prioritized profit over people of color, including indigenous people and immigrants which include white supremacy, manifest destiny and more. It means letting go of the desire to have the strongest and most affluent economy in the world. It even means evaluating how we build this economy and resisting the temptation to build it by making rich off of black and brown bodies. It means adopting a new value system, creating a new mission in which to govern ourselves, throwing of policies and procedures that disinvest and embracing laws that give life to all regardless of the color of their skin.

In this country, I imagine a time where the oppressed and the oppressor, black and white, poor and rich, slave and free – are all bound together in an inextricable embrace. The glue that binds us all is the blood of Christ, poured out for all, which not only tears down the walls of division between us but also fundamentally changes the nature of our relationships with each other. This is our hope! And in spite of what we continue to face on a daily basis, I refuse to give up on it.

Words of Comfort: God Who Suffers With Us

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”

tearsAs I was praying yesterday, I recalled these words from the prophet Isaiah. In the context of the passage, the prophet is encouraging Israel, giving the people hope as they face the reality of being exiled to Babylon. A foreign nation that would enslave and marginalize the people. A nation that promised to kill the Israelites, and leave both the temple and Jerusalem in ruins. It would prove to be a challenging time in Israel’s history, and probably left many people asking the question – where is God in all of this?

I ask myself the same question today. Where is God? Where is God as we struggle to make ends meet? Where is God as family and friends alike struggle with severe bouts of depression and mental illness (and so many others in our nation for that matter)? Where is God as people in this day and time are continually marginalized and oppressed simply because of the color of their skin? Where is God as people in nations like Syria die senselessly everyday as their dictator struggles to maintain power? Where is God when people who we saw just yesterday die from cancer, car accidents, war, gun violence and simple falls? Where is God? Where is God?

God’s words to Israel during the most difficult time in their history remain true today – he is here, right here with us. He is not some aloof God who delights in the suffering of his people and retreats to some far off place as we go through absolute hell. No, He willingly comes down, takes on human flesh and walks through the flames of life with us.

Picture the three Hebrew boys in Daniel 3 who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. For their treason, they were given a choice: either worship the image or be thrown in the fiery furnace. To the king’s proposal, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego reply – “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you’re an answer concerning this manner. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of the blazing fire and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3.16 – 18, NASB).

Of course, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t like their response and promptly threw them into the furnace. But God was right there with them the whole time. He suffered with them. He walked with them. Literally. In verse 25 of the same passage, Nebuchadnezzar takes note that there appears to be one other person walking around in the flames who looks like the son of God.

Now picture Jesus. Born in a filthy, stinky manger. At the news of His arrival, Herod is threatened and wants to have Him killed right away. Unsuccessful in his quest for Jesus, He has all of the baby boys under the age of 2 years old in his vicinity killed. Jesus’ parents are on the run until Herod dies because they know he won’t give up search of this precious baby boy. By the time Jesus is an adult and starts His ministry, He remains a threat to the religious and social powers of his day, escaping stoning several times because the Jewish leaders want Him to be dead. Finally, they find success when one of Jesus’ own disciples agrees to sell Him out with a kiss. He is hung on a cross and crucified, taking on Himself the sins of the entire world – past, present and future.

But in His incarnation, He walked with us. He laid down pieces of his divinity so that He could be with us, to redeem us – often going without food, shelter, water, and sleep to show his solidarity with us. And He remains with His people every day. Every single day. And so when the prophet Isaiah foretells of His birth and calls Him ‘Emmanuel’ the name is fitting. Emmanuel, God with us.

When we pass through the waters, God is with us. When the storms of life rage and all hell breaks loose, God is with us. When we can’t pay the bills, are falsely accused, have loved ones who die, God is with us. When we struggle with depression and suicidal ideation, God remains with us. He is not going anywhere! He keeps His word and surrounds His people with His very presence. And that should give us hope even in the face of very real challenges because the presence of God changes things. Think about it – when Jesus showed up He changed the trajectory of the entire world. Surely He can change the outcome of the world we face every day.

The Magnificat: On Hope and Waiting

hopeWe all have those favorite Bible passages that we turn to over and over again. Scriptures that we have underlined and earmarked; promises that we have circled time and time again so much that the paper is wearing thin in those spots. The Magnificat, found in Luke 1, has never been one of those passages for me. Nope, never. There is nary a scratch on the whole page. That is until now.

I recently read an Oped-Column by Charles M Blow in the New York Times that instantly turned my mood sour. His piece “For Some Folks, Life is a Hill,” was so honest and true that I became frustrated, sad, and despondent in a matter of moments. Here is a snipet of what he said:

For some folks, life is a hill. You can either climb or stay at the bottom.

It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it is so. Some folks are born halfway up the hill and others on the top. The rest of us are not. Life doles out favors in differing measures, often as a result of historical injustice and systematic bias. That’s a hurtful fact, one that must be changed. We should all work toward that change.

It’s not that his words were exceeding profound or novel. But against the backdrop of everything that has been happening to black people and other communities of color in 2013 alone, his column solidified the sad reality that this country still has a long way to go in achieving racial equity, full inclusion, and reconciliation. And that reality is troublesome because in the absence of racial equity, people of color struggle with unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, food insecurity, and even face untimely death.

But we’ve been fighting for the dream of full inclusion for a while now. Hundreds of years in fact. How much longer do we have to wait before even a component of the dream is realized?

As I reflected on this question and stewed in my sorrow, I remembered the Magnificat. The same passage of Scripture that I had more or less ignored for years quickly became my comfort as I thought not just about Mary’s rejoicing over the news of carrying the Savior of the world in her womb, but about what His advent meant within the larger context of human history:

He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever (Luke 1.54, NASB).

Two thousand years before Mary, God made a promise to Abraham telling him that he would make him the father of many nations through his son Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob, who was the father of the Jewish nation, through whom the tribe of Judah ruled and Jesus is a direct descendant of that. He is the fulfillment of the original promise made to Abraham when God told him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Hallelujah! (Genesis 12 and 15)

But get this, even before this promise made to Abraham, God promised Adam and Eve that he would send a seed to crush Satan, defeat sin, and conquer death and the grave (Genesis 3.15). Again this promise is fulfilled in Jesus at least four thousand years after the initial covenant was made.

Four thousand stinking years!

In the course of that four thousand years, life happened. Sin was leashed upon the world, manifested in human hearts, and caused people to do some strange and awful things to one another. Murder. Oppression. Slavery. Genocide. Rape. Conquest. Colonization. Empire.

No wonder Mary is happy. No wonder she breaks out in song, rejoicing over the fact that the baby in her womb IS the Savior of the world. God did not forget the promise that He made to her, the Jewish people, the world – He was ushering the kingdom of heaven through Jesus which would jumpstart the process of the healing of the nations.

Two thousand years after Mary, we lie between the start of that process and its completion. This is the already/ not yet tension of the Gospel. Already we are being saved, already we are being redeemed, already we are being made new as professed in 2 Corinthians 5.17 – 20. But, and it’s a big BUT, the effects of sin still plague the earth. As a result, there is still murder, oppression, slavery, genocide, rape, conquest, colonization, and empire, all of which has been committed against communities of color in America alone since Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And if governments and powers could do this to its own people in this county, you have to wonder what it has done to the rest of the world.

For many of us, life certainly is a hill. We’ve been trying hard to climb it, level it, blow it up and still we are stuck at the bottom. But in the same way that God in His mercy remembered Israel, he will remember us! We have been grafted into the original covenant through Jesus Christ. By believing in Him, what once strictly belonged to Israel has been extended to all of us who will profess His name (Romans 8).

Although I do not know how long (no one knows the day or the hour right?), we still have a long way to go to fully receive what Jesus has promised. In the meantime, we have to adhere to the words offered by Blow in his article and work toward dismantling the historical injustice and systemic bias. In doing so, I believe we will begin to see components of God’s kingdom manifested on earth right now. For the sake of the oppressed, and the marginalized, and the hungry, and the homeless, and the forgotten among us, let’s do it now.